SEATTLE — Fighting back tears while his hands trembled, Felix Hernandez signed a seven-year contract with the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday that made him the highest-paid pitcher in baseball.
Hernandez officially completed his new deal during a news conference. The $175 million pact covered the final two years of his existing deal that was scheduled to run through the 2014 season and added five additional years through the 2019 season.
The contract is fully guaranteed, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. Hernandez also got a full no-trade clause, the first one ever given by the franchise.
Hernandez’s representative, Scotty Pucino, said the no-trade was among the most important aspects of the contract.
“To the people in Seattle, to all the people in Seattle that trust me, that believe in me I will not disappoint anybody,” Hernandez said, his voice cracking.
Hernandez was greeted by Mariners front-office staff all wearing yellow “Kings Court” T-shirts that have become a special section of the stadium for all of his starts. The 26-year-old ace immediately got choked up and repeatedly said he didn’t want to let down the only organization he’s ever played for.
Word of Hernandez and the Mariners working on the mega-contract first leaked late last week. Reportedly, a medical exam revealed some concerns about Hernandez’s elbow in the future, but Zduriencik said Hernandez got a “clear bill of health” from Mariners physicians before finalizing the deal.
“When you invest you ask yourself, ‘What are you investing in?’” Zduriencik said. “This is our guy, we know him better than anybody. When you have that right in front of you, those are the types of marriages you want to have.”
Hernandez’s total dollars would top CC Sabathia’s original $161 million, seven-year contract with the New York Yankees. The $25 million-a-year average would surpass Zack Greinke’s $24.5 million under his new contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers and tie him for the second-highest contract overall in baseball with Josh Hamilton and Ryan Howard behind Alex Rodriguez ($27.5 million). Hernandez’s new money would average $26.9 million over five years.
It’s long been debated whether the Mariners would be better off trading Hernandez at his peak and getting a bounty in return from other teams. Both Zduriencik and Hernandez have stayed steadfast that the intent was on keeping the ace in Seattle.
“I think this officially quiets the whispers,” Zduriencik said.