By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
PEORIA, Ariz. — After a week of anticipation and a few moments of panic, the Seattle Mariners and Felix Hernandez have agreed on a contract deal that will keep the “King” in Seattle for the next seven seasons.
The Mariners will hold a press conference today at 2 p.m. at Safeco Field where Hernandez will officially sign his new contract.
“We’re headed out right now and Felix will be headed out as well,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “We’ll give you all the details at that time.”
The caravan took a private jet back to Seattle for the announcement.
No contract details have been released by the team, pursuant to club policy. However, it’s being reported by multiple sources, that the remaining two years on Hernandez’s current deal will be canceled and he will sign a new 7-year, $175 million contract. It will be the largest contract ever signed by a pitcher in major league baseball history.
The $25 million per year would be the highest average yearly salary of any pitcher in baseball. And during the five new years, he would average $27.1 million. Zach Greinke earns an average of $24.5 million a season.
“I would like to send along my congratulations to Scott Pucino and Wil Polidor (Hernandez’s agents),” Zduriencik said. “They were very professional in working this agreement with us. I think it’s a great thing for the Seattle Mariners and it’s a great thing for Felix Hernandez. We’re looking forward to this guy being here for a long time, obviously.”
The first report of the proposed contract extension for Hernandez appeared last week in a story from USA Today. It seemed as though the extension would be announced in the following days. The Mariners were in the midst of planning a coronation level celebration.
But questions surrounding Hernandez’s elbow arose after he took his physical in Seattle on Thursday. The Mariners sent him to Los Angeles to meet with Dr. Lewis Yocum for a second opinion. From there, reports of the contract talks slowing became prevalent.
The questions about the health of the elbow weren’t significant to derail the process, just extend it a few days.
Zduriencik met with the media early Tuesday morning saying, he hoped to have a deal “sooner rather later.”
It was sooner.
A Mariners source said the contract will have some language to protect the team in case Hernandez, 26, suffers a serious elbow injury in the future.
Hernandez arrived in Peoria on Monday and was in the clubhouse on Tuesday to take his mandatory physical with the rest of pitchers and catchers, who also were reporting for spring training. Hernandez will miss the first workout on Wednesday, but will be back for Thursday morning’s workout.
Signed as a teenager out of Venezuela in 2002, Hernandez slowly has transformed himself into the face of the Mariners’ franchise the past few seasons.
He was raised and groomed in the organization as the pitcher of the future. Along the way, he established himself as one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, winning the American League Cy Young award in 2010 and signing a five-year, $78 million extension after the 2010 season.
This past season he posted a 13-9 record with a 3.06 earned run average in 33 starts. He led the American League with five shutouts, while ranking second in innings pitched (232) and complete games (5) and third in strikeouts (223). He also threw the 23rd perfect game in MLB history on August 15 against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Beyond the baselines, Hernandez has embraced the Puget Sound area, living in Bellevue nearly year-round. He was named as the Mariners’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, which celebrates Clemente’s achievements and spirit by recognizing current players who truly understand the value of helping others. Hernandez also was one of 10 finalists for the Hutch Award this year and the Mariners’ nominee for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year award.
Hernandez is very active in the Puget Sound community, supporting a variety of charities that include local children’s hospitals, the Make-A-Wish foundation, the Boys and Girls Club, the Edgar Martinez foundation, the King County Humane Society and the Mariners’ Refuse to Abuse campaign against domestic violence.