Report: Concern over Felix Hernandez’s elbow could hinder contract extension

Thursday brought some potentially huge Mariners when reports surfaced that Felix Hernandez was close to signing a new seven-year contract that would keep him in Seattle through the 2019 season, but ESPN’s Buster Olney reported Sunday that concerns about Hernandez’s elbow are complicating the deal.

From Olney’s story:

As of Sunday afternoon, sources say, the Mariners and Hernandez are not close to finishing an extension, because there are issues that the two sides are sorting through.

The elbow issue is perceived by at least one of the parties in the deal as being a possible impediment to the completion of the new contract.

“It’s an issue,” said one source.

This certainly doesn’t mean the deal will fall through. As Olney points out, the Mariners could put language into the contract that protects them from a specific injury, which is what the Yankees did when signing C.C. Sabathia to a big contract.

Hernandez has been incredibly durable, pitching 190 or more innings in every full season of his career, and going 230 or more in each of the last four seasons, but it appears there is at least some concern about his elbow going forward. But again, this isn’t necessarily going to keep Hernandez and the Mariners from agreeing a long-term deal. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told the Seattle Times Sunday that negotiations are still ongoing, and if a physical had turned up a serious issue, it’s hard to imagine the Mariners would still be talking about a long-term extension.

This situation is, however, a reminder why it is so risky to give any pitcher a seven-year extension. Even if a physical showed absolutely nothing wrong with Hernandez’s elbow, shoulder or any other body part, there are no guarantees whatsoever that he’ll stay healthy through 2019. But as many have pointed out, there is a flip side of worrying too much about possible injuries. When Randy Johnson wanted a new contract, the Mariners balked because they were worried about his back. All Johnson did after being traded was go on to win four more Cy Young awards while establishing himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball history.

So no, there are no guarantees, but odds are that unless something is seriously wrong—and again, if there was, would negotiations still be ongoing?—that this deal will get done eventually.

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