Felix finally gets his $175 million deal

Health of his elbow not an issue anymore, Mariners ace will sign contract today

ryan.divish@thenewstribune.comFebruary 13, 2013 

PEORIA, Ariz. — After a week of anticipation and a few moments of panic, the Seattle Mariners and Felix Hernandez agreed on a contract extension that will keep the “King” in Seattle for the next seven seasons.

The Mariners will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Safeco Field, where Hernandez will officially sign his new contract.

“We’re headed out right now (to Seattle), 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 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 seven-year, $175 million contract. It will be the largest contract ever signed by a pitcher in major league baseball history.

The annual salary of $25 million would be the highest of any pitcher in baseball; the Dodgers’ Zack Greinke earns $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 Hernandez’s proposed contract extension appeared last week in a story from USA Today. It seemed as though the extension would be announced in the following days.

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 surfaced of the contract talks slowing.

The questions about the health of the elbow weren’t significant enough to derail the process, it just extended it a few days.

Zduriencik met with the media Tuesday morning and said he hoped to have a deal “sooner rather than 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 Tuesday to take his mandatory physical with the rest of the pitchers and catchers, who were also reporting for spring training. He will miss the first workout today, but will be back for Thursday morning’s workout.

Signed as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela in 2002, Hernandez 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, winning the 2010 American League Cy Young award 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 (five), and was third in strikeouts (223). He also threw the 23rd perfect game in MLB history on Aug. 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 recognizes players who embrace the late Pittsburgh Pirate’s value of helping others, and for the Marvin Miller man of the year award. Hernandez was also one of 10 finalists for this year’s Hutch Award – given to the active player who best displays the determination and perseverance of Seattle native and former big league player and manager Fred Hutchinson, who died of lung cancer in 1964.

Hernandez is active in the local community, supporting local charities, including the Make-A-Wish foundation, the Boys and Girls Club, local children’s hospitals, the Edgar Martinez foundation, the King County Humane Society and the Mariners’ Refuse to Abuse campaign against domestic violence.

Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 ryan.divish@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish

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