Seattle Mariners ace right-hander Felix Hernandez has reportedly reached an agreement with the team on a new contract, according to a report by Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports. The deal is for seven years and expected to be valued at $175 Million. Sources familiar with contract talks expect that the deal will be finalized before the start of Spring Training.
Hernandez has two years remaining on his existing deal, a five year deal signed after the 2009 season that was to pay him $78 Million. He had been scheduled to earn $19.5 Million this season and then $20 Million in 2014. This new contract will reportedly replace the existing two years, paying Hernandez an average annual value of $25 Million per season. The average annual value and total value of the deal make Hernandez the highest paid pitcher in MLB history. It is also the largest deal in Mariners team history. Hernandez will turn 27 in early April and will be just 33 when the deal expires.
Hernandez’s credentials largely go without saying. In his eight year career he’s 98-76 with a 3.22 ERA and 1.212 WHIP. He’s thrown more than 230 innings in each of the last four seasons, averaging nearly a strikeout per inning over that span. Three of the past four seasons he’s participated in the All Star Game. Three times he’s finished in the Top 5 in Cy Young Award voting, including winning the award in 2010 after going 13-12 with a league-leading 2.27 ERA, 249.2 IP, and just 7.0 H/9.
“King Felix” posted a 13-9 mark, 3.06 ERA, 1.142 WHIP, and threw five complete game shutouts – including a perfect game in August – this past season.
Significant contract extensions for pitchers are often a fickle beast, as Hernandez may only be able to claim the “highest paid pitcher” title for a brief period of time. He had been expected to reach free agency following the 2014 season, the same time that both Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw are expected to be available. Both players are already candidates for significant contract extensions with their respective teams, but Hernandez’s deal could now serve as a benchmark for talks for each player.