Little has been said in the past few days regarding the status of talks between Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners about their pending contract extension. We’ve seen further indication that a deal is “on the verge” of being completed, given the updated contract details passed along by ESPN’s Buster Olney late last week* and the news that Hernandez is opting to skip the World Baseball Classic in order to focus on the upcoming season, but there has been little evidence that a deal is almost complete. News shared by Olney on Sunday suggests that the two sides may actually be further apart than we had been led to believe.
Evidently, concerns have developed about Hernandez’s pitching elbow after he took a physical for the team this past week. It’s unknown if there is a known-injury or if this is simply a case of team doctors feeling overly cautious, but the concern appears significant enough that there has been speculation that the deal may need to be reworked in some fashion. Hernandez has reportedly been throwing normally for the past month and will participate in team activities at Spring Training without any extra restrictions.
Teams have become increasingly wary of big-money contracts because of injury concerns and rightfully so. Seattle may simply be doing their due diligence in this case, but ultimately a deal will still likely be reached between the two sides. Hernandez wants to remain a Mariner and the team surely wants to keep him there.
Hernandez has been a workhorse for the Mariners over his career, having thrown 1,620.1 innings already (including 200+ in each of the past five seasons). Only three pitchers have thrown more before their 27th birthdays since 1969 – Bert Blyleven, Fernando Valenzuela, and Dwight Gooden.
* Initial reports suggested that the extension was for seven years and $175 Million (a $25 Million AAV), replacing the two remaining years that Hernandez is already under contract for. Olney’s update suggests that the two remaining years will continue in tact and the extension is merely a five year addition to that time, valued closer to $135 Million (a $27 Million AAV).