Felix Hernandez Becomes Baseball’s Richest Pitcher
Felix Hernandez has agreed to a new seven-year, $175 million contract with the Seattle Mariners, USA Today Sports reported Thursday.
The deal would make Hernandez the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history. The reported value of the contract easily would surpass the record $161 million deal CC Sabathia signed with the New York Yankees prior to the 2009 season.
Hernandez agreed to a $78 million, five-year contract in January 2010 and has earned an additional $2.5 million in escalators and $300,000 in bonuses. He is due $20 million this year and $20.5 million in 2014, which would be superseded by the new deal.
Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik said he could not comment when reached on Thursday by The Associated Press, and Hernandez’s representatives didn’t immediately return messages.
The contract is expected to be finalized before spring training, according to USA Today Sports.
If the deal is finalized, it would leave Detroit’s Justin Verlander and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw as the most attractive pitchers eligible for free agency after the 2014 season. Tampa Bay’s David Price is eligible after the 2015 season.
Hernandez’s new contract will start this season, according to USA Today Sports, and will pay the three-time All-Star an annual average salary of $25 million, which would surpass Zack Greinke’s $24.5 million under his new contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Largest Pitcher Contracts by Total Value In MLB History
|* According to USA Today Sports ^ Opted out in 2011 — ESPN Stats & Information
Hernandez has become the face of Seattle’s struggling franchise, transforming from a curly-haired 19-year-old who wore his hat crooked to one of the most dominant and exciting pitchers in baseball.
His fiery enthusiasm on the mound and his willingness to first sign a long-term deal in 2010 have endeared him to fans in the Pacific Northwest who have gone more than a decade without seeing postseason baseball.
Hernandez went 13-9 with a 3.06 ERA and 223 strikeouts last season, his fourth consecutive campaign with at least 200 strikeouts. The right-hander pitched the first perfect game in Mariners history on Aug. 15, striking out 12 in a 1-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
The 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner, Hernandez has pitched at least 232 innings in each of the past four seasons and owns a career record of 98-76 with a 3.22 ERA in eight years, all with the Mariners.
His career record would be even better if he didn’t play with one of baseball’s worst offenses. Seattle had the lowest batting average in the major leagues in each of the last three seasons. Hernandez has taken 10 losses during that span when he’s given up two earned runs or less.
For his career, Hernandez has allowed two earned runs or less in 141 of 238 starts, but the team is only 99-42 in those games due to the offensive problems.
Hernandez will anchor an inexperienced Seattle rotation that likely will include 24-year-old Blake Beavan, 22-year-old Erasmo Ramirez and second-year Japanese starter Hisashi Iwakuma.
The Mariners also boast a pitching-rich farm system that features Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen, Brandon Maurer and James Paxton.
Locking up Hernandez long term won’t solve all of the problems that have left Seattle looking up at Texas, Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West for most of the last 10 years.
The Mariners have tried to address some of those issues this offseason by trading for Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse to provide more punch to go along with young prospects Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager and Jesus Montero, who have all shown flashes early in their careers.