Welp. The Seattle Mariners are really going all in on this whole “keep Felix in Seattle forever” thing as Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports the Mariners and their King are on the verge of announcing a seven-year, $175 million contract extension, though nothing is official quite yet.
The reported deal makes Felix Hernandez one of the highest paid players on an annual average income basis as well as the life of his deal.
This is one of the largest contracts in baseball history. It ranks as the largest contract in Mariners history and the largest contract for a pitcher, again, in history. How many pitchers deserve more than Felix Hernandez? His age and the timing of his previous extension made him a prime candidate to cash in like this, even if seven years for any pitcher seems scary on the surface.
The Mariners as a team might be limbo but Felix is the face of their franchise now and forever. Better yet – he can become a free agent at the age of 33 when this contract lapses. Another payday, this one seven years in the future!
According to Nightengale, the contract would take effect immediately, replacing the final two years of his deal in which Felix was scheduled to earn a shade under $40MM. Now, Felix will earn $25 per year until 2020, slightly more than the $24.5MM Zack Grienke netted as a free agent.
The Felix extension is basically the pitching version of Joey Votto’s deal with CIN last year.Free agent price for non-FA superstar.
— David Cameron (@DCameronFG) February 7, 2013
Put simply: Felix is one of the five best pitchers in the game and has been for some time. He makes 34 starts a year and pretty much rules. His K/9 has increased every year since 2007, though his K% stays largely the same. Felix loves Seattle and Seattle loves Felix. What’s the downside here?
Oh, right. The Mariners are sort of awful and they just committed HUGE DOLLARS to a pitcher, with all the risk falling squarely on the team. While the farm system might rank as one of the best in the game, the current on-field talent is underwhelming or bewildering, depending on your perspective. How much can the Mariners expect that to change in the next three or four years while Felix remains in his prime?
As the current Toronto Blue Jays roster shows, you can do a lot to improve your big league club when your minor league pipeline is robust and well-regarded. They nearly acquired Justin Upton, only the current Braves’ prerogative kept him from joining the M’s. The trades are out there if Jack Z wants to force the issue, or he can wait and see which of his highly regarded arms develops within Safeco’s welcoming arms.
Felix Hernandez is where the Mariners have planted their flag pole. Felix will be on the next good Mariners team, should such a beast ever exist. As Dave Cameron says at U.S.S. Mariner, a significant percentage of the Mariners payroll is now devoted to the King – if they want to compete, that total number needs to go up, up up.
Trading Felix might have been the best option for the immediate health of the franchise but was that ever a realistic option? The King reigns over his kingdom for the next seven years. Turkey drumsticks for everyone!