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Elbow issue could derail that big Felix Hernandez extension

Feb 10, 2013, 3:03 PM EDT

king felix getty Getty Images

Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported on Thursday that the Mariners had reached agreement on a seven-year, $175 million contract extension with staff ace Felix Hernandez. But something apparently went wrong during the righty’s pre-signing physical.

According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, there is some concern about the status of Hernandez’s pitching elbow which “could affect contract talks.”

That’s all the information we have for now, but you can bet that more details will trickle out soon.

Hernandez, 26, posted a superb 3.06 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 223/56 K/BB ratio in 232 innings last season.

He is currently under contract for $19.5 million in 2013 and $20 million in 2014.

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UPDATE, 3:20 PM: Olney provides a little more insight in his story filed to ESPN.com:

The elbow issue is perceived by at least one of the parties in the deal as being a possible impediment to the completion of the new contract.

“It’s an issue,” said one source.

UPDATE, 3:37 PM: Nightengale hears that both sides are “still hoping to complete” the seven-year, $175  million contract extension. Perhaps the Mariners will try to add some injury clauses.

UPDATE, 4:18 PM: Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik gave a “no comment” to Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times about the situation but noted that Felix will report to camp on schedule this week.

UPDATE, 4:39 PM: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports says it could take a week, month or more to work through “various issues” in the language of the extension.

  1. dcfan4life - Feb 10, 2013 at 3:08 PM

    If this is true then good for the Mariners for catching it. Such an injury could change a pitcher for their career and cost at least him a season. Besides i think all that money could be spent elsewhere. Felix will not make the Mariners relevant in that division by himself.

    • shawnuel - Feb 10, 2013 at 3:14 PM

      I agree that it is good that the Mariners caught this. I still believe that the proposed deal to a healthy Felix was the right way to go.

    • Reflex - Feb 10, 2013 at 6:07 PM

      Good thing they have more money to spend on other pieces, eh? Plus a lot of good prospects in their farm system. Signing Felix does not preclude building a competitive team, its not one or the other. Not signing Felix, however, does preclude having one of the top three pitchers in the game.

      • dcfan4life - Feb 10, 2013 at 6:41 PM

        The Mariners dont have a big time TV deal, havent spent money in many years, have let nearly all their big name free agents walk, and have shown they really arent willing to go all out on a team. So where did you figure that signing Felix to the biggest contract for a pitcher in baseball also means they can sign 2 or 3 other guys to similar but shorter term deals?

      • Reflex - Feb 10, 2013 at 7:04 PM

        The current tv deal the M’s has expires after 2014. Larger money is coming. I’m not sure what big name free agents you are reffering to, but over the past few years they’ve been quite aggressive about trading talent that is older and unlikely to be part of a future contending team in favor of younger upper level prospects. Most regard this to be a smart strategy if you want a team that is competitive over the long haul.

        They have also claimed that payroll does not have a hard cap, and that a contending team would be around $120 mil in payroll, about twice what they have now. Also for certain players they’d go over that(Felix for instance). Given that they’ve spent in the past and its the same ownership group, I do not see any reason to assume they are lying.

        Also, what 2-3 guys can you think of that would cost $25 mil or less in total and be more valuable than Felix?

      • dcfan4life - Feb 10, 2013 at 11:33 PM

        Verlander for one. Sabathia is another possibility if he opts out. But im also curious how Felix does with the new stadium configuration. He definately benifited from that park.

      • Reflex - Feb 10, 2013 at 11:55 PM

        Neither of those pitchers are worth as much as Felix, and only CC would be significantly cheaper. Verlander is almost as good, but is also three years older.

        BTW, over his career Felix has a 3.16ERA at home and a 3.27ERA on the road. I suppose it is factually true that he benefitted from the park, but it ain’t enough to affect his value materially.

        Check his split stats here, he’s basically dominating in every environment: http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/players/7487/splits;_ylt=ApyigywnMG_aip4wNoRSHRqFCLcF?year=career&type=Pitching

      • djpostl - Feb 11, 2013 at 12:22 PM

        “Verlander is almost as good”

        Rofl.

        Verlander is as good (I say better) and the numbers show that fact. A quick trip to Fangraphs shows Verlander has an edge in more areas than Hernandez does.

        Yes, Verlander is older but he also hasn’t seen a serious loss of velocity the last few years ( http://www.fangraphs.com/pitchfxo.aspx?playerid=4772&position=P&pitch=FA ) the way Felix has.

        Now we kind of know why.

        With the loss in MPH his change-up is going to lose effectiveness, his GB% is going to go to shit (bad thing when fences are being brought in) and so on.

        Felix is still a top tier pitcher no doubt, but when talking a 7 year deal he is a bad bet…something the Mariners are finally starting to understand.

        Be thankful they caught it when they did.

      • Reflex - Feb 11, 2013 at 12:56 PM

        Verlander is not as good as Felix. And you can’t just paper over the age difference when talking about a 7 year deal. Giving Verlander 7 years would be idiotic, he’d be 36 at the end. Giving Felix 7 years is potentially smart, he’d be ending his deal just after his prime.

        As for the loss in velocity, this news says nothing of the sort. We have no way of knowing if the elbow contributed but likely not since he would have felt it. The loss in velocity has also corresponded with Felix becoming a pitcher rather than a thrower. His peripherals over the past four years have been substantially better than his peripherals over his first four, when he was throwing 98mph.

        Also, who do you think has a better chance of holding up over the long run? How many starting pitchers who throw in the high 90′s have long careers? Meanwhile lots of pitchers who work in the low 90′s last a very long time. Do you think maybe there is a reason for that? ;)

  2. rob0527 - Feb 10, 2013 at 3:19 PM

    What did they expect after all those innings they have him pitch?

  3. chomsky66 - Feb 10, 2013 at 3:30 PM

    I hadn’t been paying attention — the extension starts in 2015?! When he’ll be 29?!?! For a guy whose mechanics have always been questioned and who already has a million miles on his arm?!!??!

    Wow.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 10, 2013 at 4:06 PM

      No, the new contract eliminates the old contract and this one would start next season. So it’s a 7 year deal beginning in ’13.

      • uyf1950 - Feb 10, 2013 at 4:11 PM

        That’s not true according to this piece from MLBTR:

        THURSDAY, 8:17pm: The extension is a five-year, $135.5MM deal that covers the 2015-2019 seasons, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports. The last two years of Hernandez’s current contract ($39.5MM) remain intact, so Hernandez will still make $175MM overall over the next seven years.
        Read more at http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/#pBSmCGfFjAQb0eBr.99

  4. uyf1950 - Feb 10, 2013 at 3:35 PM

    The good thing for the Mariners is they certainly don’t need to be in a rush to extend Felix. He’s under team control for 2 more years.
    The potential bad news is depending on what the “elbow issue” is and it’s severity they potentially could have just killed the goose that lays the golden egg (in potential trade value).

    • Reflex - Feb 10, 2013 at 6:06 PM

      Any acquiring team would have done the same physical unless they were morons.

      • uyf1950 - Feb 11, 2013 at 8:31 AM

        That’s true but that “red flag” didn’t need to be raised just yet considering the Mariners still had control for 2 more years. That was my point there really was no need for the Mariners to offer him that extension just yet. Even if there was no “elbow issue” a lot can happen to a pitcher in 2 years time before his current contract would have expired. In my opinion to commit those types of dollars $135MM plus in a 5 year extension 2 years before you really have to is foolish. Like I said that’s just my opinion.

  5. pellypell - Feb 10, 2013 at 4:22 PM

    Still trying to wrap my head around the fact that he’s only 26. Seems like he’s been pitching forever now.

  6. Old Gator - Feb 10, 2013 at 4:33 PM

    All of which begs the question, what’s less important: wins or elbows?

  7. yankeepunk3000 - Feb 10, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    sad to hear it. If it is a problem then good thing the Ms caught it now instead of years from now.

  8. sdelmonte - Feb 10, 2013 at 5:38 PM

    But how does this affect the Yankees? Are they still DOOMED?

  9. Carl Hancock - Feb 10, 2013 at 8:06 PM

    This could be the best thing to ever happen to Felix. Not sign the extension, blow out his elbow, get Tommy John, return to the game… sign with a winning team. I’d hate to see Felix play his entire career with a losing team.

  10. Walk - Feb 10, 2013 at 10:36 PM

    Even if they dont sign king felix his price has set the market for potential aces. I am sure the m’s had every intention of completing this deal, but if not i cannot help but think that price plus the potential elbow issue will help the m’s potentially keep him when he does become a free agent.

  11. riverace19 - Feb 11, 2013 at 1:37 AM

    That’s why you always take a vehicle to the mechanic before purchasing

  12. bbk1000 - Feb 11, 2013 at 6:47 AM

    As I said before, if this is signed it will be one of the dumbest signings of all time…

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