PEORIA, Ariz. –- Some intriguing details on Felix Hernandez's new contract emerged Wednesday night after the Mariners ace put his signature on the deal at a Safeco Field press conference, including the inclusion of a clause that could add an extra year if Hernandez suffers a serious elbow issue during the next seven seasons.
As first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Foxsports.com and confirmed by MLB.com, the contract gives the Mariners a team option for an eighth year -– in 2020 -– at $1 million if Hernandez misses significant time with a right elbow injury during the seven-year, $175 million deal.
The option was added after concerns arose during a physical exam last week that showed potential long-term issues in Hernandez's throwing elbow, though the test revealed what was likely normal wear and tear for a pitcher who has thrown 230-plus innings in four straight seasons.
Hernandez has been one of the most durable pitchers in Major League Baseball since joining the Mariners at age 19. Since 1969, only Bert Blyleven, Fernando Valenzuela and Dwight Gooden have pitched more innings before the age of 27, with Hernandez at 1,620 1/3 in his eight seasons with Seattle.
Hernandez has been on the disabled list just once in his career with an elbow issue, missing two starts in April of 2007 with a minor strain. He's started 30 or more games every season since '06.
The $1 million option for an eighth year would kick in should Hernandez spend more than 130 consecutive days on the disabled list with a right-elbow problem during any stretch of the next seven years, including if that 130 days spanned over two seasons.
Rosenthal reported that the deal includes a $6 million signing bonus, plus annual payments of $19 million in base salary for 2013; $22 million in 2014; $24 million in 2015; $25 million in 2016; $26 million in 2017; $26 million in 2018; and $27 million in 2019.
It all adds up to $175 million total or an annual average of $25 million, the largest deal yet for a Major League pitcher. CC Sabathia of the Yankees had the previous record for a pitcher, with a seven-year, $161 million deal he signed before the 2010 season. Zack Greinke signed the highest previous average annual value deal at $24.5 million with his six-year, $147 million contract in December with the Dodgers.
The contract replaces the final two years of Hernandez's current deal, which would have paid $20 million this year and $20.5 million in 2013, and extends it another five years with the potential for one more year, should something go wrong with his elbow in the interim.
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.