The Mariners have taken a major step forward, having agreed with star pitcher Felix Hernandez on a seven-year, $175 million contract that should be finalized before spring training, making him the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history. The story was first reported Thursday morning by USA Today reporter Bob Nightengale, who cited an anonymous source.
Hernandez, 27 in April, was scheduled to earn $19.5 million in 2013 and $20 million in ’14, the last two years of a five-year deal. The new deal will kick right away and pay him a record average annual value of $25 million through 2019.
The $25 million average annual value is what Alex Rodriguez received in free agency after the 2000 season when he left the Mariners for the Texas Rangers.
The Mariners’ inability to keep their premier homegrown players has been cited in as a factor in fans’ dismay that has led to a 50 percent falloff in attendance since 2001. In the absence of signing a big-time hitter, keeping Hernandez in Seattle and away from free agency is the best personnel news of the off-season.
Neither general manager Jack Zduriencik nor Alan Nero, an agent at Octagon Sports, which represents Hernandez, commented the the report.
The biggest previous deal for a pitcher was the $161 million, seven-year deal signed by C.C. Sabathia with the New York Yankees signed before the 2010 season.
Fans worried about a falloff in Hernandez production should be aware that after he signed his current $78 million deal, he won the 201o Cy Young Award as the American League’s best pitcher.
The day after Hernandez pitched his perfect game Aug. 15, Hernandez told KJR radio that he had no ambitions to go elsewhere.
“You guys be happy,” he said. “I’m not going away.”
It appears Hernandez is a man of his word.