Felix Hernandez Rumors

AL West Links: Freese, Felix, Rangers

Switch-pitcher Pat Venditte earned his first Major League win today, tossing two scoreless frames to help the Athletics notch a 7-4 victory over the Diamondbacks in 11 innings.  While Venditte is known mostly for his singular pitching style, he’s also posted a decent 3.31 ERA over 16 1/3 relief innings for the A’s in his rookie season.  Here’s more from around the AL West…

  • There is a growing sentiment within the Angels front office that David Freese should be re-signed, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports, though things could change once the team hires its new general manager.  Freese is admired for his clubhouse leadership, and while the Angels’ slump obviously isn’t solely due to Freese’s DL stint (he’s recovering from a fractured finger), it’s worth noting that the Halos are 11-23 since Freese’s last game.  The former World Series MVP has just a .240/.309/.397 slash line and 11 homers in 353 PA this season, though Gonzalez surmises he could strong interest in free agency given the lack of third base options on the market.  If the Angels aren’t willing to bring him back, they could turn to Kaleb Cowart or Kyle Kubitza at the hot corner.
  • While the next Mariners GM will have to fix some significant weaknesses on the roster and in the farm system, it’s not impossible that the M’s could contend as quickly as next season, Larry Stone of the Seattle Times writes.  Perhaps most intriguingly, Stone suggests that the new GM will have to at least consider the idea of trading Felix Hernandez, which would both clear payroll space and restock the farm with some blue chip talent.  Stone stops short of advocating that a Hernandez trade would or should happen, however, and it could be a moot point anyway since Hernandez has full no-trade protection.
  • Sam Dyson and Jake Diekman didn’t just upgrade the Rangers bullpen by themselves, but their acquisitions also helped reinvigorate Keone Kela, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes.  The righty was demoted to Triple-A on August 1 to keep his arm fresh, a move Texas could afford to make with their new arms in the pen.  Since being recalled on August 11, Kela has recorded 12 strikeouts (against just one walk and four hits) over 9 1/3 scoreless relief innings.  Kela has put up strong numbers in his rookie season, posting a 2.72 ERA, 3.93 K/BB rate and 59 strikeouts in 53 innings.

AL West Notes: Trout, Rangers, Felix

One American League executive told Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com that he'd be talking to Mike Trout about a "crazy-long deal" if he were running the Angels. Castrovince considers some possible comparables for extension talks, concluding that it probably makes sense for the Angels to wait before extending Trout. His leverage is high right now, even though he's arguably the best bargain in MLB.

Here are some more notes from the AL West…

  • The Rangers announced that Jon Daniels has been promoted to president of baseball operations/general manager. Daniels, who became the club's GM in 2005, will still report to CEO Nolan Ryan.
  • Daniels told Scott Miller of CBSSports.com that he's intent on being more than "the team that used to be good.” The Rangers lost Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton and Ryan Dempster to free agency, but Daniels isn't worried about the transition. “You've got to keep moving forward and not be afraid of change,” Daniels said. The GM explained the importance of depth and noted that being the best team on paper doesn’t guarantee success.
  • The Rangers are among the teams still interested in free agent infielder Ryan Theriot, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). However, Theriot continues looking for more playing time.
  • Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez recently established a new record for starting pitchers, signing a seven-year, $175MM contract. Hernandez told Heyman that he expects Clayton Kershaw will be the one to break the record because "he's a little younger" than other top pitchers. Hernandez suggested that Justin Verlander "might get the money, but less years.'' The Mariners ace said he helped other pitchers a bit, adding that he won't mind when another pitcher breaks his record.

AL Notes: Hernandez, Escobar, Indians, Konerko

The signing of Felix Hernandez marks a major move in the history of the Mariners organization but will only matter if the deal is the first of many to come, writes Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times. “This signing, given the size and length of the contract, is the best evidence that the ownership group is committed to winning and doing what it takes to win,” Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln said. Here's the latest news and stories making headlines from around the American League.

  • Yunel Escobar made his first comments about his trade to the Rays, reports the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin. Escobar, with teammate Jose Molina acting as his interpreter, said he "felt really happy" about coming to Tampa Bay adding manager Joe Maddon made him feel very welcome and having former teammates like Molina and Kelly Johnson on the team makes him feel like he's "in the family already."
  • GM Chris Antonetti discussed the Indians' starting rotation with Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio (audio link).
  • White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko reiterated he will not make any decision on his future until after the 2013 season, reports Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com.  
  • The 2013 Blue Jays offer a lot to like and dislike as CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler breaks down what he's seen so far this Spring Training. 

Daniel Seco contributed to this post.

Mariners Extend Felix Hernandez

7:26pm: Hernandez’s contract will include an eighth season at $1MM if he sustains a specific elbow injury, sources tell Jon Paul Morosi (on Twitter) and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  Hernandez would need to miss 120-130 days within one season or consecutive seasons to trigger the clause (Twitter link).

5:24pm: Hernandez's deal includes a full no-trade clause, tweets Larry Stone of the Seattle Times.  The right-hander was set to obtain ten-and-five rights after the 2015 season, but this gives him trade protection in the interim.

4:11pm: Felix Hernandez has now officially signed the most lucrative contract any pitcher has ever obtained. The Mariners announced that they have signed the 26-year-old right-hander to a seven-year deal that represents the largest commitment in franchise history. It's a $175MM contract, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, who first reported the agreement. 

Alan Nero of Octagon represents Hernandez, whose deal required some modifications after an elbow issue surfaced late last week. The sides tore up the previous deal and the new one includes "minor concessions" related to the condition of Hernandez's elbow, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (on Twitter). 

“Felix is committed to this franchise, and to the city of Seattle, and is a key part of what we are building here,” GM Jack Zduriencik said in a statement released by the team. “As we take necessary steps to reach the next level as a team, Felix will be a key component. We have had a plan since I arrived in Seattle: to build this organization to play at a championship level on a consistent basis. As I have said before, when we get to that level we will need, and want a pitcher, and a person, like Felix."

Felix Hernandez - Mariners (PW)

The new deal replaces the two remaining years on Hernandez's previous contract. That deal covered the 2013-14 seasons and called for salaries of $19.5MM in 2013 and $20MM in 2013. With the extension the Mariners extend their team control of Hernandez by five years through his age-33 season.

C.C. Sabathia established the previous record for pitchers when he signed a seven-year, $161MM contract following the 2009 season. Zack Greinke established a record for right-handed pitchers earlier this offseason, when he obtained a $147MM guarantee from the Dodgers. Hernandez’s deal eclipses Greinke’s deal in terms of total value and average annual value.

The seven-year, $175MM deal becomes the largest financial commitment of the offseason, surpassing Greinke's contract with the Dodgers and Josh Hamilton's deal with the Angels. The deal also represents the largest commitment in Mariners' history.

“I have always told anyone who asks me, Seattle is where I want to be,” Hernandez said. “I love it here, and my family loves it here. 

Hernandez signed his previous contract, a five-year, $78MM deal, after the 2009 season. Weeks after Hernandez signed, Justin Verlander obtained a five-year, $80MM contract from the Tigers. It's conceivable that history could repeat itself and that Hernandez's contract could again establish parameters for a deal between the Tigers and their ace. Like Hernandez, Verlander is two years away from free agency. Clayton Kershaw, another Cy Young winner who's two years from the open market, could also look to Hernandez's contract as a potential point of reference.

Hernandez has solidified his place as one of the game's elite starters since debuting as a teenager in 2005. He won the Cy Young Award in 2010 and finished fourth in the 2012 balloting. Last year Hernandez posted a 3.06 ERA with 8.7 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 over the course of 232 innings in a season highlighted by his August perfect game. 'King Felix' has pitched at least 230 innings in each of the last four seasons, a period for which he has an ERA of 2.81 and nearly as many strikeouts as innings pitched.

Edward Creech contributed to this post. ESPN's Buster Olney reported the elbow issue and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported Hernandez would still obtain a $175MM deal (on Twitter). Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Quick Hits: Hernandez, MacDougal, Headley

Links from around MLB on a day that many are still buzzing about Felix Hernandez’s seven-year, $175MM contract extension with the Mariners

  • The Hernandez extension may seem like an overpay, but the alternative — trading him for prospects and reallocating millions toward free agency — might be less appealing than it initially seems. Dave Cameron of FanGraphs explains that there’s a considerable cost for teams that attempt to rebuild regularly.
  • Buster Olney of ESPN.com explains how the Mariners could be viewed as both winners and losers following their deal with Hernandez. There's no ambiguity about the significance of the deal for Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw and David Price, however; those three pitchers could be positioned for $200MM contracts, as Olney notes.
  • Verlander exclaimed "Holy cow!" after hearing the news of Hernandez's deal with the Mariners, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports. Verlander will be eligible for free agency after the 2014 season, and Nightengale notes that Verlander could be "baseball's first $200 million pitcher."
  • Mike MacDougal will throw a bullpen for interested teams in Tempe this coming Tuesday, MLBTR has learned. The 35-year-old right-hander appeared in just seven games with Dodgers in 2012, but he posted a 2.05 ERA in 69 appearances with Los Angeles in 2011.
  • The Padres should "seriously think" about trading Chase Headley before the start of the regular season, ESPN.com's Jim Bowden writes (subscription-only). Bowden notes that Headley is a free agent after 2014, and that he and the Padres haven't found common ground on a contract extension. Bowden lists the Reds, Mariners, Pirates, Blue Jays, Angels, Yankees and Tigers as possible trade destinations for Headley.
  • Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports lists the Blue Jays, Reds, Nationals and Braves as winners this offseason, while placing the Rangers, Brewers and Yankees among the losers. The Blue Jays top the list of winners after trading for Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey.
  • Last night Jason Martinez of MLB Depth Charts and I discussed the Hernandez deal and the most improved teams in the league on the latest edition of the Rosters & Rumblings podcast

Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.

Mariners/Felix Hernandez Links: Analysis & Fallout

The Mariners' pending seven-year, $175MM extension with Felix Hernandez is expected to be finalized before Spring Training, USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported earlier today.  A source tells Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times that the two sides are "still in their final stages" though it seems as if the contract is close to being completed.  Though the extension isn't yet official, it has already drawn a lot of reaction from around the baseball world about how it affects Hernandez, the Mariners and other top pitchers' future contracts…

  • The agreement will become official if Hernandez passes a physical, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports.
  • Also from Baker's item, he notes that the Mariners can afford to keep Hernandez thanks to an upcoming major boost in broadcast revenue.  The M's can opt out of their current TV deal in 2015 or Baker suggests that the club may look to work out a new TV contract sooner in order to avoid marketplace complications if a new NBA or NHL team comes to Seattle.
  • In a separate piece, Baker writes that the Mariners will only benefit from Hernandez's extension if they can build a good roster around their ace.  As Baker notes, the M's have finished in last place in each of the three seasons since Hernandez signed his last multiyear deal with the team.
  • Since the Mariners refused to trade Hernandez, they essentially forced themselves into re-signing Hernandez to a major contract, opines Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  Seattle could regret the move if Hernandez struggles in the latter years of the extension "and the Mariners’ choice forever will be weighed against the hypothetical bounty that they could have received for Felix in a trade."
  • While the Mariners are taking a risk in making a seven-year commitment to a pitcher, Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan likes the deal for both sides.  Hernandez's talent and his importance to the franchise made the new contract "something that felt like it had to be done," Sullivan writes.
  • Hernandez's extension sets a bar for negotiations between Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers, writes Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, who opines that Kershaw could become the first pitcher to receive a $200MM deal.  Kershaw is eligible for free agency after the 2014 season and will only be 27 years old on Opening Day 2015.

Hernandez, Mariners Aren’t In Serious Contract Talks

The Mariners have reportedly tried to start contract talks with Felix Hernandez but there are no serious talks taking place at the moment, sources familiar with the situation tell Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  Furthermore, if Seattle is in fact interested in a four-year extension, that's not likely to kick-start talks with the star hurler as Heyman hears he seeks a six-year deal instead.

As it stands, Hernandez is under contract with the M's for $39.5MM through the 2014 season.  However, there hasn't been an exchange of offers on a new deal yet or any traction to speak of, sources with knowledge of the situation tell Heyman.

The 26-year-old knows that he has a chance become the highest-paid pitcher in the game when his current contract runs out.  If he were to agree to a $100MM, four-year extension now, he'd be guaranteed fewer guaranteed dollars than Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke over the next six years.  Those elite pitchers signed contracts at that length for $144MM and $147MM, respectively.

Mariners Notes: Hernandez, Saunders, Montero

Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik won't get into details about contract negotiations with Felix Hernandez but he told reporters today that he has "every intention of keeping Felix [in Seattle] for the long-term", tweets Greg Johns of MLB.com.  Here's more on the M's..

  • Jack Z also said that the door is "wide open" for a young pitcher to make the starting five, but the GM would prefer to add a veteran, according to Larry Stone of the Seattle Times (on Twitter).
  • That veteran just might be Joe Saunders, who has the interest of the Mariners as well as the Orioles.  It's not clear who the other teams with interest in the left-hander, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  
  • The Mariners will also look to add another catcher or two prior to Spring Training in support of Jesus Montero, Johns tweets.  

Rosenthal On Felix, Upton, Rangers, Nationals

The Mariners continue discussing an extension with Felix Hernandez, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The sides aren’t close to a deal, and are now “dancing.” However, Seattle is at least considering a four-year, $100MM offer, according to Rosenthal. It’s not clear if the Mariners have offered a nine-figure deal to Hernandez, whose current contract expires at the end of the 2014 season. The 26-year-old Octagon client would presumably want a longer commitment, as Rosenthal points out. Here are more of Rosenthal’s notes from around MLB…

  • The Mariners’ willingness to add veterans approaching free agency suggests GM Jack Zduriencik senses an urgency to win now in the view of some rival executives.
  • Justin Upton won’t be traded for Chase Headley, an official from one of the teams involved told Rosenthal. Headley is two years away from free agency, however, and Rosenthal suggests that the Padres figure to move him eventually. Upton, another trade candidate, is under contract through 2015.
  • The Diamondbacks and Rangers haven’t revived Upton-centered trade talks since the Mariners’ failed attempt at acquiring the 25-year-old right fielder. Rosenthal reports that the sides agreed to “move on.” When the teams were last in contact the Rangers offered a four-played package led by Mike Olt that would have included shortstop prospect Leury Garcia and either Martin Perez or Cody Buckel plus a fourth prospect.
  • The Rangers continue pondering one significant move. They are viewed as possible destinations for Kyle Lohse and Michael Bourn, and could also pursue relief help. The Rangers discussed right-handed reliever Tyler Clippard with the Nationals earlier this offseason, Rosenthal reports.
  • The Nationals could trade Clippard or Drew Storen now that they’ve signed Rafael Soriano. One rival executive suggested Washington could sign Lohse, but Rosenthal writes that a deal with free agent right-hander Javier Vazquez seems more likely.

Felix Hernandez Extension Very Unlikely This Winter

A contract extension for Felix Hernandez is extremely unlikely to happen this winter, reports Ken Davidoff of Newsday (via Twitter). Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com had reported yesterday that the M's were pushing to make Hernandez a "Mariner for life," but talks didn't progress very far, according to Davidoff.

Heyman had presented the Mariners' talks with Felix as something the team, rather than the player, was pushing, so perhaps the former Cy Young winner would prefer to wait until closer to his free agency to make a decision about his future in Seattle. Hernandez still has two years remaining on his current deal.