The Mariners have agreed to sit down with Felix Hernandez's agent after the season to discuss a multiyear contract extension, according to Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. Felix's agent, Alan Nero, stressed the lack of urgency since Hernandez is already under team control through 2011. Nero certainly knows that Hernandez's maximum payday would come from going year-to-year two more times and then putting a 25 year-old ace on the free agent market.
Baker speculates that Hernandez's 2010 salary will shoot into the $10MM range, since it's the pitcher's second arbitration year and he's finishing a breakout season. Baker notes:
If Hernandez and the Mariners do reach a long-term deal, buying out his final two arbitration years and extending him three to five beyond that, he could become Seattle's first $100MM player. The Mariners say they want a deal, but have previously implied that Hernandez's camp is reluctant to sign beyond 2011. So far, the two sides have yet to even hammer out parameters for their talks.
If Baker's read is accurate, it means Hernandez is willing to sacrifice financial security and gamble that he'll remain relatively healthy for the next two seasons. Most promising young starting pitchers have not chosen that route. If Felix does, his free agent contract may be historic. C.C. Sabathia owns the record free agent contract for a pitcher: $161MM over seven years, signed in December of last year when Sabathia was 28.
One positive for the Mariners is that Nero also represents Jon Lester, who signed an extension with the Red Sox in March buying out all of his arbitration years and one free agent year while giving a club option on a second.
As for Hernandez's 2010 salary, I believe the current record for a pitcher in his second arbitration year is Cole Hamels' $6.65MM salary for 2010. It's an imperfect comparable since Hamels was a Super Two player and that salary comes in the middle of a three-year contract.