The Seattle Mariners have ensured that their ace Felix Hernandez will be going nowhere for the foreseeable future, inking him to a seven-year, $175 million contract extension that will keep him in Seattle until the 2019 season. This extension eliminates the final two years on Hernandez's five year, $90 million contract that he signed in January of 2010. He was owed $39.5 million over the next two sesons under that contract.
Hernandez, who will turn 27 in April, will be with the Mariners through his age 33 season under this contract. Over the last four seasons, the right-hander has been one of the best pitchers in baseball, accruing 24.1 fWAR over the four seasons while never throwing fewer than 230 innings or striking out fewer than 200 batters. He's never had any major injury issues during his career, and the signing looks like one that could work out pretty well for the Mariners, despite it being the largest contract ever handed out to a pitcher in baseball history.
However, there's a warning flag in Hernandez's velocity. His fastball velocity has dropped over each of the last two seasons, and was two miles per hour slower in 2012 than it was in 2010, and two and a half miles per hour slower than it was in 2008. A lot of that can be attributed to general aging and wear on Hernandez's arm, but it could be a sign of something more serious, and is worth keeping an eye on.
Another question that will come up regarding the extension: would the Mariners be better served in trading Hernandez for prospects rather than using him as the franchise cornerstone? It's a valid question, and one that will be asked ad nauseum over the seven years of the deal, but one that won't be able to be immediately answered. On paper, Hernandez seems like the best possible candidate to get a contract like this...but that doesn't necessarily mean it's a great thing.
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