The potential for an elbow problem has slowed down the completion of a new contract between Felix Hernandez and the Mariners, according to a report by ESPN’s Buster Olney Sunday. Citing anonymous sources, Olney wrote that the deal is not close to completion.
Hernandez was reported Wednesday to have been offered a $175 million deal over seven years, which would make him the highest paid pitcher in baseball history. While the Mariners have confirmed off the record that the numbers and years are close, they have said consistently the deal is not done and an announcement is not imminent.
An extensive physical exam was done in Seattle recently, when the elbow concern came to light. Whether it is a precursor to a serious problem or the normal wear and tear for a workhorse pitcher isn’t known.
“It’s an issue,”Olney quoted one source as saying. USA Today, which first reported the story of the negotiations, quoted Hernandez’s agent, Alan Nero Sunday: “We’ve had a code of silence all along on this, and that hasn’t changed. We’re dealing with a lot of issues.”
Hernandez this week announced a decision to not participate in the World Baseball Classic next month for his native Venezuela. But he cited family reasons, not health.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, only three pitchers since 1969 have thrown more innings before their 27th birthday than the 1,620 innings supplied by Hernandez — Bert Blyleven, Fernando Valenzuela and Dwight Gooden. Hernandez will be 27 April 8.
Some of baseball’s most expensive long-term deals recently have been salted with medical exceptions for conditions that occurred prior to signing. Olney cited the extension that CC Sabathia negotiated with the Yankees 16 months ago that include language to protect the team against a shoulder injury before the end of the deal.
After a five-month run that had him a contender for the 2012 Cy Young Award, including a perfect game Aug. 15, Hernandez had a bad September, going 0-3 in five starts over 30 innings, in which he had a 5.70 ERA and batters hit .323 against him. In August, he was 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA and .137 average against.
Asked at the team’s pre-spring training luncheon last month specifically whether any physical problems contribution to Hernandez’s falloff, Mariners trainer Rick Griffin offered a firm no.
Hernandez is signed for the next two seasons, so there is time for the sides to reach an agreement. Both parties previously expressed desires to keep him long term in Seattle.