(Photo by Associated Press)
Felix Hernandez was a bundle of emotion from the time he left the elevator to go to his press conference at Safeco Field and was greeted by a ring of Mariners employees (which he said later “will always be there in my mind my whole life”) . He teared up then, but that was nothing compared to the tears he shed on the podium as he issued his thank yous. Here’s a portion of what he said, with several pauses to compose himself:
“To the people in Seattle that trust me and believe in me, I’ll say this: I’m not going to disappoint anybody. I’m going to do my best. This Seattle Mariners team is going to be on top. Believe me…I will do my best, or more than my best, to get to the point of the playoffs. I’m not going to disappoint Howard and Chuck. I’ll tell you this: We are going to make the playoffs. We’re going in the right direction. We have a lot of young talent, and we’re going to be one of the toughest teams in this league.”
Hernandez was very intense, and very convincing, in trying to convey why he has now twice foregone the opportunity to go to free agency.
“I don’t do this because I care about money. I do this because I care about the people of Seattle. I do this because I love this city….I don’t want to go anywhere. I want to stay here. It was a decision I’ve made for a long time. I’m happy here. I don’t want to go to a place I don’t feel happy, I don’t feel comfortable. I want to be in a place I feel great, I feel comfortable, I feel good around the people, and Safeco Field, around the city of Seattle. That’s why I do this.”
Hernandez joked that he told one of his agents, Scott Pucino, “Hopefully, you’re working on my extension.”
- Here are some contract details. First of all, Felix got a complete no-trade clause. Even though he becomes a 10-and-5 player (10 years of major league time, the last five with one club) and thus would get full no-trade rights, Pucino said Hernandez wanted the no-trade clause written in just in case the CBA changes the 10-and-5 rules. Team president Chuck Armstrong confirmed that Hernandez is the first Mariners player ever to have a complete no-trade clause written into his contract.
“The two things that were important was that this contract was guaranteed and there was a no-trade clause. That was accomplished,” Pucino said.
Jack Zduriencik confirmed that the entirety of the seven-year, $175-million deal is guaranteed. FOX was the first to report that there is now a clause in the contract that calls for a conditional club option for 2020 at $1 milion, which would be applicable if Hernandez is on the disabled list for more than 130 days in any 183 consecutive major-league days for right elbow surgery or any other procedure to fix his right elbow.
This is the protective language that we’ve talked about ever since word came down over the weekend of concern over Hernandez’s elbow. But Zduriencik said strongly, “We got a complete medical from our doctors. Our doctors were very satisfied with it. He got a clean bill of health. (Team doctor) Ed Khalfayan was very comfortable; he said this guy could pitch his whole career and never have an issue…We got strong assurances this was a very, very good player to invest in, and we did.”
Hernandez himself said, “I’m totally healthy. I’m fine.”
- His yearly salaries will be $19 million in 2013, $22 million in ’14, $24 million in ’15, $25 million in ’16, $26 million in ’17, $26 million in $18, and $27 million in ’19, with a $6 million signing bonus. Hernandez had been scheduled to make $20 million 2013 and $20 million in ’14.
- I asked CEO Howard Linc0ln if the Mariners would insure the contract. He said, “We are looking at various insurance — clearly, life insurance and disability insurance. We cannot fully cover the contract, but we can cover a significant part of it, and we have not made a decision on some of the insurance coverage yet, but we will in the next couple of weeks.
- Zduriencik said the Mariners would have been able to sign Hernandez even if they had signed Josh Hamilton. They made a reported offer of four years, $100 million guaranteed, with two vesting options for a fifth and sixth year. He signed with the Angels for five guaranteed year at $25 million each. Zduriencik expressed some incredulity about Hamilton’s quote that the Mariners didn’t make a strong play.
“Yeah, I do believe it would be (doable),” Zduriencik said. “I really do. It’s a great question. I tried to say this, and sometimes people think you say it just because you’re supposed to say it, but that was a real deal we had on the table for Josh Hamilton. Those were real dollars. I’ve read some things, and I was like, really? It makes me shake my head a little bit. Those were substantial dollars. I don’t think it would have affected this deal, because this ownership has said, for the right player at the right time, we will invest. I think that commitment there, although it didn’t work out, we’re one of 30 clubs, and I guess we were right in the mix at the end. Now this commitment to Felix really says they will spend, and they have. As a general manager, timing is everything. You can’t just ask for $100 million every time you want to ask for $100 million. They bought into the Josh Hamilton deal, and they bought into the Felix Hamilton deal. I think they saw what we saw and they supported this decision and that decision.”
- Hernandez confirmed he has pulled out of the World Baseball Classic. He would have been the ace of Team Venezuela. There had been speculation the Mariners pressured him to do so, but he said, “Let me make this clear, it was my own decision. This is the best decision I can make. I want to be at spring training with all my teammates.”