After a weekend of speculation about Felix Hernandez and the protective language the Mariners had inserted into his contract, we now get some detail courtesy of Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal of Fox as to what it was. A tweet put out by Morosi not too long ago says the Mariners have negotiated a clause in which they would get an extra, eighth year tacked on to Hernandez’s seven-year deal if he suffered a serious elbow injury that caused him to miss significant time.
The cost of that extra season? $1 million.
That’s quite the bargain if you consider the Mariners will be paying Hernandez an average of $25 million per year through 2019.
Don’t forget, he’ll still be only 34 when the length of this deal runs its course. According to the Fox duo, Hernandez would need to miss a total of 130 consecutive games on the DL over one or two seasons due to surgery on his right elbow in order to trigger the clause. In other words, if a Hernandez season — or parts of two consecutive seasons — became a virtual write-off because of his elbow, the Mariners would be able to get an extra year out of him to make up for the lost campaign at a nominal cost that will probably be the major league minimum salary once 2020 rolls around.
Sounds like a pretty fair compromise to me.
As everyone has been saying all along, this isn’t a matter of Hernandez having an injury right now. It was the potential for him to have one that worried everybody. So, if he misses most of Season #2 of the deal, or Season #7, the Mariners could still an eighth season literally free of charge. Of course, the Mariners might not want to exercise that option by that point and they’d be out of luck with a career-ending injury.
Then again, every pitcher carries that risk. No long-term deal is without peril.
And this is a risk: as Jack Zduriencik said today, the Mariners have guaranteed all $175 million of this deal. Hernandez gets a $6 million signing bonus and will earn a reported $20 million in 2013, $22 million in 2014, $24 million in 2015, $25 million in 2016, $26 million in 2017, $26 million in 2018, and 27 million in 2019.
The salary amounts for this year and next are negligible compared to what Hernandez stood to earn under his prior contract. So, in other words, payroll won’t be squeezed by the switch of deals in the short-term. Hernandez is making roughly the same money he would have alreadu.
And in this case, the reality of the long-term risk the Mariners are taking, to them, paled in comparison to the benefit of having Hernandez for the rest of his career prime.