By Brady Henderson
There’s a great deal of risk assumed by teams signing pitchers to $100 million contracts, and there are plenty of cautionary tales to prove it.
That would explain why some might be wary of the seven-year, $175 million deal the Mariners have reportedly reached with ace Felix Hernandez. The deal would be the richest ever for a pitcher, and it would pay Hernandez an average salary of $25 million until he’s 33 years old.
It’s a high-priced gamble for the Mariners, for sure. But Jim Bowden, a former MLB general manager who now works for ESPN, thinks Hernandez is one of a few pitchers worth such a risk.
“If you’re going to bet on a pitcher in the American League … I would bet on King Felix first – over David Price, over any of them in terms of doing a seven-year deal because he’s 26 years old, he’s got a sound delivery, he’s a strong kid, he’s got a good frame, he’s been very consistent over the last four years in terms of innings and strikeout ratios and walk ratios, velocity for the most part,” Bowden told “Brock and Salk” on Friday.
Bowden felt the Mariners were at a bit of a crossroads with Hernandez, in a position where their only options were to either sign him to an extension this offseason or trade him while two years still remained on his contract. Waiting to trade him would decrease his value, as any team acquiring him would have him under contract for fewer seasons. Waiting until he hits free agency before signing him to a new deal, Bowden believes, would have been more costly for the Mariners.
“I think realistically had King Felix become a free agent you were going to probably see a seven- or eight-year deal at $30 million a year,” he said. “So when you look at this from a business perspective, as long as he stays healthy, business-wise they did a remarkable job on the contract.”
The Mariners have made no announcement on the deal. By all accounts, it will become official as long as Hernandez passes what should be an extensive physical.
“I find it hard to believe that there would be any injury the way he’s logged those 230-plus innings for four straight years and never had any complaint on the training table,” Bowden said. “And I don’t think Jack Zduriencik’s going to even think about a deal of this length if he’s not 100 percent sure he’s healthy.”