Felix’s Elbow Holding Up Extension

Dave · February 10, 2013 at 12:48 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

File this under “maybe nothing, but also maybe ugh”:

As the Seattle Mariners have been in discussions with Felix Hernandez about a record-setting extension, concern has developed over the condition of his pitching elbow, a source says.

The team and its franchise player had talked about a framework of a deal that would pay $175 million over the next seven seasons.

But as of Sunday afternoon, sources say, the Mariners and Hernandez are not close to finishing an extension, because there are issues that the two sides are sorting through.

The elbow issue is perceived by at least one of the parties in the deal as being a possible impediment to the completion of the new contract.

“It’s an issue,” said one source.

Throwing a baseball is unnatural. Pretty much anyone who does it for a living is going to mess up their arm at some point. If you ran thorough testing of every established Major League pitcher, you’d probably find something wrong with most of them. So, don’t freak out too much over this; Buster didn’t suggest that they found any kind of ligament damage, nor was the issue large enough that the Mariners have completely walked away from the table.

Most often, the outcome in situations like this is that the team inserts some language in the contract that gives them some protection from the specific issue they found. So, for instance, the Mariners could give themselves an opt-out of the deal if Felix spends X number of days on the DL due to an elbow injury. Olney references CC Sabathia’s contract with the Yankees, and that’s a good example of how these kinds of things generally get worked out.

For instance, Sabathia’s contract is only guaranteed through 2016, but it includes a vesting option for 2017 that becomes guaranteed if the following criteria is met:

A. Sabathia does not finish the 2016 season on the DL with a left shoulder injury
B. Does not spend more than 45 days on the DL in 2016 with a left shoulder injury
C. Does not make more than six relief appearances in 2016 due to a lefty shoulder injury

If Sabathia’s shoulder doesn’t hurt in 2016, then he gets $25 million guaranteed in 2017. If it does, and it forces any of those clauses to kick in, then he gets a $5 million buyout and becomes a free agent. So, basically, the Yankees protected $20 million in the last year of the deal based on their concern about his shoulder.

So far, there’s no reason to think that whatever they found in Felix’s elbow is going to tank the deal, nor does it mean that he’s a ticking time bomb who the team should be trying to trade as quickly as possible. It just means he’s a pitcher with a lot of innings under his belt, and those innings have caused some physical breakdown in his arm. I’d have been surprised if it didn’t, at this point.

This might end up even being a positive for the Mariners, if they can get some extra protection from an elbow injury, which was always a concern in the first place anyway. Bottom line – don’t freak out. The contract is still more likely to get signed than not. It will just take some extra contract negotiation to make sure that everyone is sufficiently happy with their risks.


30 Responses to “Felix’s Elbow Holding Up Extension”

  1. Slats on February 10th, 2013 1:07 pm

    King Felix pitching left-handed would be better than 90% of MLB pitchers.

  2. mawazi on February 10th, 2013 1:13 pm

    @Slats Joking? MLB pitchers are pretty good, last time I checked.

  3. greentunic on February 10th, 2013 1:15 pm

    I’m pretty sure he is joking.

    Now if they allowed him to throw with his feet however…

  4. Hutch on February 10th, 2013 1:22 pm

    This would be the most Mariners thing ever.

  5. Sports on a Shtick on February 10th, 2013 1:42 pm

    Left-handed? Some guy name Jerry perhaps.


  6. Westside guy on February 10th, 2013 2:11 pm

    Or he could follow the career path Jim Bouton, among others, traveled…

    Felix Hernandez, knuckle-baller extraordinaire.

  7. stevemotivateir on February 10th, 2013 3:14 pm

    Didn’t Dickey start his career without the knuckleball? Not that I think there’s anything to really stress or worry about with Felix.

  8. smb on February 10th, 2013 3:46 pm

    I’m glad that reality and precedent both suggest this is neither a big deal nor a dealbreaker for the team in signing this contract with Felix. Irrational logic would suggest, as Hutch did above, that this is “the most Mariners thing ever,” and that the FO had somehow managed to blow up what had previously seemed like an imminent long-term deal with possibly the most valuable pitcher in the game while simultaneously seriously damaging or even destroying his trade value.

  9. Gormogon on February 10th, 2013 4:04 pm

    This is a good thing, in my opinion. Better that they figure it out now and prepare for it.

  10. Matthias on February 10th, 2013 4:10 pm

    He’s not injured yet in 2014 for my MLB 2K11 Mariners franchise, so that’s good news.

  11. bookbook on February 10th, 2013 4:41 pm

    There’s something wrong with the extension on his elbow?

  12. Pilate on February 10th, 2013 4:49 pm

    Sounds like the usual baseball contract negotiation stuff to me, except for the dollar amount. Repeat after me: The Mariners have (will have) the highest paid pitcher in Baseball.
    Not sure what to make of that yet.

  13. Westside guy on February 10th, 2013 5:00 pm

    Dickey apparently threw a “forkball” that was, in truth, a knuckler. He switched to that as his primary pitch because he wasn’t particularly good as a conventional pitcher – it wasn’t injury related.

    And I’m not sweating the Felix news for the moment. The team is doing its due diligence, I can’t fault them for it.

  14. absolutsyd on February 10th, 2013 5:20 pm

    I actually think Felix is at his best when he isn’t throwing as hard as he can. If his velocity comes down a bit, I’m not really worried. He has developed into such a freaking great pitcher that he could still be very effective.

  15. miscreant on February 10th, 2013 7:04 pm

    The thing that annoys me about this and the Jesus Montero “story” is that they really are non stories. There are no facts yet just rumors and speculation.

    When you have facts then write a story because then it is a story. When you deal in rumors and speculation it’s tabloid crap.

    I’m not doggin on Dave I’m just ranting in general about the press. I feel better now that I let that go (haha)

  16. Zero Gravitas on February 10th, 2013 7:13 pm

    This is somewhat reassuring. Just freaks me out a little remembering that time Omar Vizquel failed a Mariners physical in 2003, then went on to fairly successfully play in 9 more MLB seasons while we started 2004 with bad Rich Aurilia at SS. I love Little O, so that always bugged me and I think about it every time I hear mention of a failed physical. Hopefully this works out for the best!

  17. Breadbaker on February 10th, 2013 10:29 pm

    The M’s of course had information that that Randy Johnson guy’s back wouldn’t last either.

  18. thedude1987 on February 11th, 2013 7:48 am

    I heard a rumor that Felix’s agent may have known he was going to fail the physical, destroying his trade value, and forcing the mariners to have to sign him to an extension.

  19. Plim on February 11th, 2013 7:57 am


    There is no speculation, or rumor. The Ms have obviously stated there is a condition that makes them take pause — what is lacking currently is any information on what it is and how bad it is. Obviously, a condition exists.

  20. 6-4-3 on February 11th, 2013 8:13 am

    I saw a stat on the news last night that claimed Felix has thrown the fourth most innings by age 27 of any Major League pitcher in history. Can anyone confirm this? I know he started young, but considering it was commonplace for pitchers to throw huge numbers of innings per season in the first half of the 20th century (and I’m also assuming they aren’t even consider 19th century players) I’m a little suspicious of this stat.

    EDIT: never mind. I guess the stat is fourth most since 1969. Blyleven, Valenzuela and Gooden are the ones ahead of him.

  21. raul_podzednick on February 11th, 2013 9:59 am

    Is this a good time to bring up the fact that he was terrible for the last month of the season?

    I went to one of those starts and watched him get absolutely shelled.

  22. vj on February 11th, 2013 11:26 am

    I saw the same stat. But you have to consider that this is due to him making the majors at a young age. Other pitchers spend more time at college and in the minor leagues and pitch there. While pressure may be lower, pitching in MiLB/college is probably no less stressful on the arm than pitching in MLB.

  23. MrZDevotee on February 11th, 2013 11:28 am

    Updates (thanks to MLBTradeRumors):

    MONDAY, 10:48am: The Mariners discovered the elbow issue Friday during an MRI, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports (on Twitter). The Mariners now seek protective language in the deal.

    12:31pm: The deal is still on track and an announcement could come in the next day or two, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). The team is working out language that will protect Seattle against future elbow trouble.

  24. MrZDevotee on February 11th, 2013 11:30 am

    That’s actually a really good point. Other than “innings pitched” are lower in the minors/college… But still, it’s not like a pitcher’s count is “zero” when their pro career begins– at any age.

  25. gwangung on February 11th, 2013 1:27 pm

    Other pitchers spend more time at college and in the minor leagues and pitch there. While pressure may be lower, pitching in MiLB/college is probably no less stressful on the arm than pitching in MLB.

    Yup. Could even be more stressful in colleges, given the oddball work schedule and the tendency for some coaches to abuse their pitchers.

  26. Flaco on February 11th, 2013 2:54 pm
  27. MrZDevotee on February 11th, 2013 4:41 pm


    “Bill James online website picks Mariners as ‘surprise’ AL team in 2013”


  28. MrZDevotee on February 11th, 2013 8:51 pm

    Bourn joins Swisher in Cleveland. 12 years/$48 million, with a 5th vested year (via 550 plate appearances in 2016).

  29. smb on February 12th, 2013 7:31 am

    It’s a nice corollary, IMO, that two of the three pitchers to pitch as many innings as Felix has before their age 27 season ended up pitching in the MLs for a very long time (Blyleven, Valenzuela), and the other, Gooden, probably could’ve had a much longer career had he not derailed it with substance abuse and other poor decision making. I expect Felix to be around for a long, long time, and I’m very encouraged that Z has said he’s been watching him throw for the last month and he’s “the same old Felix.”

  30. Grayfox3d on February 12th, 2013 1:59 pm

    Deal is done! finally! press conference tomorrow.
    I read that its being held in seattle? just wondering why they would do that since most people are going to be down here now.

    (here as in AZ since I live here)

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