Felix’s Elbow Holding Up Extension
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.