When one of Ken Rosenthal or Jon Heyman says something, it usually isn't long until the other weighs in. A few days ago, Rosenthal wrote about a potential contract extension for Felix Hernandez. So, on Saturday, here's Heyman, discussing the same topic. Rosenthal's piece was maybe a little more positive, from the Mariners' perspective. This is the headline to Heyman's:
King Felix, in no hurry to extend deal, likely seeks 6 extra years, not 4
Let's follow with a few more blockquotes:
While the Seattle Mariners are said to have tried to start contract talks with superstar pitcher Felix Hernandez, there are no serious talks taking place at the moment, sources familiar with the situation tell CBSSports.com.
Hernandez has stated many times in his career he'd prefer to stay in Seattle, but word is he'd seek at least a six-year extension.
Foxsports.com reported a few days ago that the Mariners were thinking about a four-year extension for $25 million a year, and while it's not known whether such an offer has been made or even suggested yet, indications from people familiar with the discussions are that such a proposal would be a non-starter for the starter generally considered one of the best two or three in the game.
So, recent reports have the Mariners thinking about a four-year extension. This report has Felix thinking about a six-year extension. Remember that Felix is already under contract for another two seasons. Your natural response might be to panic. Reading Heyman's piece might make you worried that Felix might not be a Mariner for life.
To put this in context: Justin Verlander is two years from free agency, and recent reports say the Tigers haven't approached his representation regarding a new contract. Clayton Kershaw is also two years from free agency, and recent reports say the Dodgers haven't approached his representation regarding a new contract. The Mariners are ahead of their competition here, in that they've already engaged Felix's guys. It's not like the Mariners are behind.
And then there's the matter of the last time this happened. Following the 2009 season, Felix was said to be seeking a six-year contract extension. The Mariners initially countered with a four-year contract extension many saw as a low-ball. There was concern that Felix might've been insulted. Ultimately? Take it away, Felix's agent:
His agent, Wil Polidor, said Hernandez wanted a six-year contract and the Mariners wanted a four-year deal. Polidor said that compromise wasn't difficult to strike.
And just for the hell of it:
But the agreement was. Polidor said he'd been trying for three years to get Seattle to commit to Hernandez beyond 2011, but that the previous regime with GM Bill Bavasi kept saying no.
man, fuck off, Bavasi
Said Felix at the time:
"I just wanted to be here. I didn't care about free agency," Hernandez said. "I'm here for five more years. I hope we make the playoffs and the World Series for the fans. They need it. We got this out of the way, now my mind is ready to play baseball."
There was a little more urgency then, because Felix was arbitration-eligible, so he and the Mariners had to talk contract. There's less urgency now, in that there isn't a deadline, but the Mariners still want to get Felix signed, and Felix is still very open to signing. Once before, Felix wanted six, the Mariners offered four, and the two sides settled on five. This time, Felix might want six, the Mariners might offer four, and the two sides might settle on five, again.
There is a difference: that time, the contract kicked in immediately. By agreeing to a five-year deal, Felix had five years of security. This time, if Felix were to agree to a five-year deal, he'd have seven years of security. That's what makes a four-year offer fairly reasonable: it's four years, beginning in two years. It's a mischaracterization to say that $100 million and four years wold be a "non-starter". That would be a strong starter, but for the sake of negotiations, Felix's representation has to act like it isn't good enough. If the Mariners were to start around $100 million and four years, a sensible assumption would be that they could reach an agreement a little bigger than that. You don't begin with your best offer, but if you're Felix's side, you know that's a lot of security considering there are still another two years to go.
If the Mariners are comfortable with four years, and if Felix wants six years, it seems like they'd come together at five years. Possibly even with the fifth year being a vesting option, but that's just speculation on my part. What I can't do is pretend the situation is exactly the same now as it was the first time Felix signed for a while. That was Felix's first big contract, and the Mariners were looking terrific. Now he's already made money, the Mariners are still developing, and he's got less of his career to go. Felix might drive a harder bargain; he might not be the same level of enthused by what's going on with the Mariners. But it seems like Felix wants to stick around more than he doesn't, and the Mariners have made no secret of their interests. Something ought to be able to be done.
Let's say Heyman's report is right, and there still aren't serious talks between parties. Spring training is a few weeks away, and serious talks begin with an offer. From there, they can accelerate, and if the Mariners present a four-year offer worth $100 million, it shouldn't take much more to get a commitment, if it takes any more at all. While I can't guarantee that Felix will shortly sign an extension, I'm feeling pretty good about it. It seems like there's enough there, and this isn't either party's first contract-extension rodeo*.
* one lame rodeo