It's team policy not to discuss the terms of contracts. Yet the terms of contracts become known anyway, so nuts to the Mariners, we know what's up now with Felix Hernandez's long-term contract extension. This is all going to be coming from Ken Rosenthal. First, the annual breakdown:
2013: $19 million
2014: $22 million
2015: $24 million
2016: $25 million
2017: $26 million
2018: $26 million
2019: $27 million
That all adds up to $169 million, and Felix will also get a $6 million signing bonus, bringing us up to the familiar $175 million figure. If you want, you can consider this back-loaded, but remember that $27 million in 2019 won't mean what $27 million means to us now. By that point the Mariners' payroll could be anything, from $200 million to technically just like a few million I guess. One can't rule out the Mariners eventually becoming the Astros. "Anything is possible!" they say, encouragingly, but also inadvertently discouragingly.
More important than the breakdown: the protective language. Over the weekend, there were those rumors about the Mariners seeing something potentially troubling in Felix's elbow MRI. We talked before about John Lackey's contract with the Red Sox. Lackey signed with a history of elbow problems, so the Red Sox included a team option at the league minimum if Lackey sustained a major elbow injury of a specific type. Lackey did sustain a major elbow injury of the specific type, so now the Red Sox can have Lackey for the minimum in 2015 if they want.
The Mariners managed to negotiate something very similar into the end of Felix's contract.
Felix conditional club option with #Mariners in 2020 for $1M. That option becomes available to team if …— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 14, 2013
Felix on DL for more than 130 days in any 183 consecutive major-league days for rt. elbow surgery or any other procedure to fix rt. elbow.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 14, 2013
Basically, if Felix ends up needing Tommy John surgery on his elbow, because he blows out his UCL, he'll miss a big chunk of time, and then the Mariners will have the option of keeping him in 2020 for $1 million, which should be just about the league minimum by that point in the future. That's not exactly what the provision says, but that's the idea. If Felix injures his shoulder, the Mariners have no protection. If Felix injures his Achilles, like beloved NHL defender Erik Karlsson just did, the Mariners have no protection. If the wear and tear in Felix's elbow develops into something worse than that, the Mariners have protection. If Felix has to miss a year of the guaranteed contract because of what the Mariners identified in his MRI, a cheap year can get added to the contract. It's essentially a swap, except that in 2020 Felix would be 34 years old.
I love it, because this is better for the team than the same contract without the potential team option. It doesn't make Felix hurting his elbow less likely, but it does make Felix more likely to earn the deal. It eats away at some of that risk, and when you reduce the risk, the occasion only becomes more joyous. Felix! Felix through the rest of the decade!