There are reports everywhere that Felix Hernandez is on the verge of signing a long-term contract extension with the Seattle Mariners. There are such reports on every major baseball website. There are such reports on this baseball website. I just found such a report underneath one of my sofas, and I don't know how it got there, or when it got there, but it must've been sometime in the last day. The Mariners continue to deny that anything is planned or imminent, because the Mariners are all about secrecy. That's their policy, even if they might not know why when they actually stop to think about it. About those denials, though: it seems like Felix has basically confirmed what's up.
Oficial y lamentable, producto de su nuevo contrato y presiones de Seattle, FHernández no jugará con Vzla en el Clásico Mundial de Béisbol— Fernando Arreaza (@arreazaortega) February 8, 2013
What we have here is a statement that, because of his contract and pressures from Seattle, Felix won't pitch for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic this year as planned. It's one thing for reporters to be fed inaccurate or misleading information, but Felix probably has a good idea of whether or not he's getting a big contract from his employer. This seems like the sort of thing that would keep him in the loop.
So, yeah, a contract should happen shortly. We can't be absolutely certain about the total sum. We don't know if it'll be a five-year extension, kicking in in 2015, or a seven-year contract, effective immediately. The minor details, we don't know. The major detail, we do basically know: Felix is going to be Mariners property for a while, barring a complete and unpleasant surprise. The Mariners said all along they intended to keep Felix around for the foreseeable future, and now they've come through.
About Felix dropping out of the WBC, though. A few theories:
(1) Felix is committing himself 100% to the Seattle Mariners organization. Before, when Felix thought about pitching for Venezuela, he was a Mariner, but he was only a guaranteed Mariner for a relatively short amount of time. The team hadn't made a long-term commitment to him, and Felix allowed his eyes to stray, allowed himself to act in self-interest. Now the Mariners have indicated to Felix that he is, indeed, the guy. They've told him he's the franchise player, and they're going to pay him accordingly. The Mariners, effectively, put a ring on Felix's finger, and now Felix will focus on them exclusively. The Mariners aren't just Felix's top baseball priority: the Mariners are Felix's only baseball priority.
(2) With a big-money contract locked up, Felix is getting lazy. To continue with the marriage theme, maybe Felix is now content to let himself go. You can think of it alternatively as Felix having gotten tenure, and now he's free to coast. "Why does Felix play baseball?" you might ask. "To win, or to make money?" If it's the latter, then Felix just got his money. What's left to gain or accomplish? It starts with Felix dropping out of the WBC. Then he isn't running so much. Then he shows up unusually often with "flu-like symptoms" and he asks out of starts due to fatigue or minor injury. It ends with disgrace and mutual resentment, but with Felix still having received all of his paychecks. If only the Mariners could have seen this coming! Felix needed to be kept hungry!
(3) Felix is injured.
(4) The Mariners' organization isn't a big fan of the Venezuelan government. I'm not here to get political, but if Felix were to pitch for Venezuela, he'd be bearing the country's name and flag, representing and pitching for his people. The Mariners might not want for their franchise icon to be linked to a country and government for which they have a deep and profound distaste. The tweeted statement above refers to "pressures from Seattle", implying this isn't necessarily Felix's decision. This withdrawal from participation could be politically motivated, and it wouldn't altogether be a huge surprise since rich people have a tendency to have unusual and unwavering political interests. As a condition of receiving this contract, did Felix have to renounce his Venezuelan citizenship? I haven't seen any proof that he didn't.
(5) Felix is going to pitch for the US of fuckin' A. I'm sorry, did that say Felix is dropping out of the WBC? No, it says Felix is dropping out of Team Venezuela. Where does Felix make his home now? A little place called Seattle, in Washington state in fuckin' America. Felix bleeds red, white, and blue just like everybody else who might be worth your god damn time, and he might yet don the USA button-down made out of 100% unrecycled eagle feathers. No, Felix wasn't born here. But this is where he came to pursue and achieve his dreams, and it's out of undying gratitude that he could take the mound bedraped in Old Glory.