By Jon Wells
26-year-old Felix Hernandez signed the richest contract ever by a pitcher today in a press conference at Safeco Field. The contract will pay the Mariners’ ace a guaranteed $175 million over the next seven seasons and contains a full no-trade clause. It’s the first time Seattle has given any player a full no-trade clause. The contract also contains protection for the team in the event Hernandez, nicknamed “King Felix,” spends 120-130 days on the disabled list over a one or two year period due to an elbow injury. If that occurred, an eighth year would be added to the contract at a cost to the Mariners of just $1 million.
An emotional Hernandez said at the press conference, “I don’t do this because I care about the money. I do this because I care about the people in Seattle. I do this because I love this city.” Shortly afterward Hernandez told a group of Mariners season ticket holders “I’m very happy. I’ve always said I just want to be a Seattle Mariner and I have never, ever changed my mind. This is home for me.”
Asked whether he thought the fences being moved in at Safeco Field this year would affect his performance, Hernandez said “It’s going to help our offense score more runs and help us win more games. As a pitcher, I’ve just got to make my pitches.” Hernandez said that he liked the direction the team was headed in and that he expected the Mariners to soon be one of the top teams in baseball. He specifically mentioned minor league pitchers Taijuan Walker and Danny Hultzen as players who he believes are going to help the M’s get to the next level.
Despite a stellar season from Hernandez (13-9, 3.06 ERA, 5 complete game shutouts), Seattle finished 75-87 in 2012, their third consecutive finish in last place in the American League West. The division welcomes the Houston Astros, the worst team in baseball in 2012 (55-107) this season, offering the Mariners a good shot at escaping the cellar at the very least.