The Florida Marlins signed 25-year-old right-hander Josh Johnson to a four-year, $39 million contract today - handing the Seattle Mariners and ace Felix Hernandez another measuring stick.
Felix, of course, is arbitration eligible this year and next, after which he could elect to become a free agent. The Mariners have tried talking contract with him but, to date, haven't come close to an agreement.
Johnson made $1 million more in his deal that Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke got in his four-year contract - and $1 million less than Johan Santana's four-year deal with Minnesota, which was signed in 2005.
From one perspective, that would seem to set the market for young starting pitchers, but Hernandez, who will turn 24 in April, may have other thoughts.
C.C. Sabathia, for instance. The Yankees signed Sabathia to a seven-year, $161 million contract last year. Boston signed John Lackey this winter for five years and $82 million.
And then there's Roy Halladay and the three-year, $60 million extension he signed with Philadelphia.
The Mariners would rather pay Felix the going rate for All-Star caliber pitchers in his age group. He and his agent may well be looking at the contracts of baseball's best pitchers and thinking, 'Why not?'
It's nothing that either side must get done immediately, but for the Mariners it's a gnawing reality that looms, and one they're trying to deal with. Given the precedents, it's going to cost a fortune.