Mariners Insider Blog

Report: Concerns about Felix Hernandez's elbow could stall contract extension


So there's this little bombshell that Buster dropped on Mariners fans today.

From the story ...

But as of Sunday afternoon, sources say, the Mariners and Hernandez are not close to finishing an extension, because there are issues that the two sides are sorting through.

The elbow issue is perceived by at least one of the parties in the deal as being a possible impediment to the completion of the new contract.

"It's an issue," said one source.


From Bob's story ...

"We've had a code of silence all along on this, and that hasn't changed,'' said Alan Nero of Octagon, which represents Hernandez. "We're dealing with a lot of issues.''

So what should you believe? It sounds as though there was some concern after Hernandez took an extensive physical in Seattle this week (confirmed by the Mariners)  for the contract extension. Could it be the normal wear and tear on an elbow that every pitcher experiences over his career?  Could there be something more?

Part of what makes Hernandez so valuable is his durability. Really, the only health problem he's had in his career have been ankle issues, which seem to have been fixed. But he did go on the disabled list for an elbow issue way back in 2007. It wasn't considered a big deal at the time. And to my knowledge, he's never had a problem since.

Throwing a baseball is not normal. And every player -- not just pitchers - experience damage to the elbow and shoulder over the course of their career. That doesn't mean that tears and major injuries will automatically follow.

It would be easy to point out that the Mariners leaked this information to leverage the negotiations. I don't know what the Mariners would stand to gain by doing this. This has been the one really big thing that they were going to accomplish this offseason. Failing to do this would not help their credibility, especially if they were the ones perceived to have submarined it. .

Of  course, Mariners fans believe there is a track record of this type of negotiating tactic. Remember all the reports and supposed concerns about Randy Johnson's back when he wanted a contract extension? The guy did go on to win four Cy Youngs despite those back concerns.

Really, the Mariners can still get this deal done by protecting themselves with specific language in the contract pertaining to elbow injuries. The Yankees did this with CC Sabathia.  Dave Cameron of USS Mariner breaks it down ...

For instance, Sabathia’s contract is only guaranteed through 2016, but it includes a vesting option for 2017 that becomes guaranteed if the following criteria is met:

A. Sabathia does not the 2016 season on the DL with a left shoulder injury

B. Does not spend more than 45 days on the DL in 2016 with a left shoulder injury

C. Does not make more than six relief appearances in 2016 due to a lefty shoulder injury

If Sabathia’s shoulder doesn’t hurt in 2016, then he gets $25 million guaranteed in 2017. If it does, and it forces any of those clauses to kick in, then he gets a $5 million buyout and becomes a free agent. So, basically, the Yankees protected $20 million in the last year of the deal based on their concern about his shoulder.

So far, there’s no reason to think that whatever they found in Felix’s elbow is going to tank the deal, nor does it mean that he’s a ticking time bomb who the team should be trying to trade as quickly as possible. It just means he’s a pitcher with a lot of innings under his belt, and those innings have caused some physical breakdown in his arm. I’d have been surprised if it didn’t, at this point.

This might end up even being a positive for the Mariners, if they can get some extra protection from an elbow injury, which was always a concern in the first place anyway. Bottom line – don’t freak out. The contract is still more likely to get signed than not. It will just take some extra contract negotiation to make sure that everyone is sufficiently happy with their risks.