The Seattle Mariners, who ranked No. 18 in payroll in 2012, have opened up their checkbook for their most prized asset.
According to USA Today, the Mariners have signed Felix Hernandez to a seven-year deal worth $175 million. The deal makes King Felix the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history, surpassing the Dodgers' signing of Zack Greinke.
MLB.com reported that the deal is not done.
Hernandez, 26, is among the elite starters in baseball, and for good reason. The native Venezuelan has thrown over 200 innings in each of the last five seasons, and over 190 innings since 2006. Hernandez has a career earned-run average of 3.22, and a 2.81 ERA in his last four seasons.
Consistently among the American League leaders in strikeouts, Hernandez's skill set is among the most impressive in baseball. He is an aggressive hurler with a two and four-seam fastball that tops out at about 97 miles per hour, and is mainly used as his strikeout pitch. Hernandez also has two devastating curve-ball pitches and a paralyzing slider. The former Cy Young winner's most deceptive pitch is his changeup, which teammate Jesus Montero calls his "invisible pitch."
While Hernandez's contract dwarfs all of his teammates, his position as the highest paid pitcher may not last long. The Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander and the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw are expected to receive similar or more lucrative contract extensions in the coming months.
For Seattle, retaining Hernandez sends a strong message to the club's fanbase. The Mariners have not been overly active in the free-agent market, and there had been speculation that the Mariners would deal Hernandez for prospects.
The club will continue to rely on Hernandez. The Mariners enter the 2013 season with a young rotation, and with a farm system that is rich with prospects such as a Danny Hultzen, a 23-year-old left hander.
Hitting remains a lingering problem for Seattle, who finished 27th in runs in 2012, and last in 2011. Infielder Nick Franklin is considered the club's most promising young bat in the minors.