Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that Felix Hernandez and the Mariners have agreed to a seven-year, $175 million contract extension. The contract will make him the highest paid pitcher in baseball history, both in overall contract and in average annual value.
The Mariners will tear up his current deal, which was to pay him $19.5 million this year, and replace it with the new one. It will pay him, on average, $25 million a year through 2019. It’s not known yet if the contract amount increases over time or if it’s a flat $25 million a year.
Hernandez is 98-76 with a 3.22 ERA and 1,487 strikeouts and 480 walks in 1620.1 innings across eight seasons. But of course, he still doesn’t turn 27 until April. This deal, therefore, only take him into his age 34 season. If he holds up physically, he may get another sizable deal before he’s through.
The Tampa Bay Rays have signed lefty swingman Ryan Merritt to a minor league contract. Nah, it’s not a big signing but we’ll take anything today.
Merritt, who has spent his entire career in the Indians organization, spent the entire 2018 season at Triple-A Columbus. It wasn’t a bad year for him — he posted a 3.79 ERA and a 52/2 K/BB ratio in 13 starts and two relief appearances covering 71.1 innings — but the Tribe just couldn’t find a role for him at the big league level. He has shown in the past, however, that he can hack it in the bigs, having posted a 1.71 ERA in 31.2 innings with the Indians between 2016-2017.
His thing is that he simply doesn’t strike guys out at anything approaching a typical clip for a big leaguer: 3.7 per nine innings in his small sample of major league outings and 6.3 Ks per nine innings in the minors. Which, while it may not prevent him from having success at the big league level, is likely a reason for the limited number of chances he’s been given.
The Rays are probably the best place he could go, frankly. They’ve shown themselves willing to utilize guys in unique ways and are more likely than most teams to find places to spot a lefty control specialist who has shown he can both start and come out of the pen.