Does the King Felix Contract Affect Arizona’s Webb?

Word coming out of Seattle today reports the Mariners are nearing a contract extension with starting pitcher Felix Hernandez. Details of the deal are still evolving but the parameters seem to be a five-year deal worth approximately $80 million.

This contract will lock up the staff ace through his arbitration years but will still allow him to become a free agent when he is 28 years old. It allows the Mariners a level of cost certainty and makes sure they have their front line starter into his prime.

Hernandez has a 58-41 record with a 3.45 ERA in 138 starts with 810 strikeouts, 287 walks, and 905 innings. Over the past two years Hernandez has show he is one of the game’s more exciting young players and is capable of carrying his team to a winning record and potentially to the playoffs.

In Arizona, Diamondbacks officials must be cringing just a little with this news. Deals like those signed by Hernandez, John Lackey with the Boston Red Sox, and the extension signed by Roy Halliday and the Philadelphia Phillies are like nails in the coffin sealing the departure of Diamondbacks ace Brandon Webb.

The team had a three year contract on the table with Webb during the 2008 season that would have kept him under team control through 2013. That deal was pulled of the table when team officials had trouble finding insurance to cover the contract.

Since that time Webb has gone on the disabled list and ultimately through shoulder surgery erasing the 2009 season. While the team did pick up the option on Webb’s contract for 2010, it is looking more likely that their ace will leave after this season.

Each subsequent deal for starting pitching seems to price Webb farther outside what the Diamondbacks will be comfortable paying. You can rest assured that Webb and his representatives are monitoring the market closely.

Webb’s career numbers have him with a record of 87-62 with a 3.27 ERA in 198 starts with 1065 strikeouts, 435 walks, and 1319.2 innings. Webb has seven years major league experience to Hernandez’s five years and is seven years older.

The numbers are similar enough that you can bet Webb’s agent will use the Hernandez contract to make a case for his client to receive a big payday.

During extension negotiations in 2008 it was rumored the two sides had agreed to a three-year $54 million contract which averages out to approximately $18 million. Given the acceleration of salaries over the past couple of years especially among the games top-tier pitchers makes it unlikely that Arizona will be able to sign Webb for that amount now.

Neither the Diamondbacks nor Brandon Webb seems inclined to talk about a new contract. Both sides are content to watch the season unfold and see how the Diamondbacks are doing and whether Webb is fully healed from his injury.

With each new deal that is announced, Diamondbacks fans everywhere squirm just a little at the thoughts that this might be Brandon Webb’s last season in Sedona Red. Hopefully the team and player can reach some sort of agreement that will allow Webb to continue pitching in front of the appreciative fans at Chase Field and not watching him when one of the large revenue teams come to town and he’s wearing the opposing team’s colors.


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