The words “pending a physical” give pause to any baseball player on the verge of signing a contract.
Hernandez last week agreed to a seven-year, $175 million contract with the M’s, according to major-league sources.
However, the deal is not yet official, and ESPN.com reported Sunday that an issue with Hernandez’s elbow is a concern for the club.
Hernandez has two years remaining on his current deal, so neither side is necessarily in a rush to resolve the matter.
“There are many issues to be worked out,” one source in Hernandez’s camp said. “We are not in a hurry.”
The reported elbow issue apparently surfaced during a physical that Hernandez took as a condition of the new deal.
Will the problem be enough for the Mariners to scrap the contract? Or will it simply result in protective language that teams frequently include in contracts for players with pre-existing medical conditions?
At the moment, it’s not clear.
Hernandez bowed out of pitching for his native Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, but will participate in spring training; Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik told the Seattle Times said Hernandez would take the field with the rest of the team’s pitchers and catchers this week
If Hernandez is indeed healthy enough to participate in full workouts, then it’s possible the Mariners simply are seeking to negotiate language that would allow them to alter the contract if Hernandez suffered a specific injury to his elbow.
The Boston Red Sox negotiated such language into right-hander John Lackey’s five-year, $82.5 million free-agent deal in Dec. 2009. The agreement included a conditional club option for 2015 if Lackey missed significant time for a pre-existing elbow injury. Lackey underwent Tommy John surgery in Nov. 2011 and missed the entire 2012 season.
The New York Yankees negotiated similar language for a vesting option in left-hander CC Sabathia’s most recent deal. The $25 million option for 2017 becomes guaranteed if Sabathia does not end ‘16 on the disabled list with a left shoulder injury, does not spend more than 45 days in ‘16 on the DL with a left shoulder injury or does not make more than six relief appearances in ‘16 because of a left shoulder injury.
Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli and Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano also had protective language inserted into their free-agent contracts this off-season, and the Chicago Cubs, according to sources, backed out of a trade for right-hander Dan Haren due to physical concerns.
Hernandez has thrown 1,620 1/3 innings in his career, the fourth-highest total since 1969 for a pitcher before his 27th birthday, behind Bert Blyleven, Fernando Valenzuela and Dwight Gooden, according to STATS LLC.