Mariner Nation awaits “official” word on Felix

It’s still not official, but the Mariners apparently have locked up their most dominating pitcher since the Randy Johnson era through 2014.

It is company policy not to release news of a transaction until all the t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted. But it seems that the only thing between “official” and “unofficial” is a physical exam ace right-hander Felix Hernandez must take before his mega-deal, perhaps as much as five years and $80 million, is announced by the Mariners.

The pending deal, first reported by ESPN late Monday night, has not been confirmed as of this morning and no announcement is forthcoming, according to a club official. However, it usually takes at least a day before results of an exam are known, and unless Felix tripped over his wallet or something, he should pass with flying colors.

Confirmation from the Mariners isn’t expected until Thursday or Friday.

Securing King Felix’s services long-term should send a strong message through the AL West — GM Jack Zduriencik has pushed the fast-forward button for getting the team back into playoff contention. Though Felix would not be eligible for free agency until the end of the 2011 season, a new deal would remove a potential distraction.

It also could, at the end of the day, help persuade former AL Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee to stick around a few more years. He would be free to leave at the end of this season, but if the Mariners unseat the Angels in the AL West, he probably would be more receptive to signing a long-term deal with Seattle.

Lee, who helped the Phillies reach the World Series, was acquired from the NL champs last month and gives the Mariners one of the best one-two starting punches in the Majors. He is expected to be in Seattle next week for his introduction to the Seattle media.

Hernandez is one of five Mariners eligible for salary arbitration and was expected to seek a $10 million contract — a hefty raise over the $3.8 million he earned last season, when he posted career-bests in every pitching catetory, including a 19-5 record and 2.45 ERA.

Hernandez has established himself as an ace, and he broke out in 2009, finishing second in the American League Cy Young Award balloting after posting a 19-5 record, 2.46 ERA and 217 strikeouts in 238 2/3 innings pitched.

The five-year veteran has a career 58-41 record and 3.45 ERA in 138 career starts, with 810 strikeouts and 287 walks in 905 innings.

A done deal would be a win-win — for King Felix and the Mariners.

— Jim Street

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