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Extension for Felix Hernandez will be difficult

The Mariners have to be pleased with the development of Felix Hernandez, who at 23, has emerged as the ace of the Mariners pitching staff. Hernandez put up the best numbers of his young career, striking out a career high 217 in 238.2 innings of work.

2009 - Felix Hernandez 19-5 34 34 2 1 0 0 238.2 200 81 66 15 71 217 2.49 1.14

Hernandez is under team control through 2012, meaning the Mariners could take him to arbitration or look to trade him for a boatload of promising prospects. 

However, GM Jack Zduriencik has expressed an interest in locking up the ace long-term. Hernandez, assuming he stays healthy, is on pace to be one of the most coveted free agents in history. I'm optimistic the Mariners can sign Hernandez this offseason, mostly because of the payroll flexibility they have this offseason to make a move.

But how much will Hernandez cost the Mariners? He will be 24 years old in April, so it is not out of the realm of possibility that he could ask for a deal worth 7 or 8 years. 

An average salary around 12 million dollars seems reasonable for Hernandez, based on previous numbers. This is only the second winning season of his career and the first time he has had a sub-3.00 ERA (with at least 20 starts). 

However, Hernandez was arguably the most dominant pitcher in the AL, mixing his strong curveball with his explosive fastball. He set career highs is nearly every category, including wins, ERA, strike outs, WHIP, and innings pitched. Setting a base salary saves the Mariners money, which will only increase Hernandez's demands. 

I ask the same question: What type of contract does Felix Hernandez deserve?

A contract for Hernandez should include a full no-trade clause, which will show the Mariners' commitment to building a winner around the young pitcher. His base salary will only rise as he gets closer to free agency, possibly reaching 15 or 16 million dollars annually. Incentives for awards and statistical achievement should also be included to motivate and award the pitcher through the contract. 

How does a four year deal worth 55 million dollars sound, perhaps with a vesting option for a fifth season? It is an average salary of 13.75 million dollars, which could be adjusted and spread out over the course of the contract. For someone who made 3.8 million dollars in 2009, it is a huge raise. But this could prove to be a bargain deal if he continues to have similar success. 

Let's hear your thoughts on the future of Felix Hernandez.