PEORIA, Ariz. — Locking up Felix Hernandez for the next seven years was the highlight of a day the Mariners used to address rotation concerns in both the long and short term.
The Mariners finally completed a much-anticipated seven-year, $175 million deal with ace pitcher Hernandez on Tuesday that will replace the final two seasons of his current contract. A news conference is to be held at 2 p.m. today at Safeco Field, at which time Hernandez, 26, his agents, Scott Pucino and Wil Polidor, and general manager Jack Zduriencik will give more details about the pact.
“I think it’s a great thing for the Seattle Mariners, it’s a great thing for Felix Hernandez, and we’re looking forward to this guy being here for a long time, obviously,” Zduriencik said in announcing the deal Tuesday as Mariners pitchers and catchers reported for mandatory physicals ahead of a first workout Wednesday.
The Mariners also announced Tuesday they had added free-agent pitcher Joe Saunders, 31, to their rotation. Saunders was at the team’s complex Tuesday and will take the field Wednesday.
To clear a roster spot for Saunders, the team designated for assignment first baseman and outfielder Mike Carp, 26. The Mariners have 10 days to trade, release or outright Carp to the minors and risk having him claimed by another squad.
Seattle also agreed to a minor-league deal with starting pitcher Jon Garland, 33, who will compete for a spot in the back of the rotation. Garland hasn’t pitched since undergoing rotator-cuff surgery in June 2011.
Finally, the Mariners announced a minor-league deal with 6-foot-8, 245-pound relief pitcher Kameron Loe, 31, who spent last season with the Milwaukee Brewers and could give Seattle additional veteran presence from the right side they’ve been seeking.
Hernandez arrived at the complex to complete his portion of the physical early Tuesday afternoon, covering the parts not taken last week in a thorough medical examination in Seattle as part of his new deal. It was during that examination last Thursday that an MRI on his elbow turned up an issue that caused both sides to work through the weekend to add language to the contract that protects the Mariners against future Hernandez injuries.
It remains to be seen how his new deal impacts the team’s payroll for this year and next. Under his old deal, he was to earn just less than $42 million the next two seasons in base salary, a prorated signing bonus plus yearly $500,000 bonuses for winning the Cy Young Award back in 2010.
His new deal averages out to $25 million per season, and there would likely be a customary signing bonus factored in, as well.
Saunders is expected to earn a base salary of $6.5 million in 2013 with a chance for more money through various incentive bonuses. He’ll likely slot in as the No. 3 starter behind Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma.
For Carp, the writing had been on the wall much of the offseason as the Mariners acquired Michael Morse, Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez, all outfielders who can also be used as designated hitters. Carp tried to ignore the ongoing developments as best he could.
“You look at all the winter moves they made and try to figure out how it pertains to you,” said Carp, who had planned to drive to spring training from his Los Angeles area home on Wednesday or Thursday before hearing the DFA news. “But in the end, all you can do is take care of yourself, do what you need to do to succeed and be ready when your time comes. I’m ready to start spring training. Obviously, it won’t be with the Mariners any more, but I’m ready for whichever team wants me.”
The Mariners acquired Carp from the Mets in December 2008 as part of the three-team swap that brought Franklin Gutierrez and Jason Vargas to the Mariners, among others. He spent parts of four seasons with the Mariners, his best moments coming in the second half of the 2011 season.
“I won’t get to play for Seattle again, and that’s a shame,” Carp said. “I loved it up there in the Northwest. I consider myself fortunate to have played there. Not too many guys can say they have four years in at the big-league level already, starting at age 22. I still feel I have a lot to offer. I’m just getting started.”
For Garland, he hoped passing his physical Tuesday was just the start of a career with the Mariners.
“I’m excited to test the arm and get the competitive juices going again,” Garland said, adding that he feels 100 percent and has been throwing off a mound the past month.
Garland is 132-119 lifetime with a 4.32 earned-run average in a career that began with the Chicago White Sox in 2000. He’d hoped to be in camp a year ago with the Cleveland Indians, but never took his physical and wound up sitting out all of 2012 because he wasn’t ready to resume pitching post-surgery.
“Going into spring, I’d gotten off the mound a few times and I was going in the wrong direction,” he said. “Every time I got on the mound, it was getting weaker and it wasn’t recovering as well. And I knew right then and there that I had to shut it down and give it the time it needed. It was probably the best decision I ever made.”