Baseball: Reports differ on record deal for Hernandez

Felix Hernandez could walk into Seattle Mariners training camp on Tuesday as the highest-paid pitcher in Major League Baseball, or he might not be there at all, according to US reports.

USA Today reported Thursday that the 26-year-old Venezuelan has agreed to a seven-year deal worth $175 million, which would be the richest contract in baseball history, while reports that no such agreement has been made.

The newspaper said the deal would be finalized before the start of pre-season training, which for the Mariners will begin on Tuesday in Peoria, Arizona, when pitchers and catchers are due to report.

Right-hander Hernandez is set to make $19.5 million this year and $20 million next year to complete a five-year deal worth $78 signed in 2010.

USA Today says the new deal would replace the last two years of the old deal and five more seasons beyond at $25 million a year through the 2019 campaign.

Major League Baseball's largest deal for a pitcher is currently the seven-year deal worth $161 million signed before the 2010 season began by New York Yankees star C.C. Sabathia.

Zack Greinke will average a record annual sum for pitchers of $24.5 million from a six-year deal worth $147 million signed in December with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Hernandez, the 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner as top pitcher, hurled a perfect game for the Mariners over Tampa Bay last August on his way to a 13-9 season with a 3.06 earned-run average and 223 strikeouts in 33 starts.

The three-time All-Star has a 98-76 Major League Baseball record with a 3.22 earned-run average in 238 starts for Seattle since his 2005 debut. He has pitched no less than 232 innings in each of the past four seasons.