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Baltimore Orioles sign former Cy Young Award winner

JON MEOLI
The Baltimore Sun (TNS)
FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2019, file photo, Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez throws to a Baltimore Orioles batter during the second inning of a baseball game in Baltimore. The Baltimore Orioles have agreed to sign veteran right-hander Félix Hernández to a minor league contract, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. Hernández won an AL Cy Young Award, two ERA titles and made six All-Star teams over 15 seasons with Seattle before becoming a free agent last offseason.  (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

Former Cy Young Award winner Félix Hernández is signing with the Baltimore Orioles on a minor league contract that could be worth $1 million if he makes the team, according to an industry source with direct knowledge of the deal.

Hernández, 34, didn’t pitch in 2020 but spent a potential Hall of Fame career before that with the Seattle Mariners. He won the American League Cy Young Award in 2010, and even as he struggled toward the end of his career, recorded a stellar 3.42 ERA with a 1.206 WHIP over 15 seasons.

When he left Seattle, Hernández signed with the Atlanta Braves for the 2020 season but opted out because of COVID-19 concerns and didn’t pitch for them.

Hernández is the second minor league free agent signee the Orioles have added this week after left-hander Wade LeBlanc returned on a minor league deal Tuesday, the same day their trade of veteran starting pitcher Alex Cobb to the Los Angeles Angels was finalized.

A six-time All-Star, Hernández made 30 or more starts for 10 straight seasons from 2006 to 2015, and started 28 games as recently as 2018. He made just 15 starts in his final season in Seattle in 2019 and had career-highs in ERA (6.40) and WHIP (1.535).

With Cobb now traded, LeBlanc and Hernández have a chance to become the veteran staples in what will be a very young Orioles rotation. John Means is the presumptive Opening Day starter, and rookies Dean Kremer, Keegan Akin and Bruce Zimmermann all have chances to build on their 2020 debuts and earn a spot.

Jorge López, a waiver claim last year from the Kansas City Royals, made six starts for the Orioles last year. Only Means made more in Orioles colors last year.

Others who could compete for rotation spots include Thomas Eshelman and Rule 5 draft picks Mac Sceroler and Tyler Wells.