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Hernandez, Mariners closing in on $78M deal

Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners are closing in on a five-year contract worth about $78 million, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press Tuesday.

The agreement would avoid arbitration and prevent Hernandez from becoming a free agent after the 2011 season. He is due in Seattle Thursday for a physical needed to complete the contract, a second person familiar with the talks said.

Seattle and representatives for the 23-year-old righthander exchanged proposed arbitration figures, with Hernandez asking for $11.5 million and the Mariners offering $7.2 million.

Seattle also agreed to a one-year, $2.75-million contract with closer David Aardsma and a one-year, $1.15-million deal with setup reliever Mark Lowe, avoiding salary arbitration with each.

Hernandez was 19-5 last season, tied for the most wins in the major leagues, made his first All-Star team and had a career-high 217 strikeouts and career-low 2.49 ERA.

Lincecum asks for $13M

San Francisco Giants ace Tim Lincecum asked for $13 million in salary arbitration, a record for a player eligible for the first time. The Giants offered $8 million to Lincecum.

On the busiest day of baseball's offseason, 70 players eligible for arbitration reached agreements on contracts, leaving 39 still on track for hearings next month. That's a fraction of the more than 200 eligible for arbitration in November, the 128 who filed on Friday and the 46 who swapped figures with their teams earlier in the day.

Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon agreed to a one-year, $9.35-million deal, the highest salary for a reliever with at least four years of major-league service. Colorado reached a preliminary agreement on a three-year, $22.5-million deal with closer Huston Street.

Former Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca agreed to a minor-league contract with the Rockies, according to a report. - AP

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