The Seattle Mariners have to make a decision on Felix Hernandez that could alter the future of the franchise. The Mariners ace is a free agent in two years, and the team has to decide what they are going to do with him this year. Either they have to sign him to an extension or trade him.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik can talk all he wants about there’s no rush to sign him, but he can’t be in denial, either. Hernandez can talk all he wants about loving the city of Seattle, but he wants to get paid what he is worth and he wants to play in the postseason. It remains to be seen if the Mariners can fit his needs.
The Mariners recently offered their ace a four-year, $100 million deal. This is not going to get a deal done. Hernandez wants to be the highest-paid pitcher in baseball. No one can blame him after Zack Greinke agreed to a six-year, $147 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers this off-season, which is the highest average annual value ever for a pitcher. With due respect to Greinke, Hernandez is a class above the Dodgers pitcher based on strikeouts, ERA, and innings pitched.
Here’s the question the Mariners have to answer: Can the Mariners top Greinke’s contract when it comes to paying Hernandez?
As a mid-market team, it’s difficult to allocate a portion of their payroll to a pitcher who is going to want seven or eight years, especially when he pitches once in five days. That type of money belongs to an everyday hitter.
The Mariners have to wonder if they have the funds to give what Hernandez wants. They are not the Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels or New York Yankees to pay anyone that type of money. They have to be fiscally responsible when it comes to paying players.
It’s a no-brainer to sign Hernandez. It should happen, but it’s not as simple as it looks when one runs a franchise.
There is also a question about whether or not Hernandez believes the Mariners are a championship contender. He does not want to waste his career of not playing in important games such as being involved in a pennant chase and postseason baseball. No competitor would want that. The Mariners made incremental strides as a club by improving to eight wins last year after winning 67 games in 2011. Still, it’s about playing in the postseason.
The Mariners had a good off-season after addressing their needs on offense. They acquired Kendry Morales for Carlos Vargas, and they acquired Mike Morse in a three-way trade with the Athletics and Washington Nationals. They signed Raul Ibanez, who has had success hitting at Safeco Field.
That will help, but the team will get better if their core players make strides. That means Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders, Casper Wells and Justin Smoak have to improve after learning on the job.
If those hitters improve, that will get Hernandez to believe he can win with the Mariners. It’s something he would like to see for him to make it easy to stay in Seattle. The perfect scenario would be for the Mariners to do what the Athletics did by qualifying for the postseason last year when no one thought it would happen. By doing that, it can convince Hernandez that Seattle is the place to be for him.
No one knows what’s going to happen. Hernandez is not sure what he wants to do. He is more focused on being part of the solution for the Mariners in their quest to be a winning team.
Zduriencik has to be decisive if Hernandez is indecisive. He is being paid as the general manager to make tough decisions. He can’t let his ace leave the franchise while the team gets nothing for it. It’s his job to find the best deal he can get if worst comes to worst.
It’s not something the Mariners should do, but they have no choice. They have to worry about making themselves a better team if Hernandez is not committed to them or vice versa.
A decision has to be made eventually by both parties for the sake of closure.