The Seattle Mariners are a frustrating team to follow for fans as they annually sell the idea that they’re building to some grand future of baseball relevance that never seems to come. They aren’t major players in free agency and almost always are sellers come the trade deadline, always pushing off winning today for the potential to win tomorrow. For that reason, it’s become a tradition for baseball pundits to speculate where the M’s ace, Felix Hernandez, is going to end up. If reports are true, the answer to that question is going to be “nowhere” for a pretty long time.
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, an anonymous source “familiar with the contract details” indicated a new deal with Hernandez would be finalized before Sprint Training. The reported deal would replace the final two years of Hernandez’s current contract, according to Nightengale, and run seven years for $175 million, making King Felix the highest paid pitcher in baseball, averaging $25 million per year.
He would supplant CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees and his seven-year, $161 million, for the largest overall contract for a pitcher and beat out Zach Grienke‘s highest average annual value of $24.5 million that he signed this offseason in a six-year, $147 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. While some may say it’s too long for too much, the Mariners come out as the big winners in this deal.
The reason everyone assumes that Hernandez will get traded every year is because the Mariners have made a habit of not investing in their superstars. At one point, this Seattle franchise had Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez and Randy Johnson in their primes, along with pre-steroid (probably) Alex Rodriguez, and only one of them stayed his entire career with Seattle. Griffey, Johnson, and Rodriguez all left for bigger paydays elsewhere, which has been a pattern for the M’s since their inception.
But by locking up the 26-year old Hernandez through his prime, this Mariners’ ownership group is sending a message to the rest of the team, their fans, and baseball in general that Seattle is finally ready to pay it’s talent. That gives fans hope that they’ll see a consistent winner in Safeco Field in the near future. It could also entice a few more free agents who aren’t on retirement’s doorstep (sorry Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez and Griffey part 2) that relocating to Seattle won’t be bad for their bottom lines.
The Mariners have never been considered a legitimate threat in MLB because they’ve never committed to spending the money to win. If the details of this report are true, which the M’s have not confirmed (and if it were done they’d be running around telling everyone to get Jesus Montero‘s PED connection out of the news), then Seattle will effectively change their reputation and lock up one of the best pitcher in all of baseball.
Past stars have always left Seattle to find greener pastures, but now the M’s are making sure there’s plenty of green in Seattle. King Felix gets his payday and the team gets that “cheap” label off their backs. It’s a win-win for everyone in the Pacific Northwest.