The Seattle Mariners gave their long-suffering fans a much-needed shot in the arm with the announced seven-year signing of Felix Hernandez. As a long time fan of the team, I grew up watching ownership trade away players for prospects as soon as they were set to make solid money in arbitration. The current ownership group has shown a willingness to spend money, the question has always been about how and where they chose to allocate their assets. As a result, fans got very used to seeing stars such as Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, and countless others leave the team in free agency or trades.
To add insult to injury several of the players often went on to do very well with their new teams leaving the fans with a sense of what might have been.
Felix has always stated that his desire was to stay with the Mariners as he loves the city and its fans and has no desire to play anywhere else. While this is an incredible sentiment especially in this day and age, many have questioned how long a player of his phenomenal ability would be content to play for losing team. The fact that the Mariners stepped up and extended his contract to an average of $25 million per season shows just how much the team values its most marketable asset.
I believe it was incredibly wise of the Mariners to lock him up now as another bad season or two might tempt him to see if the grass is greener elsewhere.
Yes the contract certainly carries risk with it as pitchers do develop health issues especially as they get older. Hernandez has been remarkably healthy in his career and is a perennial Cy Young contender with the stuff to do something amazing every time he takes the mound as he did last season against the Tampa Bay Rays when he threw a perfect game.
So with Hernandez locked up for the next seven seasons this hopefully will put to rest the speculation that the Mariners need to trade him now and reload should he change his mind and decide to leave the team. One of the big issues with that is that a player of his ability and age is truly a unique find. Very few teams would be able to not only pay him the money but would have anywhere near the amount of players needed to pry him loose from the Mariners especially now.
So while the Mariners have been content to bide their time while they wait for the young prospects in the farm system to mature, it now seems evident that Hernandez will be the centerpiece of their plans going forward.
The big three James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, and Danny Holtzen now look to be the accompaniment for King Felix which may allow the Mariners flexibility should they decide to trade one of these prospects for much-needed offense. Another great thing about the signing is it sends a message loud and clear to fans in the league who the star player of this team is and barring injury will be for years to come. This will be a great calling card should the Mariners get heavily into the free-agent market as being able to dangle King Felix and a country of young talent might just be enough to make several free agents rethink playing for Seattle.