What you can’t see behind this hand is imminent doom for this blurry batter, also known as Felix Hernandez’s curveball.
For years we’ve been hearing Jack Zduriencik say that he wasn’t going to trade Felix, and that Felix wasn’t available, and today Zduriencik put Nintendo’s money where his mouth is. The Mariners are close to signing Felix Hernandez to a seven year, $175 million deal.
The deal is the largest for any pitcher in the history of baseball in terms of total dollars, and the highest in terms of average annual value, beating out Zack Greinke by about a half-million a year. Felix’s deal will erase the final two years of his present contract, meaning that he’s effectively signed a deal with five new years, and $135.5 million additional dollars. If that new money is compartmentalized it compares pretty favorably to Greinke’s six year, $147 million contract, as Greinke is going into his age 29 season, and Felix would have been going into his age 29 season when he became a free agent. Felix gets security, and the Mariners get a better pitcher than Greinke at this point, and a guy that not only wants to be here, and who will remain the face of the franchise, but also don’t have to give him all of the opt-out leverage that Greinke has in his pact with the Dodgers.
Of course, even a pitcher as reliable and talented as King Felix presents some inherent risk over the course of any seven year stretch. Felix showed some signs of his velocity dipping, which has some have inferred to mean that an injury is in Felix’s immediate future. Felix has averaged six WAR over the past four years, including last year, and while a lot of stock has been put into his perfect game, he was once-again pretty incredible last year. While his velocity dropped, his strikeout rate was at a career high (8.65/9IP), his walk rates at a career low (2.17/9IP), and his FIP also at a career low 2.84.
If Felix performs to his last four year’s average for the next seven years, even not accounting for inflation, he’ll be worth his $175 million assuming a $5 million open market price tag for a single WAR. The chances of him doing that—really the chances of any pitcher being worth 35 WAR over the course of a seven year period—are pretty slim. Of course, this method doesn’t account for inflation, or the changing revenue structure in baseball, and the chances of the price of WAR, or the value of a marginal win remaining anywhere near $5 million are probably equally unlikely.
Some people have looked to this as a pillar that the Mariners can use going into free agency in future years, showing that the team is committed to winning, and that some premier players want to play in Seattle. I don’t know if any of that shit is true, or if any of it really works in a pitch to a free agent, so I’m not going to speculate on that. It seems logical, but there is some logic on the other side of the fence also.
The good news is that the Mariners are going to keep perhaps their best pitcher in Mariner blue for the next seven years, if they want to. For Mariners fans that are used to seeing the team let stars leave in the midst of their primes, or before their primes only to blossom elsewhere, Felix is beacon. He’s a homegrown talent that came up through the farm system. He burst onto the scene, struggled at a point in his career, endured trade talks, endured contract speculation, and that fucking guy could be ours for the next seven years, or maybe longer.
He could become Vernon Wells, which is hardly a favorable outcome, but the more likely scenario is that he ends up being some version of the Felix we know today for a large portion of the contract. Maybe he’s just as good, maybe he’s a little bit worse, maybe he’s a little bit better. But he’ll be here, and a little bit worse than Felix Hernandez is some pretty damn good company in terms of pitcher talent.
Some people have a moral issue with this contract. “Nobody that plays a game for a living is worth $175 million,” they’ll say. I have no answer for those people. I’m not rational about this. I want the Mariners to compete within the confines of the league they play in. They didn’t write the CBA. Neither did Felix. Felix is better than the best pitcher on the market this offseason, and he got a little bit more than that pitcher. How that has become representative of the plight of the average laborer I have no idea. Somebody has an idea, and some people will try to make this about the common man.
But Felix Hernandez isn’t a common man. He’s a fucking King. That’s why they call him King Felix. He’ll be paid like one now. That’s not to say that he deserves it, and it doesn’t project him being worth it, but he’s been very good for many years, and has a good chance to remain good for a very long time. If you want to bitch about his salary your bitch isn’t with Felix or the Mariners, your bitch with baseball in general.
That’s a fair bitch, though if you have that bitch coming to a blog that basically glorifies the root of that bitch is probably a bad decision on your part. But today isn’t about that bitch. Today is about the Mariners locking up a star player for the better part of a decade. And it’s not some star player with a drug addiction or a weight problem. It’s our fucking guy.
Rejoice Seattle. Your chosen son, though expensive, will be around for a while.