Thursday, September 17, 2009

Why Can't the Mariners Sign Felix Hernandez?

This little nugget about Felix Hernandez caught my eye:
"Felix will be an affordable, young, dynamic budding superstar of a pitcher in 2010. And his home is at the moment unknown. The Mariners don't have the talent to contend against the Angels in the AL West, and it appears that they'd rather trade Felix now, while they can still get a boatload of young talent for him, rather than wait for him to become a free agent and skip town."
For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Mariners would want to trade Felix Hernandez now or anytime in the near future. As the author noted, Felix Hernandez is cheap, young, and a dynamic starting pitcher. While he's under the Mariners control, they should be building around him, not looking to blow the whole thing up.

And further, why can't the Mariners sign Felix Hernandez to an extension or even re-sign him once he reaches free agency? The Mariners are not a financially strapped organization. They are not the Rays, Marlins, or Twins. In fact, their $98 million dollar payroll this year and $117 million dollar payroll last year actually suggests that the Mariners are much closer to the Yankees and Red Sox in terms of payroll.

So why does everyone assume that Felix is simply just going to leave the Mariners? Sure, any deal with Felix Hernandez (like Tim Lincecum) is going to have to be outside the box and unique because a player of Hernandez's ability and age only comes around once in a generation, but the Mariners have funds to spend. According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, the Mariners only have $41 million dollars committed next season as the contracts of Adrian Beltre, Miguel Batista, Jarrod Washburn, and Erik Bedard come off the books.

That's why I can't understand why everyone is thinking solely about trading Felix Hernandez. Considering how much money they have coming off the books this season, NOW would be the time to discuss a contract extension with Hernandez.

I hope the Mariners hold on to Felix Hernandez for the foreseeable future for two reasons:

1. Seattle doesn't deserve to watch another prized talent skip town
2. There is no way the Mariners would receive equal value for Felix Hernandez.

I'll end with one word:



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Zach Sanders said...

THey have said they will try to work out an extension after the season ends.

But, it's pretty clear that if Felix won't take one he will be traded because his value is the highest it will ever be.

Jorge Says No! said...


What do you think it will take for the M's to sign Felix?

Any guesses?

P. W. Hjort said...

I think Greinke's extension would be a good starting point for a Felix extension.

Jorge Says No! said...

The major difference between Greinke after last year and Felix after this year is that Felix's pedigree is much higher than Greinke's was at the time. I think the Mariners would love to start talks at Greinke's extension, but inevitably, the deal will far exceed Greinke's extension.

SomeSeaGuy said...

A) OF COURSE the M's want to lock Felix up long term.

B) Don't think Greinke #s, think Santana/Sabathia #s - that's what Felix's people are thinking.

C) Sure, the M's have room for a big contract ($18mm-$22mm+ per year), but is that smart? Think about all the long-term deals teams have given to pitchers; now list the ones that avg more than $14mm annually that have paid off for the life of the deal (WS wins, 200+ inn. per year, etc).

Ok, ok, Felix is DIFFERENT; younger, more projectable, he's got a chance to be that once in a decade guy. Let's assume that happens. He wins 16-17+ games a year, stays relatively healthy - do the M's have budget to make other big moves, not just in '10 or '11, but what about when JackZ's prospects hit their 3rd season and the payroll starts going up across the 25-man. They'll be handcuffed with one great starting pitcher - ONE. Now figure out the other four slots for less than $15+mm a year; good luck.

I wish he'd be cool with a 5-year deal at $17mm per avg, but that's NOT going to happen - he wants to get paid!

If you're the M's, you have to play the game smart, you can't be sentimental and wishful, blindly hoping up through his 5th season that he has a change of heart and signs a more favorable deal long term. If you think you've got no chance to sign him long term, get what you can while his value's high. Or, at least let everyone think you're willing to, including Felix, and hope like heck that HE gets sentimental with the thought of leaving and signs for less than his max value.

Just my opinion though...

Snave said...

Of course it is totally up to Felix whether or not he wants to sign an extension with the Mariners. Because it seems to be taking a while to get it done, rumors spring up. Other teams have apparently inquired about Felix, but nothing too serious has been discussed. I think a Felix trade will only happen if he says "I want to become a free agent".

What they do during the offseason could go a long ways toward convincing him they are on the right track and that he might not want to miss out on the fun in Seattle during the next few years. I think the ballclub is now on the right track. There still may not be much help quite yet in the minors, but Zduriencik seems good at putting together a competitive roster. I think if they can
1. find ways to improve their hitting at two or three positions (i.e. 3B, LF, 1B/DH)
2. add a quality SP to compliment Felix in the rotation
3. keep Lowe and Aardsma for late innings
they ought to be thought of as a dark horse AL team for next season.

If the team has a good Hot Stove League, a good spring training and a good start to the season AND if Felix's goal is to be on a winning team and get to the playoffs, I think they lock Felix up by around May-June next season.

If he is all about the money, it might not matter what the team does. Therefore, good to keep adding good players so the team can still be competitive in the event Felix decides to leave Seattle.

How about 5 years and $100 million to $125 million? That might be with it would take?

Jorge Says No! said...

Great points here, guys.

I see your point about how important this summer could be for the Mariners in convincing Hernandez to stay. It could be a lot like what the Cavaliers have done over the past few seasons by signing/acquiring players that can appeal to LeBron to stick around for awhile and show him how committed the team is to winning.

If Hernandez was willing to take a 5 year deal worth $90-$100 million right now, I'd accept that.

MrGenre said...

One last point that hasn't been hit here.

Of course the M's would like to lock him up long term, but if Felix doesn't want to play for this team, then why not trade him now at his (possible) Cy Young season peak?

That's what it really comes down to. Felix has not signed already, because he wants to play for a winning team. He had a blast representing his country at the WBC and wants some postseason action for a change... something he has NEVER seen as a Mariner.

Now, I'm a huge M's fan, and I'd love to see him head to Cooperstown as a Mariner, but if he doesn't want to do it, trade him now. If people can go that nuts for Halladay at the trade deadline, just imagine what they'll give up for Felix and two years of team control!

Anonymous said...

I think King Felix already got a huge incentive to stay with the Mariners this year: The team defense went from worst to first, and Felix hugely benefited from that (thank you Franklin Gutierrez). The clubhouse vibe and overall talent and quality has improved a lot. Seattle has a super smart GM now and the team knows it - manager too. And after shedding salary this offseason the Ms are primed to resign him. If not, I think the trade will come later. His value can be higher at next year's trade deadline. But I'm from Seattle so I'm biased

Jorge Says No! said...

The reason why the Mariners should not trade Felix now no matter what kind of package Felix can bring is that Felix Hernandez is a once in a generation type of player and it's almost impossible for the Mariners to get a package of equal value in return.

Anonymous said...

There were serious talks at the deadline this year with the BoSox, Pads, and M's in a 3 way sending the King to Boston, Bucholz and Ad. Gonzolez to Seattle and pretty much the top 4 prospects in the M's org. to S.D.

Rumor has it that it wasnt the prospects that turned away Jack Z. on this was the departure of the King!

Felix is staying in Seattle, no doubt!

Unknown said...

You can't trust the Boston media re: the Sox any more than you can trust the New York media's hyping of Yankee prospects. Zduriencik has said unequivocally that his intention is to sign Felix to an extension. He has also called those "serious talks" about a three-way trade a literal ten-second conversation.

Trading Felix at this point makes no sense. We should treat those reports of "serious talks" as nonsense unless a trade ultimately happens.

Anonymous said...

Felix's contract would probably be 7 years at $120MM. Since he has two years of arbitration that would only get him about $20MM total ($7.5MM in 2010 and $12.5MM in 2011) if he went year by year. He would be making $100MM over the last 5 years which is a $20MM per season, but by dividing that over his arb. years, if they do a flat contract, he would make $17MM a year, which is $10MM extra next year and $4MM-$5MM extra in 2011 than he would make in the arb. process.

As for Felix staying in Seattle. Beltre is like his big brother(he'll be back for his defense at 3B on an $8MM a year deal that will probably go for 4 seasons with an option at $8MM for the 5th season.) He's already said he'll take less to play on a competitive team and he prefers the west coast, which leaves Seattle, Anaheim, and San Fran, but I don't see him like those options as much as Seattle.

His best friend is Jose Lopez, his other good friends are Franklin Gutierrez and Erik Bedard.

He loves pitching to Rob Johnson.

He's grown up in the Seattle organization.

His idol growing up was Freddy Garcia, hense the #34 and signing with Seattle while just 16 years old in Venezuela.

The dude cried when the season was over because he loves his team and the city so much.

The guy is getting all the praise and accolades he would otherwise get in NY, Boston, or another big market, but he doesn't have the horrible press that comes with playing in those big markets.

He's happy and comfortable in Seattle, likes the direction of the team, and really loves working with Wak and Adair, not to mention he's the ace of Seattle, he'd just be a #2 in NY or Boston. You can't tell Sabathia, Santana, or Beckett/Lester that the new guys the ace of the team and gets the #1 spot in the rotation, see Bedard coming to Seattle to know how well that worked out when someone tried giving his opening day gig away to the new guy.

Felix will sign a deal with Seattle and won't leave here until he's in his 30s if ever.

Jorge Says No! said...

Great points there, Anon. I really enjoyed your analysis.

Do you really think the Mariners would commit another 4 years (at $8 million annually) to Beltre? Doesn't that seem a bit excessive?

The $120 million dollar contract seems pretty logical at this point and it would make Felix one of the highest paid pitchers in baseball...already. It wouldn't surprise me to see Felix's agent include an opt out clause somewhere in the middle of that contract just to give Felix the option for big money if things start to sour in Seattle.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on the opt. out clause, that's all the rage in baseball these days and it wouldn't surprise me at all. I think watching Boston, St. Louis, and Minnesota get bounced from the playoffs in straight sets was enough evidence that getting to the playoffs and team payroll mean nothing. It can happen to any team at any time and Seattle has just as good a chance as anybody of being a World Series team with Felix at the helm. I think they'd probably have an opt. out after 4 years contingent upon wins and losses, like the contract Mike Sweeney signed with Kansas City years ago. I think Felix was really grounded this year and feels like he's a part of something in Seattle and I'd be surprised if he even wanted more than $20MM a year because of how it would impact the makeup of the team. He wants to be in Seattle and that means taking less to win a championship. Examples include, Pujols taking less and the Cardinals were rewarded in 2006, Beckett & Ortiz took less to stay with Boston and won another championship in 2007, while Utley, Lidge, and Rollins all took less and they won in 2008 with Philly. When a player sacrifices, it doesn't always lead to a championship, but a championship always begins with a selfless sacrifice! The opt out would only be to ensure that the team finishes above .500 in 3 of the next 4 years, makes the playoffs 2 of the next 4 years, and the payroll is never less than in the top 1/3 of the league as it is now.

Beltre was worth $67.2MM during his 5 year $64MM deal, so I'm confident that he will easily be worth $40MM over that same stretch of time, also realize that he was worth that $64MM while missing 1/3 of this season and playing for the first time in the AL during the 1st year of his contract, so really his middle 3 years are what we should be evaluating as he played well after coming back from the surgery and looked like his old self. He was worth $48.1MM over the middle 3 years which is a $16MM average. Even with all the missed time, he was worth almost as much as Bobby Abreu who turned down a $8MM a year deal and is 7 years older than Beltre. I think it's very likely it will take $8MM and it would be silly for the Mariners not to jump at a chance to have him over Tuiasosopo at 3B for the next 5 years at rough $40MM.