By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
NASHVILLE — The rumor fell into the category of obvious and predictable, but Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik still wasn’t going to break his steadfast rule of discussing any sort of potential transaction.
On Monday, Zduriencik confirmed to a national radio show that the organization has had preliminary talks with the representation of Felix Hernandez about a possible contract extension.
On Tuesday, he wouldn’t elaborate any more on the situation.
“To get into any kind of talks about extensions, I wouldn’t want to publicly do that,” Zduriencik said. “I don’t want to say we are going to do this or that.”
Of course, this isn’t breaking news. It’s simple logic. Hernandez is one of the three best pitchers in the American League and the face of the franchise. His contract is up after the 2014 season and the Mariners don’t want to see him leave via free agency or worse be forced into trading him before he could leave, like they did with Randy Johnson.
Basically, the Mariners were ready to extend him the moment after he signed his first contract extension — a 5-year, $78 million contract — after his 2009 Cy Young award-winning season.
“He made it clear he’d love to stay here, and we’ve made it clear that we’d love to keep him here,” Zduriencik said. “I think that’s the best way to say it.”
Hernandez finished last year with a 13-9 record and a 3.06 ERA in 33 starts. He pitched 232 innings and struck out 223 batters. It was the fifth straight season he’d thrown more than 200 innings and struck out more than 200 batters. He also made his fourth straight All-Star team and finished fourth in the Cy Young balloting.
Hernandez will earn $19.5 million this season and $20 million in 2014.
No Bay … yet
A source within the Mariners said that free-agent outfielder Jason Bay has not officially signed with the team, despite reports that a deal was pending. All indications appear that Bay will sign with the Mariners, but it won’t likely happen till after Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft or next week.
There are a few other teams interested, but Bay will likely choose Seattle.
Why the Mariners? Well, it’s been noted many times before that Bay, a native of British Columbia and graduate of Gonzaga, lives in Kirkland. So there is a connection.
Bay was a once an All-Star in Pittsburgh and Boston, but was recently released by the New York Mets after three frustrating, injury-filled years. The Mets are basically paying him the remaining money owed on his 4-year, $66 million contract not to play with them.
During his three seasons with the Mets, Bay played in 288 games because of a myriad of injuries including concussion issues. He had 1,125 plate appearances and hit .234, striking out 285 times.
Why sign him?
It’s a low-risk with perhaps a medium reward. There is no real expectation for Bay to play. Zduriencik calls these types of signings “calculated guesses.”
It’s unrealistic to think he can be the player he was with the Red Sox (.267 with 36 homers 119 RBI, .384 OBP/.537 SLG). But the Mariners can pay him slightly over a the league minimum — around $450,000 — to see if there is anything left.
Rumors and more rumors
The Mariners still remain a minor player in the race for former American League MVP outfielder Josh Hamilton. His current team — the Texas Rangers — seem to be the front runner. There was talk of a four-year extension being on the table. Ranger general manager John Daniels downplayed the talks. The Mariners are still also hot after Yankees outfielder/first baseman Nick Swisher, whose future seems linked to Hamilton. Swisher is receiving interest from several teams, but with the Giants signing Angel Pagan to a 4-year, $40-million contract and Boston agreeing to a deal with Shane Victorino to a 3-year, $38-year contract and also signing Mike Napoli to a 3-year, $39 million deal, the Mariners may be the frontrunner. Former Mariner Mike Morse also seems a possibility. The Nationals are starved for relief pitching and would like one of the Seattle’s hard-throwing relievers, Stephen Pryor or Carter Capps.