Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez poses for photos with fans following the team’s baseball game against the Oakland Athletics, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019, in Seattle. The Athletics won 3-1. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez poses for photos with fans following the team’s baseball game against the Oakland Athletics, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019, in Seattle. The Athletics won 3-1. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

King Felix, 3 other M’s officially free agents

The franchise’s longtime ace became a free agent Thursday.

By Ryan Divish / The Seattle Times

With the World Series over and the Washington Nationals in the midst of a championship celebration that could last until Thanksgiving, the business of Major League Baseball’s offseason officially began Thursday morning.

At 6 a.m., three Mariners automatically became free agents under Rule XX(B) of the collective bargaining agreement: right-handed pitchers Felix Hernandez and Arodys Vizcaino and left-hander Tommy Milone. All served the entirety of their MLB contracts.

Other players, such as Ryon Healy and Keon Broxton, who opted out of their outright assignments, can file for free agency as minor-league players.

In an expected move, the Mariners declined to exercise left-hander Wade LeBlanc’s $5 million club option, making him a free agent as well. He was paid a $450,000 buyout.

The Mariners’ 40-man roster now sits at 34 players.

After being locked up in a seven-year, $175 million contract since before the 2013 season, Hernandez, 33, enters free agency for the first time and at the lowest point of his decorated career. He finished last season with 1-8 record and a 6.40 ERA in 15 starts. He missed 87 games because of a strained lat muscle.

When he returned in September to finish out his tenure with the Mariners, including an emotional final start at T-Mobile Park, Hernandez was adamant that he wanted to play next season and beyond. But with his injury history and poor results the past four seasons, it’s possible that no team will offer him a major-league contract of even one year. He may have to sign a minor-league contract and try to make a team in spring training.

Milone, 32, was a minor-league signing before last season. With Hernandez’s injury, he joined the Mariners in late May. He went 4-10 with a 4.76 ERA in six starts and 17 extended relief appearances.

Vizcaino never pitched for the Mariners. He was on the injured list when he was acquired from the Braves along with lefty Jesse Biddle as a salary offset in a deal that sent veteran reliever Anthony Swarzak to Atlanta.

The decision not to exercise LeBlanc’s $5 million club option for the 2020 season was logical and became apparent in the final months of the season. The veteran lefty posted a 6-7 record with a 5.71 ERA in eight starts and 18 extended relief appearances. He was less than pleased with the organization’s decision to use an opener for him. A strained oblique didn’t allow him to reach the 160 innings that would’ve made the club option automatically vest. It’s likely the Mariners would have made sure he didn’t reach that total.

The Mariners have three lefties penciled in to its starting rotation: Marco Gonzales, Yusei Kikuchi and Justus Sheffield. Heralded prospect Justin Dunn will compete for a spot and the team is expected to bring in at least one, but possibly two, mid-level starting pitchers on a short-term deal to fill a spot. The Mariners will likely sign a handful of veteran pitchers to minor league contracts with invites to spring training to have them audition for roster spots.

Full list of XX(B) free agents by team:

Arizona Diamondbacks (4): Alex Avila, Jarrod Dyson, Yoshihisa Hirano, Adam Jones

Atlanta Braves (11): Jerry Blevins, Francisco Cervelli, Joshua Donaldson, Adeiny Hechavarria, Matthew Joyce, Dallas Keuchel, Christopher Martin, Brian McCann, Darren O’Day, Anthony Swarzak, Joshua Tomlin

Baltimore Orioles (1): Mark Trumbo

Boston Red Sox (6): Andrew Cashner, Jhoulys Chacín, Brock Holt, Mitchell Moreland, Steve Pearce, Rick Porcello

Chicago Cubs (8): Nick Castellanos, Xavier Cedeno, Steven Cishek, Cole Hamels, Brandon Kintzler, Jonathan Lucroy, Pedro Strop, Ben Zobrist

Chicago White Sox (5): Jose Abreu, Ross Detwiler, Jonathan Jay, Ivan Nova, Hector Santiago

Cincinnati Reds (2): Jose Iglesias, Alex Wood

Cleveland Indians (3): Tyler Clippard, Ryan Flaherty, Yasiel Puig

Colorado Rockies (2): Yonder Alonso, Drew Butera

Detroit Tigers (5): Gordon Beckham, Edwin Jackson, Jordy Mercer, Matthew Moore, Tyson Ross

Houston Astros (8): Robinson Chirinos, Gerrit Cole, William Harris, Martin Maldonado, Collin McHugh, Wade Miley, Hector Rondon, Joe Smith

Kansas City Royals (0):

Los Angeles Angels (1): Trevor Cahill

Los Angeles Dodgers (4): David Freese, Richard Hill, Russell Martin, Hyun-Jin Ryu

Miami Marlins (3): Curtis Granderson, Martin Prado, Neil Walker

Milwaukee Brewers (5): Matt Albers, Gio González, Jay Jackson, Jordan Lyles, Drew Pomeranz

Minnesota Twins (6): Jason Castro, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda, Sergio Romo, Jonathan Schoop

New York Mets (6): Luis Avilan, Brad Brach, Rajai Davis, Todd Frazier, Rene Rivera, Zack Wheeler

New York Yankees (7): Dellin Betances, Brett Gardner, Cory Gearrin, Didi Gregorius, Cameron Maybin, Austin Romine, CC Sabathia

Oakland A’s (3): Brett Anderson, Homer Bailey, Tanner Roark

Philadelphia Phillies (8): Corey Dickerson, Tommy Hunter, Bradley Miller, Logan Morrison, Juan Nicasio, Sean Rodriguez, Drew Smyly, Nick Vincent

Pittsburgh Pirates (3): Melky Cabrera, Lonnie Chisenhall, Francisco Liriano

St. Louis Cardinals (5): Anthony Cingrani, Marcell Ozuna, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, Matt Wieters

San Diego Padres (1): Craig Stammen

San Francisco Giants (4): Madison Bumgarner, Pablo Sandoval, Will Smith, Stephen Vogt

Seattle Mariners (3): Felix Hernandez, Tommy Milone, Arodys Vizcaino

Tampa Bay Rays (3): Travis d’Arnaud, Avisail Garcia, Eric Sogard

Texas Rangers (3): Logan Forsythe, Hunter Pence, Edinson Volquez

Toronto Blue Jays (2): Clay Buchholz, Justin Smoak

Washington Nationals (9): Asdrubal Cabrera, Brian Dozier, Jeremy Hellickson, Daniel

Hudson, Howard Kendrick, Gerardo Parra, Anthony Rendon, Fernando Rodney, Jonny Venters

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