It seems Seattle Mariners fans’ feelings a bout Felix Hernandez gravitate more toward practicality than sentimentality.
This week’s Seattle Sidelines poll concerned the Mariners’ longtime ace pitcher. Hernandez, who has spent the past 15 seasons in Seattle and owns most of the franchise’s career pitching records, becomes a free agent this offseason, and there’s been no indication the Mariners are interested in re-signing the 33-year-old, who’s been in steady decline since 2015. Hernandez may be a former American League Cy Young Award winner and six-time All-Star, but his profile doesn’t fit into Seattle’s rebuilding plan.
However, Felix’s struggles in recent years have some speculating he may have difficulty getting any substantial offers this offseason. Therefore, he may be available on the cheap, and if that ends up being true I can see a case being made for the Mariners bringing Hernandez back on a low-cost deal, particularly because of the loyalty Hernandez has shown to Seattle.
Therefore, this week’s poll put the readers into general manager Jerry Dipoto’s shoes. If you were Dipoto, would you re-sign Hernandez on a low-investment deal? Here’s how you voted:
POLL: Should the Seattle Mariners bring pitcher Felix Hernandez, who’s set to become a free agent, back next season on a low-investment contract? Full context, including a closer look at the situation, here: https://t.co/WNyXYaRxIV
— Nick Patterson (@NickHPatterson) August 19, 2019
Add the two together and 63 percent of the voters said they would not re-sign Hernandez to a low-investment deal, while 37 percent said they would. The numbers were consistent between the Twitter poll and the blog poll, so this would seem to be an accurate take on how the fans feel.
It wasn’t a complete landslide. Thirty-seven percents is still a significant number, so there’s a substantial section of the Mariners fan base that remains loyal to Hernandez. And if one were to look at the potential rotation members for next season’s team, there aren’t a lot of options. You have Marco Gonzales and Yusei Kikuchi under contract, and the team has an option on Wade Leblanc. But after that you’re looking at young pitchers like Justus Sheffield and Erik Swanson, who have yet to show effectiveness at the major-league level, along with whoever might be available as free agents. Given the Mariners are smack dab in the middle of rebuilding, it’s hard to see them committing heavy financial resources in starting pitching this offseason. Could that make Hernandez an option as an innings eater if he can be retained that the right price?
Of course, to be an innings eater a pitcher needs to be healthy, and that’s not something Hernandez has been in recent years. This season, though he’s set to return this weekend from a lat strain, he’s made just eight starts and thrown just 38.2 innings. In 2018 he made 28 starts and tossed 155.2 innings, but the year before that it was just 16 starts and 86.2 innings. So while the Mariners may be OK with having someone in next season’s rotation who is just taking up space, there’s no guarantee that even if Hernandez is re-signed he’d be able to give the Mariners that.
It’s been a sad end to “The King’s” tenure with the Mariners. For so long Hernandez was the player who was loyal, staying with Seattle through all the losing seasons, sticking with the Mariners despite failing to see the postseason in 15 years. Every five days the King’s Court would be in session, and the fans with yellow t-shirts and K cards would be in full voice. But the last few years we’ve watched Hernandez diminish, and it seems the majority of fans are ready for the relationship to come to an end.