For the past few weeks Everett was the central setting in what may be Felix Hernandez’s final scene as a member of the Seattle Mariners organization.
Hernandez, the longtime Mariners ace pitcher, made a pair of rehabilitation starts with the Everett AquaSox, the second one coming last Wednesday as he continues to recover from a lat strain. He is expected to make one more rehab start at triple-A Tacoma before rejoining the Mariners.
Hernandez is one of the greatest pitchers in Mariners history, no question. The right-hander from Venezuela is the franchise’s career leader in innings pitched, starts, wins and strikeouts. He’s a six-time All-Star, winning the American League Cy Young Award in 2010. And he’s been unbelievably loyal, spending 15 seasons with Seattle despite never making the postseason.
However, there’s a good chance his is Hernandez’s swan song with the organization. This is the final year of the seven-year, $175 million contract extension Hernandez signed with the Mariners in 2013, and there’s been no indication by the organization that it intends on re-signing him.
A big part of that is declining effectiveness, as Hernandez hasn’t been anything close to his former self in recent years. The last time he was considered anything but a run-of-the-mill pitcher by WAR was 2015. The past two seasons he’s pitched at replacement level, including this season’s 1-4 record and 6.52 ERA in eight starts. According to FanGraphs.com his average fastball velocity continues to hover a just above 90 mph, which is 8 mph slower than it was in 2007.
With the Mariners in full rebuilding mode, it would seem they have little use for a 33-year-old starting pitcher who’s firmly in decline.
But will any other team see Hernandez as an attractive free-agent target either? While Seattle may be rebuilding, it’s not like the organization is awash in major league-ready starting pitching prospects to fill out next year’s rotation, and with Mike Leake traded away there’s one less inning eater on hand. It’s possible Hernandez could end up being a cheap veteran option in the free-agent market, given the way his results have deteriorated. And we know Hernandez feels comfortable in Seattle.
So let’s put you in Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto’s shoes. If you were making the personnel decisions, would you bring Hernandez back on a low-investment contract? Let us know here: