Felix Hernandez has two more years left on his contract after this one. The Mariners have not made the playoffs with Felix on the team, and in fact the Mariners have spent a lot of that time being extraordinarily dreadful. We should know, we lived through it too. As such, media types have long pursued the angle that the Mariners should trade Felix for prospects. The Mariners, they figured, weren't going to be any good before Felix's contract ran out. What sense did it make, then, for them to keep Felix when they could conceivably turn him into a litter of talented youth?
This article was written just a short time ago, after Felix threw his perfect game, which he threw, in Seattle, against the Rays, do you remember that, that was amazing, I wish I could live that over and over and over for the rest of my life until I die of overexposure to perfect games. An excerpt:
"I don't care what Jack is saying right now," one AL executive said Wednesday night. "I think he'll listen to offers next winter. I know the kid says he wants to be in Seattle, but do you really think he'll re-sign there if they're not a contender?
"And, really, the decision for Jack will only be a year away after this season. Because he can't afford to let Felix go into 2014 without an extension, or he'd either have to trade him at the deadline for less than his value or risk losing him for nothing."
Pretty much the usual stuff. Since then, the Mariners haven't lost, pulling themselves close to .500 with a young team, and Felix has pitched well again in front of 40,000 of his closest friends. This is from ESPN. I don't think I've seen anything like this from the national media before.
More and more, the consensus across the industry is that the Mariners will sign the King, not move him. So far be it for us to argue.
"They're never trading him," said one executive, emphatically. "I'm more convinced of that than ever. They've got plenty of money, so there's no chance they're trading him. He's got two years to go [before free agency]. And he loves it there. So I think they extend him this winter. That's my prediction."
This is an article from ESPN, in which the author swears to never again entertain a Felix Hernandez trade rumor. The Mariners and Felix have said the same things over and over all along, and all of a sudden, the team's even playing good baseball, giving reason for hope that the next years could be even better years. The angle now isn't that Felix has only two years left on his contract. The angle now is that Felix could be re-signed for even longer.
I don't have any inside information, myself, because nobody outside of the Mariners has inside information about the Mariners. I don't know what's going on, but increasingly I've gotten the sense that an extension lies ahead. Felix just used that word "promise" on the radio, conditions are ideal, and if you're staunchly refusing to trade Felix, the reasonable alternative is to sign Felix, and now's as good a time as any. It would be a signal to Felix, a signal to the fan base, and a signal to the rest of baseball, including the various front offices and the various players. It would be a signal that the Mariners are about to become serious business.
Dave just wrote about what a Felix contract extension could look like, and you should give that a read. While thinking about what kind of contract Felix could get as a free agent will raise the hairs on your neck, if the Mariners were to sign Felix this offseason, they wouldn't be giving him a free agent contract. They'd be giving him a contract extension two years in advance of free agency, so the price would be driven down. Additionally, there's the matter of Felix seemingly not being the sort to hold out for every last dollar. You never want to count on a hometown or loyalty discount or anything, but Felix has dedicated himself to some terrible Mariners teams and now the Mariners team isn't so terrible. Felix has said that it's up to Jack Zduriencik, and it doesn't look like this would be a real challenging negotiation.
It's never been about whether the Mariners could win before Felix's contract ran out. That's been the simplistic view many have tried to take, but there was always the possibility that Felix could be extended, and that the window through 2014 would be extended into the future. An extension has never seemed more likely than it does right now, and I honestly think it's going to happen sometime in November or December or January. I don't assume it's going to happen, I'm not taking it for granted, but I think it's more likely it will happen than not. And the day of that announcement would be a blissful day indeed.
Ultimately, specifically because they're the Mariners we can't know the full truth. It's all partially educated guesswork, and the Mariners have taken us by surprise on several occasions. The odds of a Felix extension seem good, though. It seems like he's the guy the Mariners want to build around, and it seems like he wants to be the guy for the Mariners to build around, too. There's your foundation, your reason to look forward to an agreement.
Sign Felix, land a bat, and holy hell, what an offseason this could be. What a season next season could be.