Why Felix Hernandez's Perfect Game Will Equal a Big Paycheck for Seattle Ace
Seattle won the game 1-0 against the Tampa Bay Rays and Hernandez struck out 12 batters on 113 pitches. The victory will provide a small bright spot for the Mariners, who are last in the AL West at 55-64 and were already on the losing end of a perfect game at the hands of Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox, who shut Seattle down 4-0 on April 21.
I could go on and on about how great a day this is in Mariners history, how this win only further cements Hernandez's status as one of the game's top pitchers, but I'm not going to do that.
Rather, I am going to point to the elephant in the room: what the perfect game means for the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner's free agency, set to happen in 2014.
Now, before I go any further, allow me to set the record straight: there is no way that the Seattle Mariners will trade Hernandez.
GM Jack Zduriencik stated last season that he would not trade his ace, even though it would provide some tremendous financial relief and bring in a boatload of top prospects, so there's no reason to believe that he will back down from his stance.
Yes, the Mariners are a bad team, but their winning percentage this season is already higher than the one they posted in 2011, when they went 67-95 and lost 17 games in a row at one point. Barring a massive collapse, they should end 2012 with a slightly better record.
Yet, let's talk about the financials in terms of the team keeping Hernandez on board. Currently, he has two years left on a $78 million extension he signed in 2010, when he went 13-12 with an MLB-best 2.27 ERA and took home the Cy Young Award. Not surprisingly, he is the highest paid player on the Mariners.
However, the second-highest-paid player on the team may shock some people: underachieving renaissance man Chone Figgins, who makes $9.5 million a year. After him comes catcher Miguel Olivo at $3.75 million, followed by some players who may not ever make that much money.
Long story short, though he probably won't admit it on the record, Felix Hernandez wants to win just like every other player and accumulate some World Series rings, or at least get to a point where he can compete for one.
In a small market like Seattle that has so little financial flexibility and often gambles on prospects who sometimes don't pan out (nice job, Ryan Anderson!), he'll find himself on the outside looking in when October rolls around.
That said, once the winter of 2014 is upon us, expect King Felix to take his talents elsewhere.
Will Felix Hernandez's perfect game affect his potential free agency?
Since 2009, he has gone 56-36 with a 2.73 ERA and has been a perennial Cy Young contender. I can think of a number of playoff contenders who would be more than willing to shell out the cash so that he may lead their pitching staff, namely the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and even the Washington Nationals. Just imagine how dominating a 1-2 punch of Hernandez and Stephen Strasburg would be!
All in all, this is a topic that is a bit early to discuss. Hernandez still has some time to kill in Seattle and for all we know, the team could undergo a complete turnaround in the next couple of years.
Yet, as we have seen with the cases of the NBA's LeBron James and MLB's own Albert Pujols last offseason, free agency is always a hot-button issue.
Now that he's in the record books for good, just watch as Hernandez turns his free agency into the most highly anticipated event of the winter of 2014.
When the dust settles, chances are he'll have himself a nine-figure deal, and then he'll probably send the Tampa Bay Rays a gift basket as a way of saying thank you for upping his value.
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