Skip to content

Mariners wager their future on Felix Hernandez’s right arm

Feb 7, 2013, 4:01 PM EST

Felix Hernandez Reuters

If you had to bet big on a pitcher for the next seven years, Felix Hernandez seems as good a choice as any. He hasn’t been in Justin Verlander‘s league these last two years, but he also hasn’t been extended to 270 innings per year like Verlander has. And while I think I’d choose Clayton Kershaw over anyone, I do feel a little bit safer trusting someone with Hernandez’s thick build over the slighter left-hander. I think Kershaw is the better bet to contend for Cy Young awards deep into the decade, but Hernandez is the  more likely of the two to still be throwing 220-230 excellent innings per season.

Still, it’s all just a guess. Pitching is inherently risky. Unlikely candidates have survived the rigors and won 200 games, and some who look like they’ll last forever are gone in an instant.

Since the expansion era started in 1961, Hernandez, with 32 WAR, is one of a dozen pitchers to have racked up at least 28 WAR through age 26 (using the Baseball-Reference version). Here are the other 11, their WARs through age 26 and their totals from age 27 onward.

Bert Blyleven – 47 WAR – 165-137, 3.71 ERA, 109 ERA+, 44 WAR
Tom Seaver – 35 WAR – 216-151, 3.07 ERA, 121 ERA+, 66 WAR
Dwight Gooden – 35 WAR – 62-59, 4.45 ERA, 99 ERA+, 11 WAR
Roger Clemens – 34 WAR – 259-139, 3.15 ERA, 144 ERA+, 99 WAR
Bret Saberhagen – 34 WAR – 70-47, 3.49 ERA, 124 ERA+. 22 WAR
Frank Tanana – 33 WAR – 138-158, 4.03 ERA, 100 ERA+, 20 WAR
Dave Stieb – 32 WAR – 95-70, 3.57 ERA, 116 ERA+. 22 WAR
Fernando Valenzuela – 30 WAR – 60-71, 4.29 ERA, 90 ERA+, 4 WAR
Pedro Martinez – 29 WAR – 135-54, 2.89 ERA, 160 ERA+, 53 WAR
Dennis Eckersley – 29 WAR – 99-99, 3.59 ERA, 114 ERA+, 30 WAR
Kevin Appier – 29 WAR – 109-93, 4.16 ERA, 112 ERA+, 23 WAR

Of the 11 best young starters in the last 50 years, just three accomplished more from age 27 onward than they did through age 26. There are three Hall of Famers on the list in Blyleven, Seaver and Eckersley and two more guys with Hall of Fame numbers in Clemens and Martinez. None of the other six came anywhere close to getting elected.

My feeling is that the Mariners should have waited on a Hernandez extension. He was under control for two more years at a total of $39.5 million. In essence, today’s seven-year, $175 million contract is really a five-year, $135.5 million extension. In guaranteeing Hernandez $27.1 million per year for those five years, the Mariners are giving him 10 percent more than any pitcher has ever gotten in a long-term contract. CC Sabathia‘s Yankees renegotiated deal, Cole Hamels‘ Phillies extension and Zack Greinke‘s free agent deal with the Dodgers were all for $24.4 million-$24.5 million per year. The Mariners weren’t getting any kind of discount here and thus should have revisited extension talks next winter.

On the other hand, it’s not really all that outrageous of a contract. Had Hernandez been a free agent this winter, he surely would have gotten $200 million on the open market. There’s also something to be said for a move like this reassuring the fanbase. The semi-annual “should Felix go” columns are out the window now, and eager Yankees and Red Sox fans will have to turn their attention elsewhere in search of prey. Salaries are likely to keep going up, so if Felix stays healthy, there’s a good chance he’ll be worth the money. The Mariners’ future through 2019 now hinges on it.

Latest Posts
  1. Brewers GM Doug Melvin not looking to replace Yovani Gallardo

    Jan 25, 2015, 10:35 PM EST

    Jimmy Nelson Jimmy Nelson

    With Yovani Gallardo out of the picture, Brewers GM Doug Melvin said he’s not looking to add a notable starting pitcher.

  2. Alex Meyer willing to pitch out of the bullpen for the Twins

    Jan 25, 2015, 9:30 PM EST

    Minnesota Twins v Tampa Bay Rays Getty Images

    Twins prospect Alex Meyer is open to contributing out of the bullpen if he doesn’t win a rotation spot in spring training.

  3. Mariners sign Endy Chavez to a minor league deal

    Jan 25, 2015, 8:20 PM EST

    Endy Chavez Endy Chavez

    The Mariners added some outfield depth, signing Endy Chavez to a minor league deal. They’re reportedly close to signing Franklin Gutierrez as well.

  4. Brewers now interested in bringing back Francisco Rodriguez

    Jan 25, 2015, 7:10 PM EST

    Francisco Rodriguez AP AP

    With Jonathan Papelbon likely staying in Philadelphia, the Brewers are turning their attention back to Francisco Rodriguez.

  5. How Commissioner Rob Manfred Can Make Baseball More Appealing

    Jan 25, 2015, 6:05 PM EST

    Rob Manfred Rob Manfred

    Rob Manfred’s suggestion to ban defensive shifting isn’t the best way to address some of the problems facing Major League Baseball.

  6. Rangers doubtful to consider Josh Hamilton reunion

    Jan 25, 2015, 4:41 PM EST

    josh hamilton getty Getty Images

    MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez wrote earlier this month that it’s unlikely Josh Hamilton will finish out his five-year, $125 million contract as a member of the Angels and that a trade may even be coming this season — in the third year of the five-year deal. But we can probably rule out a reunion with the Rangers.

  7. Mike Napoli calls sleep apnea surgery “one of the worst things I’ve ever (gone through)”

    Jan 25, 2015, 3:17 PM EST

    napoli getty Getty Images

    Sean McAdam of CSNNewEngland.com shares the gory details about the painful facial surgery that Mike Napoli had earlier this offseason to help end his long battle with sleep apnea …

  8. Max Scherzer thanks Tigers fans with full-page goodbye in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press

    Jan 25, 2015, 2:58 PM EST

    1ad

    A nice gesture here from Max Scherzer, who signed a $210 million deal Monday with the Nationals …

  9. Blue Jays cut off talks for Orioles executive Dan Duquette

    Jan 25, 2015, 1:33 PM EST

    showalter duquette getty Getty Images

    Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports that the Blue Jays have ended their pursuit of Orioles executive Dan Duquette because Baltimore asked for 2014 first-round pick Jeff Hoffman and two other prospects in return.

  10. Rob Manfred, new Major League Baseball commissioner, suggests ban on defensive shifts

    Jan 25, 2015, 12:05 PM EST

    manfred getty Getty Images

    Rob Manfred has officially been reigned in as the new commissioner of Major League Baseball and he said something controversial in a sit-down interview this weekend with ESPN’s Karl Ravech …

  11. Yankees reject A-Rod’s apology attempt

    Jan 25, 2015, 11:02 AM EST

    alex rodriguez head Getty Images

    Another New York Daily News source added that A-Rod is looking “noticeably thinner and massless,” so you get the sense these bits of information — however truthful — definitely aren’t coming from his camp.

  12. Video: Ernie Banks remembered

    Jan 25, 2015, 9:39 AM EST

    ernie banks getty Getty Images

    MLB Network looks back on the career of Ernie Banks, who died Friday at the age of 83 …

  13. Tommy Milone had a benign tumor removed from his neck

    Jan 24, 2015, 10:40 PM EST

    Tommy Milone Tommy Milone

    Tommy Milone underwent neck surgery in December to remove a benign tumor, but he was able to resume throwing just over two weeks later.

  14. Twins GM Terry Ryan could see Byron Buxton debuting in 2015

    Jan 24, 2015, 9:35 PM EST

    Byron Buxton Getty Images

    Top prospect Byron Buxton could be wearing a Twins uniform in the major leagues at some point this season according to GM Terry Ryan.

  15. Tigers, Al Alburquerque avoid arbitration with a one-year deal

    Jan 24, 2015, 8:30 PM EST

    Al Alburquerque AP

    The Tigers and reliever Al Alburquerque avoided arbitration with a one-year deal on Saturday.

  16. Proposed Jonathan Papelbon trade to Brewers is “on life support”

    Jan 24, 2015, 7:25 PM EST

    Jonathan Papelbon Jonathan Papelbon

    A Jonathan Papelbon trade to the Brewers may not be happening after all.

  17. Mariners considering bringing back Franklin Gutierrez

    Jan 24, 2015, 6:20 PM EST

    Franklin Gutierrez Getty Images

    Franklin Gutierrez could make a return to the Mariners. The 31-year-old outfielder has had trouble staying healthy over the last few years.

  18. Twins and Brian Duensing agree to one-year deal to avoid arbitration

    Jan 24, 2015, 5:28 PM EST

    Brian Duensing Getty Getty Images

    Duensing he has been useful and durable as a middle reliever over the past two seasons, posting a 3.67 ERA (110 ERA+) in 115 1/3 innings over 135 appearances.

  19. Report: Brandon Beachy has decided on a team

    Jan 24, 2015, 4:53 PM EST

    Brandon Beachy AP

    Beachy is currently making his way back from his second Tommy John surgery.

  20. Report: More than 200 scouts attended recent workout for Cuban infielder Hector Olivera

    Jan 24, 2015, 4:01 PM EST

    Hector Olivera Getty Getty Images

    The Giants, Padres, Rangers, Braves, and Yankees are among the teams showing strong interest in Olivera.

Featured video

Cubs shore up rotation with Jon Lester
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. R. Vogelsong (6027)
  2. J. Shields (5398)
  3. I. Suzuki (4562)
  4. M. Scherzer (4285)
  5. D. Fowler (4025)
  1. J. Gomes (3696)
  2. J. Papelbon (3567)
  3. Y. Gallardo (3536)
  4. J. Santana (3522)
  5. J. Profar (3436)