M’s Reportedly Re-Sign Felix for 7/175
The Mariners have been clear that they want to re-sign Felix Hernandez. Felix has been clear that he wants to re-sign. This was the winter where we all expected a new contract to get done. Well, according to Bob Nightengale, the two sides have agreed to a new deal that totals $175 million over the next seven years. Felix was already under contract for $40 million over the next two seasons at $40 million, so this is really an extension of 5/135, assuming Nightengale has the numbers right and part of the money isn’t a vesting option or something.
There’s no way around it – this is a huge contract, and for any pitcher, a contract this large could easily turn out to be a disaster. 5/135 means that the Mariners are going to start paying Felix $25 million per year starting this season, so he’s either going to take up nearly 30% of the payroll or the payroll is going to have to go way up. Tying up a huge chunk of a team’s total budget in any pitcher has a chance to go south, even one as special as Felix.
That said, this is a gamble the team had to make. There’s not much evidence that teams can attract fans with big splashy free agent signings, but there’s no question that getting rid of franchise players that the fan base is attached to can have an extremely negative effect on a fan base. The Mariners have been hemorrhaging fans for years, and they have a serious credibility problem in the area, as people are tired of losing teams and skeptical of the ownership’s motivations. Trading Felix would have been a knife in the heart of what’s left of the fan base in Seattle, and it would have taken a long time to get those fans back, even if the team started winning again.
The Mariners best hope for relevance is to win with Felix, and the only way to do that is to keep him around for the long term. If they can put a quality roster around the city’s beloved son, they have a chance to get people back to Safeco, get the revenues flowing again, and get the franchise back on track. Had they let Felix go, they very well could have just been the new Cleveland Indians, who haven’t drawn since the mid-90s even when they won because the fan base left after the team went into perpetual rebuilding.
Now, at least, the Mariners have given the city of Seattle a reason to believe that they’re actually trying to win, rather than simply seeking profit maximization. That, in and of itself, won’t get the fans back to the ballpark, but putting a winning team around Felix has much higher revenue potentials than trying to win with whatever young players they could have traded him for.
The Mariners needed to keep Felix. Keeping Felix has turned out to be very expensive. That said, a bet on Felix’s health and future is a better bet than hoping you can convince an exasperated and alienated fan base to come root for players that they associate with organizational greed and an unwillingness to spend.
The point of developing young, cost-controlled players is to free up a majority of the budget to retain your best players. Getting rid of Felix to get more young, cost controlled players wouldn’t have pushed the team closer to winning. They needed Felix and young, cost controlled players. Now they have Felix, and they have him for a long time.
Correction – now we have Felix, and we have him for a long time.