Where does Félix Hernández go after his Mariners contract ends?
Félix Hernández returned to the mound for the Seattle Mariners last weekend, throwing 5 2/3 innings in an effective outing against the Toronto Blue Jays following a lengthy stint on the injured list with shoulder trouble.
It is generally accepted that Hernández’s start against the Blue Jays was the beginning of his final run with the Mariners, the team he has spent his entire 15-year career with to this point. His contract is up at the end of the season and while there have been many highs along the way, including winning a Cy Young Award and throwing the only perfect game in franchise history, it’s been a rough last four years as he has dealt with injuries and a rising ERA.
What does the future hold for King Félix?
“As difficult as it is to say at this juncture, I think we’re probably talking about the last month of Felix in a Mariner uniform,” said Jon Morosi, MLB insider for the MLB Network and FOX Sports, in an interview with 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock and Salk on Tuesday.
Not only that, but even just landing with another team in the offseason isn’t a sure thing for the 33-year-old right-hander.
“You look at the underlying metrics of Félix’s year and really the last couple years, it’s difficult I think for teams to say, based on fastball velocity (and) a lot of the metrics that are popular now that are being used by teams, that they see an easy fix,” Morosi said. “I think he may be able to make some adjustments but I think in many ways those adjustments are probably best made somewhere else. I think it’s probably time for a fresh start for both parties.”
Hernández’s fastball, which reached the high 90s on a regular basis early in his career but now sits closer to 90 mph or lower, is of particular concern.
“Teams look at things through very discerning eyes about the measurables… and he’s got, candidly one of the least valuable fastballs in MLB this year according to Fangraphs.com,” Morosi said. “When that’s where you’re at, it’s difficult for a GM to justify to ownership, ‘Hey, listen, we’ve got to spend a 40-man roster spot on him based on where the measurables are.’ Because candidly the measureables have not been very good.”
So how does Morosi see things transpiring for Hernández before the 2020 season?
“I think it’s gonna have to be a GM that believes in him, that knows him (to sign him to a contract). … I think it’s going to be a challenge for Félix to find a lucrative even one-year deal just based on the way he’s pitched. It’s become a very, very calculating game, and that I think runs counter to what a lot of the sheer measurables have said. You look at his ERA+ the last three years, I think it’s in the bottom 10% of pitchers who have started at least 20 games.
“It’s a very difficult thing to say, I think for Félix, (but) he’s going to have to find a way to get to reinvent, to re-imagine, and probably do all of that elsewhere.”
Listen to Morosi’s full segment, including thoughts on the upcoming pitching matchup between Mariners rookie Justus Sheffield and Yankees lefty James Paxton, who were traded for each other last offseason, at this link.