Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik has been around baseball long enough to know that pitchers like Felix Hernandez simply don't come around to organizations every year. Sure each organization is filled with good pitchers, but Hernandez has proven to be somewhere well beyond good and even perhaps past great at the ripe old age of 23.
It's why Zduriencik and the Mariners gave Hernandez a 5-year, $78-million contract extension.
"We realize that what this young man has accomplished at 23 years of age is pretty special," Zduriencik said. " We realize that AT LEAST for the next five years we’ll have Felix Hernandez in a Seattle Mariner uniform. That assays something about the commitment to all of his in the room, the organization.
"It’s says something about his desire and understanding in this game. It also says something about what he sees here happening in this organization, and that’s a positive."
Everything about baseball that Zduriencik has learned in his 25-plus year of working in the game, told him that signing Hernandez was the No. 1 priority for the Mariners as an organization.
"We can go way back to the summer when rumors were flying everywhere," Zduriencik said. "Some people may have thought I was a little nutty, but I had every intention of this guy playing here until he couldn’t play here any longer. That was my goal."
Seeing Hernandez go some place else in two years, or having to trade him before he became a free agent, just wasn't an option for Zduriencik or his plan to return the Mariners to prominence and the playoffs.
"With his ability and what we want to get to, we need this type of player," Zduriencik said. "We need this type of guy at the top of rotation. Our goal and my goal personally was to keep him."
In an offseason where he has been lauded and complimented by the national baseball media about the acquisitions of Chone Figgins and Cliff Lee and the contract extension for Franklin Gutierrez, Zduriencik believes locking up Hernandez was his best achievement.
"We've gone out and brought in Chone Figgins and we've brought in Cliff Lee, but there is no better move than securing Felix Hernandez," Zduriencik said.
While Zduriencik delivered endless praise about Hernandez, the young pitcher flashed a smile almost as bright as the diamond studs in each ear.
"Seattle was the first team to give me the opportunity to be a professional baseball player," Hernandez said. "I’m here for five more years and I hope we make the playoffs and I hope we win the World Series for the fans. I know they need it.”
Hernandez is giving up two years of arbitration eligible years and three years of free agency. There was some thought that had he waited to become a free agent two years from now, he could possible garner a $200 million contract from the Yankees or Red Sox.
But Hernandez chose Seattle and some security.
"I just wanted to stay here," he said. "They offered me a good contract. I don't care about free agency. I just want to stay here. I just want to win here."
"It was not a hard decision. It was easy."
A baseball cynic would point to the five-year contract and the massive amount of money as a precursor for complacency.
But neither Hernandez nor Zduriencik saw that is a possible problem.
"I'm going to do the same thing I did last year, the year before," Hernandez said. "I'm going to work hard. I'm going to the job the best I can and put this team where it needs to be. That's what I've got to do."
"Players play the game for a lot of different reasons and most of them is because they love the game of baseball," Zduriencik said. "This guy has so much ahead of him. What he did this year in terms of his preparation, his work habits, his relationship with everyone else on the ball club, his leadership, it said an awful lot. When you invest this kind of dollars into a player, you feel surely that this guy is going to live up to this contract. I think that's going to be the case here. I'm not worried one iota about anybody sitting back and resting on their laurels. "