Three Seattle Mariners – all pitchers – filed for arbitration, and while all of them are penciled in to important roles this season, one of them is the team ace.
Felix Hernandez is still 22, and while is 39-38 major league record is mediocre, his talent is not. On the open market today, all 30 teams would love to have him. For now, he's a Mariner.
Not necessarily a happy one.
As he heads toward arbitration, Hernandez is 14th on the Seattle salary chart, the lowest-paid member of the rotation that opened the 2008 season. Hernandez made $540,000 last year.
What will he ask for in 2009? Numbers will be exchanged later this month, but consider this:
Carlos Silva will make $11 million.
Jarrod Washburn will make $10.3 million.
Miguel Batista will make $9 million.
Bedard, who has filed for arbitration, made $7 million last year.
Aaron Heilman – the third Mariner to file for arbitratrion – made $1.2 million in 2008. And the Mariners signed reliever Tyler Walker last week for $750,00.
So Felix is, at the moment, the sixth highest-paid man on the Seattle pitching staff.
Former GM Bill Bavasi and the team front office tried last spring to interest Hernandez in a multi-year contract. He and agent Alan Nero passed.
Now, new GM Jack Zduriencik and that same hierarchy face the same challenge. If they can't get the multi-year deal done, they have to sign Hernandez rather than allow him to go through the arbitration process.
Young Felix is sensitive, as most are at his age, to anything that could be perceived as criticism. If the Mariners have to make their case against him – in his presence – the team could lose even if it wins.
If Seattle wants Hernandez as the foundation of its rotation, it must sign him before arbitration. And if they can't get him to agree to a long-term deal, it may be time to accept that Felix doesn't see his future as a Mariner.