Coming To Terms With Felix Hernandez

In my continuing “Coming To Terms” series (we’ll see how long it goes, depending on how many more Mariners players emerge to disappoint), I’m taking a sad look at King Felix. Like Seager, Felix has gotten worse over the last few seasons:

  • 2015: 18-9, 3.53 ERA, 201.2 innings, 4.4 WAR, 8.52 K/9, .682 opposing OPS
  • 2016: 11-8, 3.82 ERA, 153.1 innings, 1.6 WAR, 7.16 K/9, .718 OPS
  • 2017: 6-5, 4.36 ERA, 86.2 innings, 0.8 WAR, 8.10 K/9, .791 OPS
  • 2018: 8-14, 5.55 ERA, 155.2 innings, -1.2 WAR, 7.23 K/9, .798 OPS

I mean, Jesus, there’s no sugarcoating this decline. He’s 33 years old in April and he’s heading into the final year of his contract, which accounts for over $27 million.

I can’t even begin to describe how much all of this bums me out. King Felix is far and away my favorite Seattle athlete and that’s REALLY saying something, because we’ve had some true greats. Steve Largent, Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, Marshawn Lynch, Cortez Kennedy, Walter Jones, Randy Johnson, Detlef Schrempf, Kam Chancellor, Ichiro. I would argue that Felix was just as great as any of those guys in his prime, plus the fact that he was loyal to this city when he had ABSOLUTELY no obligation just puts him over the top. The fact that he’s going to go his entire career in a Mariners uniform having never played in the post-season is really just too much. If there was ever a year for the Mariners to not totally Mariners things up, 2018 was it. That was his last – and really ONLY – chance, and we couldn’t give it to him.

I get the sense that most Mariners fans are done with him, which makes me sad. At this point, with the team not really contending for anything (and, indeed, a worse record only helps our draft prospects next year), this is when you WANT Felix here. He’s not capable of really carrying this team like he was in his prime, so I say hand him the ball every fifth day and take whatever comes. If it’s a rare good day, then relish it, as you never know when you’ll see his last quality start; if it’s a usual clunker, then that’s just another loss in the column toward a higher draft slot.

Given the way his career has gone, it feels impossible to hope for any sort of turnaround. If that was in him, we probably would’ve seen it by now. Just getting him through the whole season without a DL stint (or, I guess an IL stint?) would probably be the most we should hope for. I’ll never totally shut the door on some sort of Bartolo Colon-esque resurgence, but even then, you figure if the M’s have an opportunity to trade him to a contender for a late-season playoff push (with Felix’s blessing, of course), they’ll probably jump at it (taking on most of his salary nonetheless, because no team would pay much more than the minimum for his services). That’ll be a dark day for Seattle sports, but then again, you rarely see your superstars play exclusively for only one franchise anymore.

After this year, I suspect he’ll get a spring training invite elsewhere (the Marlins maybe?), while we sit around and squabble about his Hall of Fame prospects. Short of a dramatic career turnaround, those chances also seem pretty slim.

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