The Mariners are gambling their franchise on King Felix's arm

The Mariners are gambling their franchise on King Felix's arm
February 15, 2013, 8:15 am
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The Seattle Mariners did what their fans wanted them to do. But I'm not sure the fans are any smarter than the front office up there has been.

Yes, King Felix, Felix Hernandez, has gotten his big contract. He'll be a Mariner for the next seven seasons but it's going to cost that team $175 million over that time. And Felix got a no-trade clause, too -- the first one the franchise has ever given out. And even though all of Marinerworld -- or what there is left of it -- is elated by the news, I beg to differ.

This team is in no position to give one player that kind of money, pitcher or otherwise. The M's are in need of players all over the field and a guy who pitches every fifth day is pretty important but man, that dough would have helped bring a few more big-league caliber players in, wouldn't it? Yes, I know the franchise is probably still making money, even though it has seen attendance drop in half over the last decade (the worst decline of any team in all of professional sports). And yes, I know how important Felix is to the franchise as a ticket-seller, as a winner and as a symbol of some sort that the team is headed in the right direction.

But seven years is a long, long time to bet on the health of a pitcher's arm. If you pay any attention at all to major-league baseball you know exactly what I'm talking about. This guy throws a lot of innings, a lot of pitches and is a big-time workhorse. He's going to push that right arm of his to the limit. If he has a small injury or soreness, he's the kind of teammate and gamer who is going to try to pitch through it, to show he's worth all that money.

And guys like that tend to hurt themselves. They tear muscles, fray tendons and just overall pitch themselves into major injury that affects their ability -- even after surgery and recovery -- to pitch at their very best. And when that happens, they become an anchor, dragging a franchise down with all that salary that isn't going to be spent on other players.

This guy still had two years left on his current contract. I think it might have made more sense to watch him have one more good season and then trade him for a package of big-time prospects, adding young players to the stable of promising players the Mariners seem to be excited about. For me, there are too many examples out there in all sports of these long-term contracts not being beneficial to a team and not enough evidence of them bringing success.

He seems like a good guy and I would love to see that franchise get back to what it once was in Seattle. But eventually, this contract is going to be one major speed bump along the way.