Cherish Wednesday’s perfect game, Mariners fans, and enjoy King Felix’s Seattle tenure while it lasts.
Let’s face it: there’s a good chance Felix Hernandez will end his Mariners career never having won a postseason game.
The Mariners are set to finish in last place in the AL West for a third straight season and for the seventh time in nine years. They haven’t gone to the playoffs once in the 10 years since Hernandez was signed as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela, and it seems doubtful that they’re going to get there next year.
We’ve reached the point that it probably makes sense for the Mariners to trade Hernandez. Fortunately, his trade value will still be near its peak this winter. The free agent class includes only one elite starter, Zack Greinke, and there are question marks about him as far as how he’d fare in the spotlight. The next best starter available is probably Edwin Jackson, unless you’re a big Anibal Sanchez or Ryan Dempster fan.
Hernandez is signed for two more years at a total of $39.5 million after this one. That’d not exactly a bargain, but he’d probably command $27 million-$30 million per year as a free agent, and the team that acquires him would get a big head start in signing him to an extension. He’s worth several top prospects, and the Mariners could definitely use some high-upside bats as they attempt to rebuild. The Rangers, Yankees, Dodgers and Red Sox would all likely enter the bidding if Hernandez is made available. Hernandez is probably the one player out there for whom the Rangers would sacrifice shortstop Jurickson Profar, and he would be pretty much the perfect building block for the Mariners.
It’d be a shame to see Felix go, particularly given that he seems to enjoy Seattle, but the Mariners need much more than one ace if they’re ever going to challenge the AL West elite. They just might be able to turn Hernandez into three or four quality major leaguers, upping their odds for 2014 and beyond.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.