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January 21, 2010 at 7:40 PM

Turns out it really did “take two to tango” before the Mariners locked up Felix Hernandez

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We’ve got a podcast for you, Larry Stone and myself, discussing today events from outside Safeco Field. Have a listen by clicking right here.
Lots of positive vibes coming from today’s Felix Hernandez press conference, as one might expect. And why not? The Mariners just locked up their Cy Young Award runner-up for another five years, Hernandez is now wealthier than he ever could have dreamed, with $78 million over the five years, and seems giddy with excitement for the coming season. Even said he can envision the team perhaps winning the World Series.

“For me, it’s not about money,” he said. “For me, it’s about being here. I know the fans need to be in the playoffs. We need to be in the playoffs. And we knew we had to get things done, early this year, before spring training, and now my mind is clear, all I’ve got to do is go out there and pitch. That’s the only thing I’ve got on my mind right now.”
Other than buying a house, which Hernandez might do in Bellevue, a place he usually lives during the season.
The Mariners tomorrow will have Cliff Lee on-hand to meet the media, meaning two of the game’s top aces will have just been trotted out at Safeco Field some 24 hours apart. So, these are high times indeed for a Mariners club that still has money to spend and continues to look at free agents.
But for me, some of the more interesting comments took place after the press conference was over.
Hernandez’s agent, Wil Polidor, was asked whether the change in regimes from Bill Bavasi to Jack Zduriencik made much of a difference when it came to getting this deal done. Polidor vigorously nodded his head and said it did indeed make quite a difference.
“They realized that they had to sign this ace,” Polidor said. “And they tried to sign him.”
The implication being that nobody really wanted Hernandez locked up long-term beforehand. To be fair, prior to last spring, Hernandez was a whole lot of hype without the Cy Young credentials to go with it. That much has changed big-time.
Hernandez admitted up on the podium and after today’s press conference that he has some growing up to do and that his young children and the reality of being a father has made him more mature.
“I think it was my family,” he said. “My family gave me support for everything. My kids — my daughter and my son — for me, that’s the best thing that’s happened to me.”
Still, the way it was sounding from Hernandez’s agent, the whole “it takes two to tango” notion, that Hernandez was the reluctant party in a two-sided dance in recent years, wasn’t exactly the case — at least when Bavasi was still around.
“The last three years, they’ve been saying no to him,” Polidor said. “Felix wasn’t saying no.”
Nobody was saying “no” this time. The Mariners initially wanted a four-year deal, Hernandez was asking for six and the two sides met in the middle. They also avoided what might have been an interesting arbitration case.
Polidor said he had filed an arbitration request for $11.5 million, while the Mariners — according to the Associated Press — countered with $7.7 million. The two sides could have met in the middle for nearly $10 million, or, could have let an arbitrator pick one of the two figures. I dunno, but after that season Hernandez just had, that $11.5 million looks pretty good.
Good thing neither side now has to worry about that.
Zduriencik now has to turn his sights to other areas. He played it coy today when asked about how much money he has left to spend, calling any media ruminations about his payroll or remaining money — including, I would suspect, our salary chart in today’s paper — “speculation.”

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Until the Mariners come out and say how much they are spending, any attempt to pinpoint their payroll would amount to some speculation. But you can add up the salaries committed to — as we did today, tweaking the results a bit more with Franklin Gutierrez’s contract details — and try to pinpoint to a certain degree how much they’ve already spent.
It’s up to the Mariners to decide how much they want to spend and what they want to spend it on, whether it’s Ben Sheets today or a cash pool for mid-season acquistions or player call-ups. We also won’t know how much the team has left to spend until the Mariners state whether they are going to meet last year’s payroll figure or go beyond or below it. So far, they are staying quiet.
Zduriencik, quite clearly, doesn’t want to go there amidst growing fan and media speculation he might land another player or two.
“I think there have been a lot of things that have taken place here that have helped this club,” he said. “I don’t think any general manager ever sits satisfied and I don’t think any general manager ever sits there with his door closed and his phone off.
“So, what happens the next day, you never know. What happens the next week, you never know, what happens the next month, you never know. I do like what we have, but like any general manager, I would certainly like to continue to try to get better. I don’t have an answer to what that is right now.
“So, we have our ears open and we’re listening and talking and continuing to try to tweak and add and we’ll see where it ends up.”



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