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February 7, 2013 at 2:37 PM

Felix Hernandez deal still not officially done; Mariners do finally announce Kelly Shoppach move

The Mariners are about to give Felix Hernandez millions more reasons to lift his arms in triumph. Photo Credit: AP

Word is, the Felix Hernandez contract talks are still in their final stages and not officially done. A source told me this within the past hour, but I wouldn’t worry too much about it. This sounds like haggling over last-minute details, not the overall framework of a deal said to be for seven years, $175 million.

Hernandez is the first step — a big one — in what will have to be others by the team if the hope is to contend by 2014 or 2015. The Mariners could win as many as 85 games next season by feasting on the Houston Astros, but they play in an AL West where three other squads could win 95 or more.

Anyhow, we’ll see what else the Mariners do to upgrade long-term once the Hernandez deal becomes official. How are the Mariners going to pay for the Hernandez deal? Well, they’ll be getting the rough equivalent of his yearly salary coming their way soon as part of a new national TV deal, then stand to make an absolute killing in a coule of years on a new local TV deal.

It’s too early to estimate how that deal would compare to the $7 billion signed by the Dodgers recently or whether the overall TV market will change for the worse before the Mariners can do something with their current ROOT Sports contract. One thing to keep an eye on is what happens with bids to obtain a new NBA and NHL team in Seattle. If those teams get here sooner rather than later, it could create competition in the marketplace either by owners of those teams combining to form their own regional sports network (RSN), or another network like Comcast entering the fray to try to buy up rights.

If either were to happen, the market for TV in Seattle could change dramatically. Such a change could prompt the Mariners and ROOT Sports (owned by DirecTV) to get a new TV deal done between them a lot sooner than the 2015 opt-out date the M’s currently have.

In any event, the Mariners stand to make money. Predictions that the bubble is about to burst on the current RSN market in this country have focused more on long-term than the immediate short-term. Nobody really knows. But it’s a pretty safe bet that even with a burst bubble, the Mariners will secure more TV revenue than they currently enjoy and in the process will take the value of their franchise soaring well beyond the $1 billion mark.

For the time being, smaller fish are being fried. The Mariners have finally added catcher Kelly Shoppach as a free agent signing. To clear a roster spot, relief pitcher Shawn Kelley was designated for assignment.

That might be confusing for some, since Kelley just inked a $935,000 deal last week that avoided arbitration. But it becomes less confusing when you consider the team will only owe Kelley one sixth of that amount if he’s released within the next 10 days. Kelley could also be put on outright waivers and claimed, but then the claiming team would owe the entire salary.

The other option would be a trade. So, I’m betting it’s a trade or a release, with the Mariners eating $155,833 in salary if it comes down to that latter move.

While Kelley brings more to the table than other relief pitchers on the 40-man roster, not all of them earn close to $1 million with the potential to double or triple that in arbitration after 2013.

From an on-field perspective, Kelley made his mark in Seattle a few seasons ago because, though right-handed, he could get lefthanded hitters out with frequency on a team that lacked bullpen southpaws. Nowadays, the team has multiple lefties for short and longer roles in Oliver Perez, Charlie Furbush and Lucas Luetge. From the right side, there’s Tom WilhelmsenJosh Kinney, Carter Capps and Stephen Pryor.  That’s already seven guys without talking about a true long reliever, so as you can see, Kelley was getting squeezed out.

Some had called for the Mariners to DFA Carlos Peguero, but I’m sure the team wants at least one more look at the slugger in spring training before making any permanent decisions on him. The Mariners have an abundance of relief pitchers. They don’t have a ton of power hitters and they have very few under contract beyond 2013. So, if Peguero shows this spring he has figured some things out, there could potentially be more value for the Mariners in keeping him than in hanging on to a guy like Kelley.

Hey, it’s a business. I’m sure Kelley will find work with another team, but he was just less of a fit for Seattle than in past years.

This move — if Kelley is released — would free up nearly $800,000 in payroll room and that’s hardly insignificant when you’re still in-the-market for another stop-gap starting pitcher.

So, hope that explains it a bit. Not that big a mystery.

0 Comments | More in Free agents | Topics: bullpen, felix hernandez, kelly stoppach

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