Other recent Cy Young winners have left their teams, but Felix may be a different story
Felix Hernandez is the latest winner of the American League Cy Young Award voted the honor in October, it was announced in November and he picked it up Saturday night in New York.
But Hernandez stands to break a trend. He figures to be with the Mariners for a good long while, something none of the other recent AL Cy Young winners can say.
C.C. Sabathia (Cleveland, 2007), Cliff Lee (Cleveland, 2008) and Zack Greinke (Kansas City, 2009) each spent one season or less with the team for whom they reached the pitchers peak.
It doesnt figure to be that way for Hernandez.
Sabathia was due to be a free agent after the 2008 season, so mid-season the Indians infuriated their fans by trading him to the Milwaukee Brewers. Lees free agency wasnt quite the same he had two years to go but Cleveland added to fans fury by cutting costs and dealing him to the Philadelphia Phillies midway through the 2009 season.
The Royals did stick with Greinke for the entire 2010 season, because they had the foresight to sign him to a contract extension (four years, $38 million) two months before his Cy Young season started.
Even so, the Royals were so cash-strapped and the contract was so back-loaded that they traded him just this winter rather than face the $13.5 million hes due for each of the next two years.
The Mariners had the foresight to sign Hernandez to a five-year deal last year, just after hed finished second to Greinke in the 2009 Cy Young race. His deal runs through 2014, and even though the really huge money kicks in on the back end (18.5 million in 2012, $19.5 million in 2013 and $20 million in 2014) Seattle isnt under-financed in the way Kansas City is.
So on the surface of it at least, Hernandez could be the first AL Cy Young winner to stick with his team for more than a short time since Johan Santana of the Twins, who won the award for the first time in 2004 and stuck around to win it again in 2006 before leaving via a post-2007 trade to the Mets.
Of course, things could change for Hernandez and the Mariners. In fact, they need to change, because while Hernandez likes Seattle and likes pitching in Safeco Field, he is doing some of the best pitching in baseball for a team that has lost 101 games in two of the last three years.
If the Mariners dont get better, it would be no surprise if, in a year or two, Hernandez started agitating for a trade. After all, hes only human. Hes going to be just 25 this season, but hes not going to want to spend his career pitching for a franchise that simply doesnt put a team on the field that has a legitimate chance to win.