Shhh ... M’s, Felix talking

ryan.divish@thenewstribune.comDecember 5, 2012 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The rumor fell into the category of obvious and predictable, but Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik still wasn’t going to break his steadfast rule of not discussing any sort of potential transaction.

On Monday, Zduriencik confirmed on a national radio show that the organization has had preliminary talks with the representation of ace Felix Hernandez about a possible contract extension.

On Tuesday, he wouldn’t elaborate on the situation.

“To get into any kind of talks about extensions, I wouldn’t want to publicly do that,” Zduriencik said. “I don’t want to say we are going to do this or that.”

This isn’t breaking news. It’s simple logic.

Hernandez is one of the three best pitchers in the American League and the face of the franchise. His contract is up after the 2014 season, and the Mariners don’t want to see him leave via free agency or, worse, be forced into trading him before he could leave, like they did with Randy Johnson in 1998.

The Mariners were ready to extend Hernandez after he signed his first contract extension — a five-year, $78 million contract — after his 2009 Cy Young award-winning season.

“He made it clear he’d love to stay here, and we’ve made it clear that we’d love to keep him here,” Zduriencik said. “I think that’s the best way to say it.”

Hernandez finished last year with a 13-9 record and a 3.06 ERA in 33 starts. He pitched 232 innings and struck out 223 batters. It was the fifth consecutive season he’d thrown more than 200 innings and struck out more than 200 batters.

He also made his fourth consecutive All-Star team and finished fourth in the Cy Young balloting.

Hernandez will earn $19.5 million this season and $20 million in 2014.

NO BAY … YET

A source within the Mariners said free agent outfielder Jason Bay has not signed with the team, despite reports that a deal was pending.

All indications appear that Bay will sign with the Mariners, but it won’t likely happen until after Thursday’s Rule 5 draft.

There are a few other teams interested, but Bay will likely choose Seattle.

Why the Mariners? The native of Trail, B.C., (about 40 miles north of Colville) attended Gonzaga and lives in Kirkland. So there is a connection.

Bay was the 2004 National League rookie of the year with Pittsburgh and a three-time All-Star, but was recently let go by the New York Mets despite being under contract after three frustrating, injury-filled years.

The Mets are paying him the money owed on his four-year, $66 million contract (a reported $18.2 million) not to play with them.

During his three seasons with the Mets, Bay was limited to 288 games because of myriad injuries including concussion issues.

He had 1,125 plate appearances and hit .234 with a .318 on-base percentage, a .369 slugging percentage and 285 strikeouts.

Why sign him? It’s a low risk with perhaps a medium reward. Zduriencik calls these types of signings “calculated guesses.” It’s unrealistic to think he can be the player he was with the Red Sox (.267 with 36 homers 119 RBI, .384 OBP, .537 slugging percentage).

But the Mariners can pay him slightly over he league minimum – around $450,000 — to see if there is anything left.

RUMORS, MORE RUMORS

The Mariners still remain a minor player in the race for 2010 American League MVP outfielder Josh Hamilton. His current team — the Texas Rangers — seems to be the front-runner. There was talk of a four-year extension being offered. Rangers general manager Jon Daniels downplayed the talks.

The Mariners are also hot after Yankees outfielder/first baseman Nick Swisher, whose future seems linked to Hamilton’s future. Swisher is receiving interest from several teams, but with the Giants signing Angel Pagan to a four-year, $40 million contract and Boston agreeing with Shane Victorino on a three-year, $38 million contract and also signing Mike Napoli to a three-year, $39 million contract, the Mariners may be the front-runner.

Former Mariner Michael Morse also seems a possibility. The Nationals are starved for relief pitching and would like one of Seattle’s hard-throwing relievers such as Stephen Pryor or Carter Capps.

The Mariners also have contacted former Mariner Raul Ibañez for a possible one-year deal as a bench player/designated hitter.

Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 ryan.divish@thenewstribune.com

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