Assuming Felix Hernandez's elbow remains a part of his arm, the Mariners will soon commit to their ace like never before. Hernandez will become the first $100 million man in team history, and if you dare call him overpaid, may your dreams be haunted by King Felix throwing 93 mph tridents at your helmetless noggin.
The anticipated Hernandez mega deal is both a happy story line to start spring training and a symbolic decision. The Mariners embark Tuesday on a season that is all about determining how much they commit to their current crop.
Hernandez is the star and the outlier of this team. He's not just about to become the highest-paid player in franchise history; he's also the only Mariner locked into a significant long-term contract. The ever-rebuilding ballclub is full of inexpensive youngsters full of potential who are under club control for several years and veterans such as Franklin Gutierrez and new acquisitions Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse at the end of their contracts.
It's a classic roster for a team in transition. The Mariners are developing and learning about young players and plugging holes with veterans at reasonable prices. They haven't made major commitments because the blueprint for a youth movement demands that kind of discipline. But as Year 3 with manager Eric Wedge begins, and as Year 5 with general manager Jack Zduriencik commences, the pressure to expedite this process (when prudent) increases.