A King’s Ransom: Felix Hernandez Contract Extension

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While Justin Verlander is now the game’s best pitcher, King Felix may very well end up having the better career.

Could Felix Hernandez's fantasy value skyrocket if he chose to explore the free agent market?

Recently, the topic of locking-up Felix Hernandez for a long-term contract extension has become relevant once again.  Fox Sports', Ken Rosenthal, hinted that King Felix could be the next baseball phenom in line to land a large contract extension.  Stating the two sides have begun "dancing" around the idea of a 4-year, $100 million dollar extension.  Coupled with his existing contract, which has two years remaining, Hernandez would be looking at a 6-year 139.5 million dollar deal roughly.  Placing him slightly behind the likes of Cole Hamels (6-year, $147MM) and Zach Greinke (6-year, $147MM) that recently inked new deals.

Felix is currently 26 years of age, entering the prime of his career and this proposed deal would make him a Mariner until the age of 32.  Would Hernandez be smart to sign a deal which offers immediate security or would he be better off to test the free agent market come 2015??  Then, the real question, what are the possible fantasy implications!

Let's take a look at just how well King Felix stacks-up historically with Justin Verlander, widely considered the best pitcher in baseball.  By looking at the following comparisons made via Fangraphs, you will begin to see the similarities between the two right-handers.

King Felix Verlander
Age 26 29
Entered MLB 2005 2005
Games Started 238 232
*WAR 38.3 39.3
K/9 innings 8.3 8.4
BB/9 innings 2.7 2.7
**ERA+ 127 128
W 98 124
L 76 65


This chart begins to paint a pretty clear picture which illustrates that Verlander and Hernandez have had eerily similar careers, with the large difference coming via wins and losses.  King Felix having pitched his entire career for bad to decent Seattle Mariners teams with very little run support, meanwhile Verlander has had the good fortune of pitching behind above average to great Detroit Tigers lineups which have contributed to his fantastic record.  So, while the two have performed similarly, one has benefited largely from the team he plays for.

This begs the question, if King Felix signs a long-term deal with Seattle would that limit him from ever reaching his full potential??  Absolutely.  Hernandez, for some odd reason, seems content to stay a Mariner for the long haul and there is no way around the fact that this hurts his value to some extent.  However, Hernandez is still among the fantasy elite, and should be one of the first five starting pitchers off the board next spring coming off a year in which he turned in his fourth consecutive season with at least 200 strikeouts and a sub-3.50 ERA.

One quick side note, how does Justin Verlander not have a great nickname?  Being one of the very best in his sport, it feels like he should have a great nickname.  Get on that, Tigers media!!


*Wins Above Replacement, commonly referred to as WAR, is a sabermetric baseball statistic what is used to illustrate how many more wins a player would give a team as opposed to a "replacement level" or minor league/bench player at that position.  The idea behind the WAR framework is to provide scouts and/or fans an idea of how much better a player is than what a team would typically have to replace that player with.  Most commonly for pitchers those categories are runs allowed (both earned and unearned) and innings pitched.

**Adjusted ERA+, often simply abbreviated to ERA+, is a sabermetric pitching statistic which adjusts a pitcher's ERA according to the pitcher's ballpark and the average ERA of the pitcher's league.  Average ERA+ is set to be 100, with a score above 100 indicating that the pitcher performed better than average.