Could a Mariners homecoming save Felix Hernandez’s Hall of Fame bid?

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SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 26: Felix Hernandez #34 of the Seattle Mariners pitches. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 26: Felix Hernandez #34 of the Seattle Mariners pitches. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images) /
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Former Seattle Mariners player Felix Hernandez
NORTH PORT, FL – FEBRUARY 22: Felix Hernandez #34, formerly of the Mariners, and now of the Atlanta Braves pitches in the second inning of a Grapefruit League spring training game against the Baltimore Orioles at CoolToday Park on February 22, 2020 in North Port, Florida. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

This would have been a crazy concept this time last year, but after a crazy year that saw a switch of teams and an unplayed season, could Felix returning to the Mariners be the key to him saving his Hall of Fame chances?

Felix Hernandez thought that last year would be his first year pitching in the majors away from the Seattle Mariners. He did get a spring training under his belt, but after the news of the COVID-19 pandemic and the option to opt-out of the season, Hernandez decided not to play in 2020.

Now he is back on the free-agent market and is looking for a team to play with in 2021. I would imagine that the most likely option is Felix returns to Atlanta where he was supposed to play last year as they are still in need of pitching depth, but the door is open for all teams to make their best offer.

So, what about the Mariners? They would not possibly contemplate a homecoming with Felix, would they? Well, the fairytale-like story might just be too good to be true.

One of the reasons the Mariners might entertain offering a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training would be that it’s possible the Braves were able to fix something in Felix’s mechanics. In spring training 2020 with the Braves Hernandez led the team in ERA with a 1.98 ERA in 13.2 innings pitched. In his 4 spring training starts Felix had 14 strikeouts while allowing 13 hits.

Another reason that a reunion could be a possibility is that the Mariners are in search of pitching depth as well, and a similar deal to what the Braves gave Hernandez last year could be more interesting to Felix in Seattle.

A return to Seattle could also save Felix’s Hall of Fame chances.

Baseball Reference’s Hall of Fame statistics show a clear story for Felix that he is just not there yet. Despite 6 All-Star Games, 2 ERA titles, a Cy-Young, and a perfect game, he is on the outside looking in at the Hall of Fame.

Of Baseball Reference’s 5 Hall of Fame predictors, only one (Black Ink) has Felix close to a Hall of Fame resume. BR’s similarity scores also don’t include any Hall of Famers with Cole Hamels being the most similar pitcher.

However, a lot of those Hall of Fame predictors include wins, playoff appearances, and playoff wins, something that Felix has none of as he has never pitched in the playoffs. He also only has 169 wins as pitching for a 20 year playoff-less Mariners team has not given him great run support.

Of course, Baseball snobs and Hall of Fame voters are coming around on wins not being a great statistic and they are humans, so I would have to imagine that the human element of coming back to Seattle, and then possibly pitching well in the playoffs could change some of their minds.

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Even if it is not this year, if Felix were to be a rotation piece somewhere else and pitch well in the playoffs, maybe even win a World Series, then he finishes off his career in fairytale fashion down the road returning to Seattle and helping them to the playoffs and even maybe the World Series in the rotation or just the bullpen, it could inspire Hall of Fame voters to get him in on one of his first five years on the ballot.

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