Former Mariners pitcher, Felix Hernandez chose to opt-out of his minor league contract with the Baltimore Orioles and is now a free agent. The Mariners legend was battling for a spot in the rebuilding Orioles rotation and had a great chance to make it.
An elbow injury forced him to sit in the middle of March which didn’t give him a chance to rebound from a rough few outings in early March. While in Orioles camp, Felix finished with a 7.94 ERA in 5.2 innings pitched. He struck out five and walked two.
So, what’s next for Felix? Where might he go?
Rebuilding teams may take a chance on him, but not the Mariners
The Baltimore Orioles were a fantastic fit for the King. The Orioles aren’t good and its starting rotation was one of the biggest weaknesses. They have a few pitching prospects competing for a spot in the rotation but otherwise, they have lots of short-term fillers. Baltimore took chances on Matt Harvey and Wade LeBlanc alongside Felix, and both are still with the Orioles.
As Dan Connolly mentioned, Harvey and LeBlacn actually opted out and then were re-signed. But for Felix, it seems unlikely because the Orioles seem to have a starting five set. This is particularly sad news for the Mariners because we could have seen Felix pitching in T-Mobile Park in a different uniform.
That being said, I can only imagine teams in a similar situation as the Orioles to take a flyer on a guy like the King. Contending teams aren’t going to take a chance on a veteran pitcher who hasn’t pitched since 2019.
Maybe the Pittsburgh Pirates would be interested in bringing in Felix to see if they can catch lightning in a bottle, and/or act as a great veteran presence in a rebuilding organization. The Pirates rotation is pretty thin right now and I could imagine some of them being dealt at the deadline, which would require a demand for more pitching.
But other than that, I don’t think there are many teams in need of a starting pitcher with a bad track record the last few seasons. The Rangers and Cubs may be suitors but both teams have decent depth in the rotation and don’t know if signing Felix Hernandez is worth it. Plus, there are better options left on the market like Rick Porcello.
Some may want the Mariners to sign Felix as a homecoming, but we don’t have any room for him. I think it would be an amazing story, but logistically it can’t happen.
Retirement might be inevitable
Based on my short analysis, I just don’t think Felix Hernandez is going to find a team. Unless he decides to be satisfied with a bullpen role, his scope of opportunities is very small. I think retirement is almost inevitable.
But if the King still has his eyes on the Hall of Fame and wants to boost his chances, he may choose to do individual workouts this year in preparation for another trial in 2022. There may be more opportunities for Felix next season, so he might just need to wait it out.
Waiting on his own is nothing new for Felix Hernandez since he opted out of the 2020 season when with the Braves. Maybe this is the road he will take. Nonetheless, he will be a future Mariners Hall of Famer and we will always root for him whatever he decides to do next.