Six-time All-Star and 2010 Cy Young Award winner RHP Félix Hernández made his likely final appearance with the Seattle Mariners on Thursday after 15 seasons and 419 games.
Hernández, 33, walked off the mound to an emotional send-off and curtain call from fans as they chanted, "Thank you, Félix." Hernández hugged teammates, including former Phillies top prospect J.P. Crawford, and wiped away tears before waving one final goodbye.
Or was it? After the game, "King Felix" described his future plans to MLB.com's Greg Johns, saying "We’ll see if I can find a job. I’m not retiring.”
The Valencia, Venezuela native is 169-136 in his career, along with a 3.42 ERA, 1.206 WHIP, and 2,524 strikeouts spanning 2,729 2/3 innings, all with the Mariners since debuting in 2005. According to STATS, the right-hander is the only pitcher in MLB history to win a Cy Young, throw a perfect game and strike out more than 2,500 batters for a single team.
In his prime, Hernández made at least 30 starts in 10 straight seasons, from 2006 to 2015, and combined to go 139-97 with a 3.13 ERA and 2,065-607 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 2,178 frames. Over his last four seasons and 85 games (84 starts) since, however, Hernández is just 26-35 with a 4.89 ERA and 382-175 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 467 1/3 innings. In 2019, alone, he went 1-8 with a 6.40 ERA in 15 starts.
The answer to whether "could" and "should" the Phillies take a flier on Hernández could be two different things. Yes, it is no secret that the Phillies starting rotation needs to be addressed this offseason in one way or another. Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta are sure locks, but the other three spots are far from decided.
There's no reason why the Phillies could not consider Hernández, but should they? Hernández has experienced a similar decline as Arrieta in that a former Cy Young Award pitcher, that was at the top of his game, has naturally declined in the latter stages of their respective career.
The difference between Arrieta and Hernández, however, is that Hernández likely is not looking for a top-dollar contract as did Arrieta. The fact that he told reporters alone that "we’ll see if I can find a job" suggests he is not even sure he is worthy of a contract for the 2020 season.
But, if it comes down to the Phillies needing pitching and Hernández is among the best remaining options still "on the board," he not only would add another right-handed presence, but he could also teach Nola a thing or two about being the top pitcher on a starting rotation staff. Among Hernández and other right-handed options, it would be hard to pass up on the potential of Hernández finding some form of his former Cy Young Award-caliber self.
Arrieta has one more season under contract with the Phillies, and signing Hernández for cheap would be a low-risk, potential high-reward signing.
The Phillies have just three games remaining this season. For the front office, however, they surely already have their eyes set on 2020.