After missing the postseason for the 15th straight season in 2016—this time by just three games—the Mariners look poised to end baseball’s longest playoff drought in 2017. But as opposed to the decade previous, it seems as if Seattle will have to try to summit the mountain without Hernandez, idol of Safeco Field's "King's Court" section, leading the way. The longtime staff ace finished in the top 10 of the AL Cy Young voting six times in seven years from 2009 to '15, winning the award in 2010, but he he had his least productive season in a decade at age 30 in 2016, accompanied by a dip in velocity, while being limited to just 153 1/3 innings due to injury troubles. Hernandez finished 11-8 witha 3.82 ERA, a 106 ERA+ and career-worsts in Fielding Independent Pitching (4.63) and K/9 (7.2).
Hernandez has three more guaranteed seasons remaining on his contract worth a total of $79 million. Seattle’s goal for 2017 is clear: Locate the Fountain of Youth and restore Hernandez to his prime so that both player and team and reach the promised land together.