Aug 15, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez (34) delivers to the plate during the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Yankees Links 1/28: Will King Felix and Elvis Andrus be Yankees by 2015?

Starting pitching and shortstops are two of the most coveted positions on a baseball team. True aces and slick hitting and fielding shortstops are even more coveted and often showered with huge contracts because they are on the rare side. Two recent stories have come out saying that Seattle Mariners ace, Felix Hernandez and Texas Rangers shortstop, Elvis Andrus are playing hardball in contract extension negotiations. Could they both be Yankees by 2015?

Seats wouldn’t be empty if he played in Yankee Stadium, just sayin’ (Image: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports)

King Felix is signed through the 2014 season with the Mariners and has expressed in the past that he wants a six-year contract extension. According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Mariners are only willing to extend him for four years right now. Hernandez will be age 28 if he hits free agency after the 2014 season and will be in line to be one of the highest paid players in all of baseball.

He has all the leverage in the world against the Mariners right now. His current five-year, $78 million contract is a cap hit of $15.6 million, which slates him as the 19th highest paid pitcher using Average Annual Value (AAV). Remember, even though his contract was worth only $7.2 million in 2010 and will be $20 million in 2014, his AAV is what counts against the cap, which in this case would be $15.6 million for each of the five years. (h/t to our commenters on that one!)

Heyman went on to compare King Felix’s contract options with other elite pitchers:

Hernandez, generally regarded along with Verlander and Kershaw as one of the top three pitchers in the game, has $39.5 million remaining over the final two years of his $78 million, five-year contract. So a $100 million extension would put him at $139.5 million over the six years, below both Hamels and Greinke. CC Sabathia‘s $161 million, seven-year contract is the biggest ever given a pitcher.

While he would have a $23.25 million cap hit over those six seasons, he’d be age 32 heading into free agency, which will undoubtedly bring down his dollar amount and the number of years. I don’t have to tell you how great it’d be to have a pitcher of his caliber pitching (98-76, 3.22 ERA, 3.29 xFIP) in Yankee Stadium, if he becomes a free agent after the 2014 season, not 2018. Especially since CC Sabathia will become a free agent after the 2016 season. Justin Verlander (two years older than Hernandez), and Clayton Kershaw (two years younger) will become free agents in 2015 and 2016, respectively, if they don’t sign extensions. Just food for thought.

In other news, the Texas Rangers are having difficulties in contract negotiations with their starting shortstop, Elvis Andrus. Rangers GM, Jon Daniels, told Jim Bowden of ESPN that both sides need to want an extension, and Andrus hasn’t shown much interest:

I can’t express how much this would help the Yankees in the future. Especially since their farm isn’t ripe with many shortstop crops in the coming years. He’s currently signed through 2014, but has become a hot topic of trade talks recently with the emergence of shortstop prospect, Jurickson Profar. Andrus would be age 28 by the time he hit free agency and will be entering the prime of his career. Coincidentally, Derek Jeter‘s contract (if he activates the player option for 2014) will be up, so the Yankees will presumably be looking to fill the void.

Andrus is a career .275/.342/.353 (86 wRC+) hitter in his short four-year career. His wRC+ rating has increased from 81 in 2009 to 95 in 2012. Further, he was the 10th best offensive shortstop in baseball last season with regards to his wRC+ rating. He has a great eye (career 8.4 BB%) and makes contact (13.5 K%). He won’t hit home runs, but he’ll steal bases (~30 SBs per season) and plays much better defense than what Jeter provides (~7 defensive runs saved per year compared to Jeter costing his team ~14 runs a season since 2003, according to their DRS numbers).

Neither one of these guys may don the pinstripes. However, there’s a good chance this could happen if neither sign extensions with their respective teams or get traded, which is a real possibility in both cases. Also, with 2014 (and the self-imposed salary cap) firmly in the rearview mirror by then, the Yankees might be able to begin spending again. After all, Jeter’s, Curtis Granderson‘s, Ichiro Suzuki‘s, Mariano Rivera‘s, Andy Pettitte‘s, and Hiroki Kuroda‘s contracts will be off the books. Depending on who the Yankees sign in 2014, there could be a substantial amount of money waiting to be spent or pocketed, depending on who you ask.

(h/t to Cots Baseball Contracts and Fangraphs for the contract and statistical information, respectively)

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