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A Felix Hernandez trade would help Mariners, not hurt them

Aug 16, 2012, 6:14 PM EDT

Felix Hernandez Getty Images

So, yeah, the response to Wednesday’s “Seattle should probably trade Felix Hernandez” column wasn’t entirely positive. I understand it was a case of raining on the parade, and I’m sorry about that. Still, it was an angle of the story that needed to be covered.

Now that I’ve had a day to think more on the subject and read all of the comments posted in response, I have to say that I’m more firmly in the “should trade” corner than ever.

This is not a team that is a couple of quick fixes away from taking on the Rangers.  There is some talent around, but the only likely position player star in the organization is Jesus Montero. While I still think Dustin Ackley is a long-term regular, he has regressed this year. Kyle Seager and Mike Zunino will be nice complimentary pieces, as might some others. But the team needs some star power in the field.

The pitching side is more promising. With prospects like Taijuan Walker and Danny Hultzen perhaps ready to contribute alongside King Felix next season, the Mariners could quickly assemble one of the AL’s best rotations. Or perhaps not. Even the best pitching prospects are no more than 50-50 shots. If either Walker or Hultzen becomes a No. 2 and the other flames out, the Mariners should still consider themselves lucky.

And that’s why I just don’t see how the Mariners are better off with Hernandez than they would be with the three or four pieces they could get for him. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that they could take a step forward next year and then find themselves in serious contention in 2014, but it would take a serious stroke of luck.

The Mariners have had Felix for eight years now and still haven’t made the playoffs. Here’s what stands out to me: since the beginning of 2010, they’re a combined 48-44 when Hernandez starts. Even when they’re throwing one of the game’s three best pitchers, they’re still barely better than a .500 team.

The Mariners don’t need to trade Hernandez for financial reasons; they need to trade him because they simply need more talent. If they can get a premium young shortstop and a couple of more promising bats for him, they’d be a better bet going forward than they are now. The current one-man team isn’t going to take them anywhere.

  1. manifunk - Aug 16, 2012 at 6:18 PM

    A CC Sabathia Trade Would Help The Indians
    A Cliff Lee Trade Would Help the Indians
    A Cliff Lee Trade Would Help the Mariners
    A Michael Pineda Trade Would Help the Mariners

    etc. etc. etc.

    There is no guarantee that these prospects the Mariners get back pan out, as Matt LaPorta, Lou Marson, Jason Donald, Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Jesus Montero, Hector Noesi can all attest to. Felix is a known quantity, who happens to be arguably a top 3 pitcher in all of baseball. No amount of promising unknowns make trading him make sense.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Aug 16, 2012 at 6:39 PM

      Tim Lincecum was a known quantity a year ago, too. Brandon Webb was in Felix’s class a few years back. It’s not like it’s any sort of given that Hernandez is going to be the same pitcher one or two years down the line. There are no promises in baseball.

      I don’t want to present this as serious analysis — just a for what it’s worth — but going by B-Ref similarity scores, two of Felix’s 10 most similar pitchers through age 25 went to the Hall of Fame and one of those, Dennis Eckersley (actually his most similar), did so because of his relief work.

      I love Felix the pitcher, and I think he’s as good of a bet going forward as any starter in the game. But just because he’s great at 26 doesn’t mean he will be at 28.

      • Kevin Gillman - Aug 16, 2012 at 10:15 PM

        The problem I have with it though is it’s another example of the rich getting richer, and the strapped franchises just renting out their players so the Yankees can take over, or whoever. I just miss the days where Cal Ripken, Jr. stayed with one team, because he wanted to.

      • raysfan1 - Aug 16, 2012 at 10:37 PM

        Of course, Cal Ripken Jr was just one player, and free agency was just as much in play then as now. Plus, his attachment to the Orioles had more than a little to do with Cal Ripken Sr spending 36+ years with the O’s.

      • raysfan1 - Aug 16, 2012 at 11:50 PM

        Also, there are current players who do sign with their same team for less than market value–Evan Longoria for one.

    • biasedhomer - Aug 16, 2012 at 7:04 PM

      While I agree they should keep him, it won’t hurt to dangle his name out there. He is under control for only 2 more years, and will the M’s be willing to coming $100M++ to him?

      If they can get a young guy already in the majors who is looking like a future star, along with some top prospects, it might be a wise choice to move him.

    • jolink653 - Aug 16, 2012 at 7:50 PM

      Yeah but the point is the Mariners aren’t going anywhere with King Felix and the roster they have around him…To get anywhere they might have to gamble and trade him for a bunch of major prospects while his value is as high as possible…They need help at so many spots and I don’t see them going out and spending money on big free agents so they have to find a different way to put together a winner, and that’s by loading up their farm system and developing their own talent…No better way to do that right now than to trade Felix and get a major haul in return…Not saying they should or shouldn’t do it but I can understand the thinking

    • hodaghunter - Aug 16, 2012 at 7:53 PM

      One should analyze two factors right now. If Seattle isn’t willing to extend Felix on a 10 year 225 million dollar contract of some type in this coming off-season then it is highly unlikely that they will do it before Felix enters free agency (or gets traded away at the deadline like CC or Zack did).
      The other factor is this, Felix’s trade value can only go down from here. Maybe next season he puts up solid numbers with a 1.2 whip and a 3.50 era, Those will not be any better than he has ever posted before and thus will cause some bargaining power to shift over to whatever teams want him.

      I’ve read several posts about how Felix loves Seattle, the fans love Felix, etc… Sad fact is that baseball is a business, there is nothing personal involved and the teams that realize that players are interchangeable pieces that should be used to improve future winning are the teams that win.
      Just to put something in prospective, at one time Richie Sexton was a huge deal when he played for the Milwaukee Brewers, the Brewers flipped Sexton for Junior Spivey, Craig Counsell, Lyle Overbay, Chad Moeller, Chris Capuano and Jorge De La Rosa.
      Capuano had an 18 win season, Lyle Overbay was one of the best doubles hitters in baseball, Junior Spivey was a decent starter and Craig Counsell provided excellent leadership. Overbay would later be flipped for three players, one of them Zach Jackson. Now here’s the interesting part, Zach Jackson was later traded away with LaPorta as part of the… you guess it, CC Sabathia trade that ended up being a key part of the Milwaukee Brewers first playoff appearance in decades.

    • kinggw - Aug 16, 2012 at 8:40 PM

      All the trades you referenced with the exception of the Pineda trade (which the Ms have won to this point) were trades done when the guy was on a contract year and the team was going to get nothing in return besides a draft pick. By dealing Felix this offseason with two years on his contract, the Ms can bring back a bunch of real talent not prospects. I think Matthew is on to something.

    • Tick - Aug 17, 2012 at 12:59 PM

      Exactly. I don’t understand the argument that the Mariners would have to get extremely lucky for their current prospects, who are highly regarded, to pan out and compliment Felix enough to turn them into contenders. Yet, trading one extremely proven player, who is dominant, for several prospects is the smart move. If they need to get lucky either way, might as well try to get lucky with a perenial Cy Young candidate on board than try and get lucky without him. I understand the argument to trade him, believe me. I’m an A’s fan and I’ve seen the current way of thinking for small market teams work out for them maybe 50/50. Maybe it’s time for someone to try and buck that system because the more it goes on, the less value small market teams seem to be getting in return. Roll the dice on your own terms, for once.

  2. bigleagues - Aug 16, 2012 at 6:22 PM

    I don’t think the Mariners need to trade Felix. Again, from a marketing standpoint, Mariners fans would certainly be asking “when does it stop?”.

    However, let’s say they do . . . I’m volunteering Xander Bogaerts, but the deal must happen this off-season.

  3. shawnuel - Aug 16, 2012 at 6:23 PM

    I don’t think your theory is wrong but GM’s have gotten smarter. NO ONE is going to give up a Lee, Phillips, Sizemore for a good but woefully out of shape pitcher. Or An Andrus, Harrison, Feliz for Texeira. I don’t think anyone will give Seattle NEARLY what Felix is worth.

    • kkolchak - Aug 16, 2012 at 8:15 PM

      That wasn’t a a major league GM that made that trade. It was Omar Minaya.

      • Kevin Gillman - Aug 16, 2012 at 10:08 PM

        Thak you Omar.

  4. GoneYickitty - Aug 16, 2012 at 6:25 PM

    You really only get the true value of top shelf players if you’re winning and in a position to make post-season runs. If you’re full of holes anyway, the difference between a top 50 starter and a top 5 starter won’t have that much of an impact on wins and losses.

    On the flip side, if you’re a hopelessly horrible franchise like the Mariners, your fans will probably stay more into the team by having one player they can hang their hat on than they would if you had more talent spread out but still ended the season 10 games out of the playoffs instead of 25+. I think that’s the only compelling reason not to trade him.

  5. icanspeel - Aug 16, 2012 at 6:25 PM

    I can agree with trading him, but not solely for prospects.. They should aim for MLB ready young talent or a combo of young MLB players. Too high asking price? Well look at what the Reds gave up for Matt Latos, one would think the Mariners should get an even better package than that trade which consisted of 1 MLB player and 3 MLB ready players.

  6. oms0004 - Aug 16, 2012 at 6:33 PM

    If Felix were gone how could this franchise sell out an entire section ever again? Montero’s Minions? Walkerville? Doubtful. The team obviously cares more about marketing than winning or else Ichiro would have been gone long before he asked for a trade. I’m no Mariners fan but the “Kings Court” is awesome.

    • manifunk - Aug 16, 2012 at 6:34 PM

      Hultzen’s Hunnies

  7. dugldo - Aug 16, 2012 at 6:49 PM

    Keep in mind hitters whl come to Seattle cant hit anymore – then when they leave they hit again. I say keep him and ensure butts stay in the seats. Use some gate money to buy a bat.

  8. theawesomersfranchise - Aug 16, 2012 at 7:01 PM

    Profar & Olt package for Felix?

    • beefytrout - Aug 16, 2012 at 7:11 PM

      You’re not taking into account the 20% in-division rival surcharge.

    • hodaghunter - Aug 16, 2012 at 7:56 PM

      Actually that would probably at worst, at least make Texas think about it if not pull the trigger. If I’m Texas I’m pulling the trigger on that trade. If I’m Seattle I probably want a class AA pitcher included in that deal on top of it .

  9. sportsguygerald - Aug 16, 2012 at 7:29 PM

    Would love to see the Rangers make a move for King Felix. Would Andrus, Olt and Perez get it done? Maybe a couple of lower level prospects thrown in. Think the Rangers would be more apt to offer Andrus instead of Profar due to Andrus pending free agency in 2 years and his agent

  10. rooney24 - Aug 16, 2012 at 7:34 PM

    If the Mariners can’t develop any good players, why would you think they could swing a trade to bring in any talent for King Felix? They may need a smarter front office before they try to make any trades and give up their one good piece.

  11. hermanbates - Aug 16, 2012 at 7:37 PM

    Not a single player in the minors that has more star power right now than Billy Hamilton. The Reds could offer Hamilton, Nefi Soto, Seth Mejias-Brean and Ryan Wright for Hernandez.

    Soto is nothing more than a homerun machine, which doesn’t particularly play out in Safeco, but would be a good alternative to Smoak/Carp.

    Mejias-Brean had a huge hitting streak earlier this season and has been hitting lights out for well over two months. Could move fast as well.

    Ryan Wright is going to be a star. He’s cerebral, he can hit for decent power from second base, and he’s versatile enough to hit anywhere you need him too and play defense in a variety of places. Very Dustin Pedroia-y.

    Reds get King Felix and become a team with perhaps the best rotation in baseball, especially if Aroldis Chapman moves to the rotation.

    • schlom - Aug 16, 2012 at 8:07 PM

      Is that a joke? Hamilton could become a good major league player but the rest are just organizational filler. Soto is hitting 243/312/410 in Triple A, Mejias-Brean was an 8th round pick in the last draft, and Ryan Wright is a 22 year old in High A who hasn’t hit much outside of the Rookie League. That’s not even close to enough for Hernandez – look at what the Reds gave up for Latos.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 16, 2012 at 9:02 PM

        Has to be when he’s only “offering” one top 50 FA, and it’s Hamilton. As if a package of Bundy/Machado wouldn’t be better.

  12. lancer255 - Aug 16, 2012 at 8:08 PM

    I’m a Phillies fan and about month you article were Cliff Lee trade centric. Why should teams have to trade there best players. Why cant you just let fan bases enjoy the moment. The trade deadline is over. This is a off season topic.

    • hodaghunter - Aug 16, 2012 at 9:53 PM

      Any baseball fan knows the trade deadline isn’t over yet. August 31st is the final deadline

  13. farvite - Aug 16, 2012 at 9:02 PM

    Well written article with good points which I don’t agree with.

    Nevertheless, the exact reasons I can’t see myself being a baseball fan again in my lifetime.

    I have watched helplessly as the Mariners traded the best player of my generation (Ken Griffey Jr… choke on it Bonds fans!!)

    I watched in dismay as the M’s traded the best left hander of all-time. (Big Unit)

    I wan’t surpised when A-Rod bolted… but it was painfull. Moreso now that it appears he’ll break the home run record.

    .. and here we have another all-time great who won’t finish in Seattle.

    I can’t take it. I can’t invest emotion or support a League that basically runs and is fueled on garbage like this. It’s not worth it.

    • farvite - Aug 16, 2012 at 9:05 PM

      .. I don’t disagree with the points made.

    • preseasonchamps08 - Aug 16, 2012 at 10:47 PM

      I’m sorry that you’ve been so unlucky as a Mariner fan. That being said, if you aren’t a baseball fan currently, why are you reading/posting on a baseball blog?

  14. swu32733 - Aug 16, 2012 at 9:14 PM

    Why would any person think for even one fleeting moment that the Mariner front office (including TraderJack) has the baseball savvy to get fair value for Felix? We will end up with no Felix and more mediocrity. The Mariners must clean house in the executive suites and get some solid baseball people in there running the show. Like a Pat Gullickson. Attack the root of the problem rather than the symptoms.

  15. buffalomafia - Aug 16, 2012 at 10:25 PM

    Yankee bound!

  16. hushbrother - Aug 16, 2012 at 10:47 PM

    You always hear this, the “Lousy Team X from the small market should trade their star pitcher now I order to build up talent for the long term” argument. But how often does that actually work? Of course the Indians should have traded CC Sabathia – but what did they end up getting for him? Not much. And of course they should have traded Cliff Lee. Didn’t get much for him, either. Have the Royals made out like bandits with what they got for Greinke? I think it’s more likely a team could buck the odds and have a successful year holding on to their star pitcher for one more season (and getting the draft pick compensation) than assuming the prospects they’d be getting will assure success in the future.

  17. vallewho - Aug 17, 2012 at 12:33 AM

    I changed my mind…maybe I would love to see King Felix shackled in Seattle for say 7 years and 200 million.

  18. Reflex - Aug 17, 2012 at 2:20 AM

    All I can say is that apparently Matthew did not actually read the comments. There is not a single team that could put together a package that makes any sort of sense. The major problem is that Felix is 26 and a superstar. Acquiring a 26 year old superstar from another team puts them in an identical situation, and no team has a bunch of 21-24 year old talent that is of the quantity and quality to merit a Felix deal.

    Dealing the best pitcher in the game, and yes, Felix is that, at age 26, is the kind of deal that franchises live to regret. Nobody they acquire will be as good. And its unlikely that anyone they acquire will be even half as good. Take the top five from any farm system in the game and you still don’t replace Felix’s value.

    And again, there is just no reason for the M’s to do it. They have a pretty good rebuilding system. They have more top minor leaguers than Matthew seems to realize(4 in the top 100, including three top pitchers, he forgot Paxton). Smoak/Montero, Ackley, Franklin, Zunio. Thats one hell of a nice young infield, even better if Smoak turns it around. They have several decent OF prospects, including Trayvon Robinson. And fantastic rising pitching. Really, they are a couple of impact bat signings(left handed please) from looking very competitive come 2014.

    The Rangers and Angels are getting older. This could go badly for the M’s, but I see light at the end of the tunnel. Jack has taken the farm system from the 30th ranked in 2008 to the top 10 in 2012. Not bad. And certainly not worth restarting over.

  19. johndryden - Aug 17, 2012 at 6:49 PM

    I’m with the fellow who wrote that the Ms would be sorry to make such a trade. Unlike the author of this column, I actually think the Ms are one or two years away from being contenders, barring injuries. Next year, Felix, Vargas, and Walker or Hulzten will make an amazing rotation, along with either Millwood or Iwakuma. And I think the youngsters have shown progress–Seager and Saunders in particular. Ackley will bounce back. And I’m a believer in Mike Carp. Further, Montero will contribute either as DH or on 1st base, and then Zunino will be the next Buster Posey. Yes, this is a rosy scenario, but it’s not unrealistic. They’ve improved a lot this season (not Ackley, but his is a sophomore slump. He’s got real talent). For what it’s worth….DON’T sell King Felix.

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