The Seattle Mariners may have the most to gain from the the situation that unfolded regarding Jose Reyes and the New York Mets parting ways. At least the most to gain besides the new look Miami Marlins.
For all intents and purposes, the Seattle Mariners may very well be the New York Mets of the American League. Each a franchise that struggles offensively and will have to acquire talent through the draft, through trades, or lure players with overpriced contracts.
Both are teams that dwell in the basements of what have now become greatly improved and top-heavy divisions in the American League West and the National League East.
Both are teams that have stirred controversy by flirting with the idea of trading franchise figures in recent years.
However, the Mariners have the advantage of learning from what some argue to be the mistake of the New York Mets in not trading Jose Reyes.
The Mets believed that Reyes, who has been plagued by injury in recent years playing in only 295 games since the start of the 2008 season, would not find an offer better than their own to lure him away from Flushing, despite a career year offensively and a batting title.
Many believed it was in the Mets' best interest to trade their star at the July 31st trade deadline, in a year they were not contending, and receive something in return for Reyes' departure rather than risk losing him to free agency. Neither were they able to offer Reyes a contract extension. It would appear that this is a preview of things to come in Seattle in regards to the Ace of the Mariners, Felix Hernandez.
Hernandez won the 2010 A.L. Cy Young Award despite a 13-12 W-L record in 249 innings. King Felix debuted with the Mariners in 2005 and has spent all seven years with the team. His current contract has him under control through the 2014 with approximately $48 million remaining to be paid.
2012 and 2013 are the years for the Mariners to make the move. While it is possible to imagine them making a run similar to the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays who rode their pitching to an A.L. Pennant, the 2012 Mariners simply do not have the proper offense to compete within their own division against the Angels and Rangers.
Presently, Seattle could receive at least four or five top prospects or MLB ready players from a contender in a trade for Hernandez. While the Mariners will almost certainly listen to all offers they of course would expect nothing less than top shelf players from the elite teams. However, with a spent farm system in Boston and a surprisingly thrifty Yankee franchise, neither team appears to be immediate suitors. Of course everyone has learned to never count either out of any transaction.
Miami and Washington are options worth considering.
After trading for Oakland's Ace, Gio Gonzalez, it may be difficult for Washington to find a package of players Seattle would accept. Gonzalez is arbitration eligible in 2012 and is expected to to get a substantial raise from his $420,000 2011 salary, elevating the Nationals payroll. It is rumored Washington may be interested in extending an offer to free agent Prince Fielder. If true, then that would mean the money is there but perhaps not the trade pieces. With Gonzalez joining the club and Strasburg set to return, Hernandez could make that rotation quite daunting and able to compete against the likes of Philadelphia and Miami.
Miami may face the same problem as Washington. Miami went on a spending spree this winter signing Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell at $106 million/6 years, $58 million/4 years and $27 million/3 years respectively. The Marlins' pursuit of Albert Pujols is evidence they can afford Hernandez but, similar to the Nationals, it is questionable whether they have the pieces to trade for him. The idea of adding him supplementing Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and Carlos Zambrano is worth a discussion in Miami.
Regardless of if Seattle decides to move Hernandez, it is very unlikely he will resign with them unless they upgrade their offense considerably. The issue other than him wishing to stay is if Seattle can afford him should he continue to perform consistently.
There are many avenues to explore in the coming seasons.