Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
So the New York Yankees need starting pitching.
It just so happens there is a man in the Emerald City who is the object of their desire and his name is not “The Wizard of Oz.” The possessor of four wizardly pitches, Felix Abraham Hernandez sits in Seattle wearing a Mariners uniform, and every year the rumors swirl about the Yankees possibly finagling their pinstripes onto the back of the 25-year-old right-hander.
Will it ever happen?
Sure, it’s easy to immediately dismiss the idea as pure fiction. Sliced and diced with Ginsu knives, the scenarios have been repeatedly dissected. Yet, still “King Felix” calls the SoDo district home instead of the South Bronx.
However, there is a way to could happen that would benefit the Yankees, Mariners, and Hernandez himself. If the deal ever goes down, one of these criteria will definitely come into play.
In order to land Hernandez, a team has to have the right pieces to offer the Mariners. In return for the 25-year-old, they would want talent, quite possibly Major League-ready talent.
Well, the M's are in luck because the Yankees have plenty of it at their disposal.
Young players with cheap contracts appear all over the roster. If Hernandez were to be on the table, the Mariners could have their pick of the litter. Plausibly, the likes of Ivan Nova, Brett Gardner, Phil Hughes and Jesus Montero would be on the Mariners' wish list.
All those players could certainly help the Mariners.
Scotch in hand, Frank Sinatra proclaimed, “If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere.” But now “it’s up to you,” Felix Hernandez.
His first six years in Seattle have made him known to baseball fanatics, but the relative obscurity of playing in the Northwest hasn’t helped his name recognition to the casual fan.
Suiting up in New York could change all that.
Neither the Dutch nor the Native Americans knew their $24 transaction would morph into this modern metropolis. Not only is New York the largest city in the country, but it is the undisputed media capital of the world. A city that treats it’s celebrities like kings and queens.
Oh, did I mention that New Yorkers love baseball?
Benefiting from the exposure and limelight of the Big Apple can only do wonders for the legacy of Hernandez. That is, of course, if he can continue his dominance under the microscope of “The City.”
Playing his first six years with the Mariners netted Hernandez $24 million. If he were to suit up for the Yankees, it’s conceivable he could get more than that on a yearly basis.
While the Mariners up the ante the last three years of his remaining contract, the Yankees could renegotiate Hernandez’s contract and make him even richer than the $20 million he’s owed in 2014. Of course, trades would have to be worked out to bring the right-hander to the Bronx in the first place.
However, if he wants to get the most money for his talents, a simple whisper into the ear of Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik would be all it took to open the trade discussions.
“Everybody has a price.”— Ted “Million Dollar Man” DiBiase
Felix Hernandez probably could care less about a grown man dressed up as a large mammal. However, the sheer existence of Mariner Moose illustrates exactly what both teams are all about.
Since 1977 when the team was born, the Mariners have been trying to carve their niche in baseball lore. In addition, since 1990, they have been relying on potential baseball success and a furry mascot to get fans to the park.
Conversely, the Yankees rely on their name alone and it pays astronomical dividends. After a short mascot stint from 1979 to 1981, the Yankees have been all about the game on the field.
Again, the mascot, or lack of, probably won't factor into Hernandez’s decision on where to play. But a serious competitor should be represented by a longstanding tradition of excellence, instead of an amulet that couldn’t even hold the jock of “Dancing Homer.”
When the actor playing Babe Ruth uttered the immortal words, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die” in The Sandlot, he might as well been speaking directly to Felix Hernandez.
To be remembered as one of the greats, a healthy dose of playoff success needs to be on the resume. Right now, Hernandez possesses the same playoff record as most baseball fans.
Going all the way back to 2001, we unearth the Mariners last playoff appearance, which was an ALCS loss to the Yankees. At the time, Hernandez was throwing 90 mph, but he was only 15 years old.
If he wants to be spoken about in the same breath as the greats, Hernandez should look no further than the Yankees. Perennial playoff appearances make the Bronx a must for anyone looking to pad their playoff credentials.
In King Felix’s situation, the Bronx is a great start.
Somewhere along the journey to fortune and fame, athletes command and receive a certain amount of fan support. That is no more important than on the home playing field. Not to mention, the home where you lay your head.
While New York City prides itself as the quintessential “melting pot,” the Hispanic population within the city limits is even more diverse. According to a 2007 study by the Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino studies, Latinos boasts a 27.5% piece of the Big Apple. Going deeper into the core, six Hispanic ethnic groups have at least 110,000 people who consider Gotham home.
Obviously, Hernandez would be in New York to send opposing hitters back to the dugout unfilled. But having the largest Hispanic media market in the nation behind him and wishing him ¡buena suerte! every game can’t hurt his chances.
You can’t win if you don’t play.
Piggybacking off the non-existent playoff record of Hernandez, the Mariners haven’t played more than 162 games in a season in quite some time.
Since the beginning of the 2002 season, Seattle has not appeared in a single postseason game. On the other hand, the Yankees have appeared in 70.
Possessing young talent like pitcher Michael Pineda and first baseman Justin Smoak, the Mariners will once again try to forge past the October barrier. But with off-season spending that would put the Yankees to shame, the Angels look to be the crème de le crème of the AL West.
If Hernandez wants a challenge, he has to perform on the “big boy stage” in pressure-cooker affairs. “Pitched in meaningless September games” is tough to inscribe on your Cooperstown bust.
In addition to Major League talent, the Mariners also figure to be interested in prospects on the farm in exchange for Felix Hernandez. For years the Yankees have been stockpiling their talent instead of trading it away for “can’t miss” sluggers.
But if something caught Seattle’s eye in the minors and King Felix were in the discussion, the Yanks might revert to their old ways.
Pitchers Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances and David Phelps are just a few of the strong arms in Triple-A. If the Mariners were to part ways with Hernandez, they would have a need for young arms. A combination of these hurlers and possibly Major League veterans would have to be discussed.
While the Yankees seem to be adapting to a new “frugal” mentality, that could change if the Mariners wanted to wash their hands of a certain problem.
When they signed Chone Figgins in 2010, the M’s thought they were retaining a productive and versatile player. After two years, it has become abundantly clear he is not that player. Last year, Figgins finished below the Mendoza line, batting .188, and lost is starting job.
If that wasn’t bad enough, he also makes $9 million next year on a team with an $89 million payroll.
If the Yankees could take Figgins and a large portion of his contract back along with Hernandez, the Mariners might be so inclined to give it a whirl.
Sitting on their hands and twiddling their thumbs might not be the most popular option, but the Yankees might have to do just that to obtain Felix Hernandez.
Being under contract with the Mariners until after the 2014 season, he isn’t going anywhere unless they say so. Of course, the Bombers would like to present the right package to woo the M’s to relinquish him.
However, if a trade can’t be worked out or the Mariners become legit contenders, the Yanks might have to get in line with rest of baseball to submit their proposals.