MLB Trade Scenarios: What Could the Mariners Get for Trading Felix Hernandez?
Year after year the the issue/question comes up regardless of the Mariners' or for that matter Felix's performance during the first half of the season.
In short, I honestly hate this question.
I hate it, not because I fail to see the logic in it, but because for the rest of the world beyond Puget Sound it seems to be an inevitable truth...some day Felix Hernandez will be traded.
For those of us living in the shadows of baseball's hierarchy it's downright frustrating, if not insulting.
Currently, Felix is under contract through 2014, so odds are he's staying put for this summer.
But could someone make the Mariners and their GM Jack Zduriencik a deal he couldn't refuse?
Right now the M's have a handful of young pitchers within their farm system capable of some day making their staff one of the league's best. At the same time, the ideal is to have King Felix serving as the veteran ace leading that group within the next two years.
Therefore if anyone is going to make a deal for Felix, it's going to require a king's ransom. For the sake of entertainment purposes, here are a few potential scenarios that might get Jack Z to pick up the phone...but still politely decline.
Who Won't Be Calling...
The Phillies have already unloaded Jim Thome
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Before we get started, let's take a minute to establish which teams are also in the market to sell.
To keep this simple we are looking at teams that are below .500 and at least five games back in the wild-card standings.
If we take this one step further, it could mean that big name pitchers like Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels may also be available for the right price...
Who Could Pick Up the Phone...
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Essentially everybody else if they knew they had a shot.
Yet it's hard to imagine that there are a ton of teams with enough in terms of what would make Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik answer any time within the next few weeks.
Essentially the M's need a little bit of everything, but mostly hitting. Any deal for Felix will need to involve a serious hitter either currently in the majors or very close, and therein lies the problem.
How many teams are willing and able to let the Mariners loot their farm system of their top hitting prospects, let alone a decent every day player?
Would a team like the Angels who are overflowing with offensive talent, be willing to part with a young up-and-coming star like Mike Trout?
Probably not, but conversely could Jack Z settle for a package of hitting prospects that are all in Single or Double-A at the moment?
Not if he wants to keep his job.
New York Yankees
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Ok, so let's get started with the most obvious of candidates.
The Yankees, where the conversation about Felix begins each and every year.
Currently as the debate rages, the two teams find themselves in a strange place given how things netted out the last time they worked out a deal.
The odds of getting Jack Z and Brian Cashman on the phone together any time soon are slim at best, but of course Felix would probably be a good ice breaker, especially now with both CC Sabathia and Andy Petitte ailing.
So what could the Yankees offer?
Unfortunately, when it comes to position players the Bombers don't have too many major league-ready options.
It would almost make more sense for Jack Z to wait over the next year or so to see who emerges from the deep talent pool at Single-A Charleston with players like Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams, Dante Bichette Jr., and Cito Culver all in the mix.
A package including the best two or three hitters from that group and a pitcher like Dellin Belances or preferably the young lefty Manny Banuelos might make sense down the road.
Fact of the matter is, quite a few teams tend to fall within this position in having offensive talent, but still a bit too raw for the M's to make a move.
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So who does have serious offensive talent?
Sadly for the Mariners, it's one of their division rivals, who are arguably the best team in baseball.
While you always hate to make a deal within your own division, it wouldn't be the first time Jack Z traded a stud pitcher to Texas as the M's shipped Cliff Lee there in 2010.
Meanwhile, the Rangers have a lot of talent already within their rotation, but have been bitten by injuries.
With Colby Lewis and Neftail Feliz shelved at the moment, it might make sense for the Rangers to put in a call, even with Derek Holland on the mend and after adding veteran Roy Oswalt. It might also help that they have more than a few positional prospects ready or close to play in the bigs, with Jurickson Profar, Mike Olt, and Leonys Martin topping the list.
A package highlighted by Profar, Olt, and left-handed pitcher Martin Perez would be entertaining to say the least.
It would be a gutsy move by both sides, as the Rangers would go for broke in hoping to finally win the World Series, while the Mariners trade their franchise pitcher; therefore this deal is highly unlikely to happen.
St. Louis Cardinals
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The defending NL Champions are currently on the outside looking in within the NL Central.
Their farm system is plenty deep, and their pitching staff could use an ace, but would Cards general manager John Mozeliak be willing to make a deal?
With Kyle Lohse and Lance Lynn setting the pace for the starting rotation, Jaime Garcia banged up and Adam Wainwright and Jake Westbrook struggling, it might be tempting. When you also consider that Lynn is probably going to soon exceed his 2011 innings total, the Cards could be dealing before the end of the month.
Some how, some way though the Cardinals always make it work without sacrificing too much in the process.
Hence, I have doubts they would be willing to part with the likes of hitting prospects Matt Adams, Oscar Tavares, and either one of their highly rated pitchers Shelby Miller or Carlos Martinez.
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What about one of the teams that the Cardinals are fighting against in the NL Central?
Would the Bucs as a dark horse be willing to take a flyer on Felix?
Their starting rotation currently consists of AJ Burnett and James McDonald, while carrying along Erik Bedard, Kevin Correia, and the combination of Charlie Morton/Brad Lincoln.
Sounds crazy, but they might be willing to put their chips on the table knowing they have Felix for more than a half season with the young nucleus they are piecing together. Besides, the likes of top pitching prospects Gerrit Cole and Jameson Tallion aren't quite ready to help yet.
For the Bucs it might be a worthwhile gamble as either the team becomes a legit contender or they flip Felix when the time comes.
After last year's rise and fall, some may see the Buccos as an unlikely candidate, yet much like the Texas Rangers, this is a team that might see Felix as the difference maker.
A package including outfielders Sterling Marte and Josh Bell, along with young pitching prospect Luis Heredia, could get Jack Z to pick up the phone, but you'd almost imagine that Cole or Tallion would need to enter the conversation as part of the final deal.
At that point, the Bucs would probably get cold feet when you consider that both are Plan B if the deal for Felix doesn't pan out long-term.
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For the Mariners it's a no-win situation waiting to happen.
What makes it all the more frustrating is that the return on investment is unlikely to yield much.
We can talk about prospects as much as we want with their potential, tools and upside, but only a handful of the players mentioned here or anywhere else you will read will spend meaningful time in the majors.
Of them, perhaps a handful will make an All-Star team or two, and maybe, just maybe one will be somebody really special.
In other words, the odds are against the M's genuinely cashing in here for Felix, hence the reluctance to even start the conversation.
At the risk of sounding a bit defeatist, if things don't shape up soon in Seattle, GM Jack Zduriencik will some day have the unenviable task of being "The Guy Who Traded King Felix for a backup outfielder, a middle reliever and two guys who never made it past Tacoma."
Making this even sadder is the bond that fans have made with Felix from day one and watching him grow from a pudgy teenager into a franchise ace.
What Felix represents for Seattle fans is far more than what he would ever be able to mean for anyone in a place like New York. That's not meant to be a dig at Yankee fans, so much as a sad truth for what it means to follow the Mariners. Deep down I think that Felix knows that and has been a class act in dealing with this discussion for years now.
Where he ends up, nobody knows and I really believe it's too early to say. If and when the time comes though it will hurt like hell, as it will be one more piece of Seattle sports memorabilia sold off for nothing more than a promise and a wish of getting something special back some day in return.