Four Reasons It Might Be Time to Shop Felix Hernandez

Alex FieldCorrespondent IIJuly 9, 2012

Four Reasons It Might Be Time to Shop Felix Hernandez

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    Felix Hernandez may be the one bright spot on the Seattle Mariners roster, but it may be time for the M’s to consider shopping the King.

    Seattle currently sits at last in the division, with a mundane 36-51 record.

    There is little hope for Mariners fans, as the offense has been anemic for the third straight season. The Mariners rank second to last in runs, batting average and home runs in the American League.

    Hernandez has been his normal consistent self this season, posting a 6-5 record with a 3.13 ERA (eighth in the AL) and 128 strikeouts (first in the AL).

    Yet, King Felix only gets 4.73 runs scored per game when he pitches, which ranks him fifth lowest in the AL.

    The offense lacks the firepower to grant him hardly any breathing room while he’s on the mound. He is a supremely talented arm, as he was the 2010 AL Cy Young winner and could command a hefty return.

    With the M’s offensive woes, it may seriously be time to put Hernandez on the market.

Young Arms

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    With a trifecta of talented pitchers throughout the minor leagues, the M’s could have a sufficient replacement for Hernandez.

    Danny Hultzen, the No. 11 prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com, would not fill Felix’s role per se, but could be a nice complement. Hultzen was tremendous during his time in Double-A this season, posting an 8-3 record with a 1.19 ERA.

    He projects as more of a second starter, but Taijuan Walker could be the real deal to replace King Felix.

    As he is still only 19 years old, Walker is far from ready to start any MLB games. But, his upside certainly entertains the possibility of him at the front of the rotation.

    He has three plus-pitches, including a 98 mph heater with movement.

    With more polish, Walker could certainly be the pitcher of the future.

    As for the final portion of the youngsters, lefty James Paxton is a hard-throwing southpaw with a good breaking ball. Like Hultzen, he won’t be a front-of-the-rotation guy, but he can fill the No. 3 spot appropriately.

    With the talent currently occupying the minors, the M’s feature young talented pitchers. Projecting major league pitching talent is a tough thing, however, and if none of the pitchers pan out, the M’s could be left with nothing if they deal Hernandez.

Lackluster Offense

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    If the season ended today, the Mariners would rank last in the MLB in both slugging and on-base percentage. Although they would break the streak of back-to-back seasons finishing with the fewest runs scored, things need to change.

    With young bats such as Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero, Kyle Seager and Michael Saunders struggling to produce consistent run support, the Mariners offense is downright embarrassing.

    As they play alongside teams featuring home-run hitters, Seattle is considering moving the fences in to produce more offense.

    Maybe rather than adjust the dimensions of the ballpark, the M’s should be looking to acquire some young hitters that can produce on a nightly basis.

    Hernandez would certainly be on the top players on the market, and teams would need to offer an enticing offer for GM Jack Zduriencik to even consider.

    But with no hope to reach the playoffs this season, and the future looking ever bleaker, might a change be in order?

    Seattle lacks position prospects through the minor leagues, and with a group of hitters not showing much improvement, it may be due time for Hernandez to be traded.

Trade Value

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    Hernandez is 91-72 with a 3.24 career ERA in eight seasons. He is currently 26 and is under contract until 2014.

    The trade potential Felix boasts is uncanny.

    Teams would be acquiring a proven ace, who can absorb large amounts of innings. He hasn’t thrown fewer than 200 innings since 2008 and features some of the best stuff in baseball.

    Felix could certainly return two, if not three, top prospects, much like other players dealt at the deadline.

    In 2007, the Rangers traded Mark Teixeira and received Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The bounty would need to be close to that, in order for the M’s to even consider making a swap.

    If the Mariners can grab a top-hitting prospect that is primed for stardom at the MLB level, then the deal must be made.

    Hernandez has so much value considering he has pitched so well during his career. He is still extremely young and will have value for the team moving forward.

    The Mariners do not seem ready to part ways with King Felix, but if the asking price is right, they may be inclined to part ways.

Future Outlook

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    The Mariners aren’t going anywhere within the division for a few years.

    With both Texas and Los Angeles maximizing their time at the top, they have seemingly built juggernaut offenses capable of pulverizing the outfield seats.

    As both continue to field supremely talented teams, the M’s have produced the equivalent of a farm team. It will certainly be a few years before the Mariners young talent begins to show glimpses of prosperity. Until that happens, the M’s will be stranded in the cellar of the AL West.

    It was bad timing for Hernandez, seeing as he is seemingly in his peak during Seattle’s dearth of talent. Hernandez is already a Cy Young winner and will be an All-Star for the third time this year.

    It is unfortunate he had the bad luck of pitching for this offense, but he has made the most of it. However, with his contract up after 2014, the M’s will need to choose the direction they are heading soon.

    Most likely, they will need to choose to sign him during the middle of next season, so he is not prepared to leave in free agency.

    If he does re-sign, the M’s will be guaranteeing millions of dollars to a 28-year-old pitcher who will be signed most likely until he is 35.

    He will certainly command top dollar at that point, and if the M’s can’t improve, then what’s the point?

    At the end of this season, they will certainly make some necessary moves and hopefully improve the roster. But, it would be optimistic to think Seattle can reclaim a top spot in the AL West by 2014 at this point.

    However, by trading Hernandez and continuing to replenish the farm system, the M’s could show improvement down the road.

    The rebuilding phase is a difficult pill to swallow, but if Felix is not a part of the rebuilding plan, then perhaps he should be dealt.