5 Things That Must Happen for the Mariners to Avoid Trading Felix Hernandez
There is only one king in the city of Seattle and his kingdom is Safeco Field. But for many Mariner fans, it seems as if every other week there is news of other teams trying to storm the castle and remove him from the Emerald City.
General manager Jack Zduriencik and ownership can continue to promise that they will not be trading Felix anytime soon, but as the time ticks away on his current contract, there is no reason to think that it couldn't happen. After all, nobody expected to see Ichiro in another uniform.
If the Mariners want to keep Felix as a "Mariner for life," there are a few things that will have to happen first.
Winning More Games
See this picture? This needs to start happening a lot more if the Mariners expect Felix to be staying around much longer.
The last few years have shown improvement, as the Mariners have increased their win total each of the past three seasons. However, the M's have only finished with a winning record twice in the past nine seasons.
Now, either the M's have to go out and make a few more moves or the young talent on the team needs to improve for this to happen. This may seem like a very general and vague statement, but winning cures everything.
If Seattle can find a way to finish over .500 in 2013, it would go a long way in convincing Felix that this team is on its way to contending again.
Development of Young Talent
One of the biggest keys to keeping the King in town will be how players like Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero, Michael Saunders and Kyle Seager develop.
Of the above mentioned players, only Seager and Saunders made strides last season to show that they are deserving of full time positions on the team. Seager developed into the team's most clutch hitter last season with a .333 batting average and 39 RBI with runners in scoring position with two outs.
Saunders went from being an afterthought in spring training to being the team's everyday center fielder. Sure, much of it can be attributed to Franklin Gutierrez's inability to stay healthy, but Saunders performed enough to keep himself in the lineup, as he had a career year in every offensive category while posting a 2.1 WAR, which was 3.0 more wins than the rest of his career combined.
If Smoak, Montero and Ackley can show the same sort of improvement as Saunders and Seager, then the Mariners will be looking much brighter for the future.
If the three of them can combine for six wins above replacement more than last season, the Mariners should be a .500 team based on last season's record.
However theoretical that may be, it is plain to see the success of this team moving forward is fully on the shoulders of these players.
Trade One of the Big 3
As much as Mariners fans would love to see Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker team with Felix to form a dominant rotation for years to come, the chances of that happening are slim to none.
The most likely reason for that is that Mariners ownership decides to part with one of them to bring in a sorely needed bat to aid the woeful offense.
As many have already seen, Taijuan Walker was part of the trade that would have netted the Mariners Justin Upton last week. However, for some reason or another, Upton decided the Pacific Northwest was not for him and vetoed the trade.
When it comes down to it, free-agent bats have seemed very reluctant to sign in Seattle for one reason or another. But a trade involving one of the big three to bring in another bat could go a long way in convincing free-agent bats to come out west. Names like Upton, Giancarlo Stanton and Carlos Gonzalez will continue to surface. But all of those names would cost the Mariners much more than just one of the big three and all seem like pipe dreams at this given time.
Either way, the Mariners need to make a move to bolster their offense through a trade, especially with some big names coming up in next season's free agency class.
Speaking of which...
Sign a Bat in the 2013-2014 Offseason
This is not a shot at ownership for a lack of trying this offseason, as GM Z and company have gone to new levels to bring offense to Seattle.
But if the Mariners believe Felix will want to stay with a team that has averaged less than 3.5 runs per game for the last three seasons, they have another thing coming.
Next season's free agency crop comes with some risk; but names like Mike Morse, Robinson Cano, Jason Kubel, Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson, Shin-Soo Choo, Corey Hart and Hunter Pence are all scheduled to be on the market.
Obviously, Cano sticks out to everyone, but the chances New York lets him walk maybe slim to none even with his agent, Scott Boras, refusing to talk extension until after the 2013 season.
Of the above-mentioned players, Granderson, Ellsbury and Choo all stick out as players the Mariners should be strongly considering. All three would be drastic upgrades at their respective positions on the Mariner roster and could serve as the potential "final piece" if the young talent has developed enough.
Any of those players, paired with a bat the Mariners could get in a trade involving one of the big three, could be enough to propel the Mariners to the playoffs and keep Felix in town.
Make Felix the First $200 Million Pitcher
Of all the ways to keep Felix in town, this maybe the most necessary.
When it comes down to it, Felix is one of the only reasons fans still go to Mariners games anymore. Back in 2011, Larry Stone of the Seattle Times pointed out that 2,188 more fans show up for games in which the King is on the mound.
Needless to say, letting Felix leave town could potentially cripple the fanbase in Seattle, especially with the emergence of the Seattle Seahawks and the potential of an NBA franchise making its way to Seattle in the near future.
So how do you keep Felix in town if the team continues to lose? Make him the highest-paid pitcher of all time.
As Ian Casselberry pointed out, Felix Hernandez could potentially become the first $200 million pitcher. Some may say that is an outrageous amount of money to pay for one pitcher, but it can be argued that no one pitcher is as valuable to his team as Felix is to the Mariners.
If the Mariners can accomplish a few of these goals, keeping Felix in town shouldn't be all that difficult, especially with the King's love for Seattle and his vow not to leave earlier last season.
But if the Mariners continue to flounder in mediocrity, don't be surprised to see Felix shipped out of town before the M's have the chance to lose him for nothing.