The Seattle Mariners are on the verge of being full-blown sellers in the hours leading up to Major League Baseball’s trade deadline, but that doesn’t mean they should consider dealing their ace.
Trade Jarrod Washburn. Trade Brandon Morrow. Heck, go ahead and trade Russell Branyan if you absolutely must (though I’d prefer if you didn’t). But do not—I repeat, DO NOT—trade Felix Hernandez.
Felix is 23 years of age and nowhere near his prime. He’s already one of the game’s best pitchers, though by comparison is much younger than his equally-as-good peers. Roy Halladay, for instance, is 32. Jake Peavy is 28. Johan Santana, 30. CC Sabathia, 29. Dan Haren, 28. Zack Greinke, 25. The list goes on.
Felix is just as good as any of the aforementioned pitchers, if not better, and is at least two-and-a-half years younger than each of them.
On top of that, he’s experienced. He made his big league debut at 19 and has four full seasons of major league ball under his belt. So his age, compared to his maturity, can be deceiving.
Then you have the whole contract issue.
No, Felix has not committed to a long term deal with the Mariners yet, nor does he appear ready to do so any time soon. That said, he still has two full years before he is eligible for free agency, making him a reliable option for now and in the not-so-distant future.
So why trade him, then?
By trading Felix now, or even in 2010, the organization would basically be saying we can’t win right away. They would be throwing in the towel on the immediate season, and one or two seasons in the future, if not more. It wouldn’t just be a bad move. It would be the wrong move.
The benefits of trading Felix are simple: he would reap an unbelievable sum of prospects. Likely two or three high-level prospects, as well as a few throw-ins, and possibly more.
But we’re talking about prospects as opposed to a sure thing.
Prospects are unproven and untested. A sure thing, like Felix, has a track record of performing well at the highest level of competition.
Prospects might be sexy on paper, but they’re worthless until proven useful. An ace like Felix is more than useful at this point in his career.
Plus, you have to figure that most prospects the M’s would receive in return for their stud would be roughly the same age as Felix, anyways. What would you rather have? A 23-year-old top-of-the-rotation All-Star with a 96 MPH fastball, or three 23 year olds that have solid minor league numbers?
The fact is, if Felix stays healthy and keeps his head on straight, he has 20 years of baseball left to play. That’s more than a career for most players.
Even if the team can’t re-sign the King, they need to use the next two years to at least give it a try. And if it doesn’t work out come July, 2011, then you can trade him. Chances are he’ll only be better by then, anyways, and there will always, always, always be prospects.