Late Monday night, word came out that not only was there a mystery team in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes, but that they had won his services.
The Phillies got back the piece they sorely missed last post-season, and in the process put another 500 pounds of pain on the Yankees off-season.
While they re-signed Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera as expected, the Yankees real top target all along was Cliff Lee. Now that they've missed out on him, and rival Boston added Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, the Bronx Bombers may be scrambling to get their rotation improved.
You've heard Zack Greinke's name tossed out there, but its believed that he wouldn't accept a trade to New York, or that new York doesn't think Greinke can handle the pressure. Both theories produce the same result.
So, aside from Brian Cashman's public statements of patience, what could be the next plan for the Yankees? Well, one name that surely will be kicked around is 2010 Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners.
However, here are 10 reasons they won't be able to make that deal happen.
Empty seats don't help teams.
If Jack Zduriencik's phone rings and he gets a trade offer from Brian Cashman that he likes, he has to present the offer to ownership. Deals of this magnitude don't just go through the general manager.
Let's look at this through the eyes of Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln. You've just seen a second 100 loss season in three years. Your franchise icon took his ball and went home. Your manager got in a fight with a player. That player was a bust. Then you fire that manager.
Does this team need another PR hit? Sure, the deal could net the Mariners a massive haul. But the loss of ticket sales for ~15 home games for a team already seeing large revenue losses might cause ownership to nix the deal.
If he wasn't enough, what is?
In 2009, word surfaced that the Mariners entertained an offer from the Red Sox at the trade deadline for King Felix. They wanted him so bad, they gave Seattle a list of top prospects and current major leaguers and told them to pick which ones they wanted.
When that wasn't enough, Boston looked for a third team to help sweeten the pot. As the rumor goes, the Padres got involved. Boston would get Felix. San Diego would get Brandon Morrow and two Seattle prospects. Seattle would have walked away with Adrian Gonzalez, Clay Buchholz and two or three Boston prospects.
Keep in mind, this was before Felix had won a Cy Young award. If the Mariners weren't taking that deal then, what kind of package would it take for them to let go of him now?
Felix will turn 25 in April. He's come off two consecutive dominant seasons. He doesn't have serious health concerns. Players like this don't come cheap, and when the team that holds his rights has already turned down a pretty significant haul, you have to wonder what it would take.
At least two of these men don't favor rebuilds.
The Mariners ownership group has always frowned on the idea of Cleveland-style rebuilds. They have talked openly about how they've seen these plans fail in other cities. How a two-to-three year plan turns into a six-to-seven year plan.
The alternate route they've taken hasn't worked well, but there doesn't seem to be any indication that Armstrong and Lincoln have changed their thinking. Forget about the end result of 2010, but consider that they attempted to rebuild and win consecutively. While adding Cliff Lee, Milton Bradley and Chone Figgins didn't help them win, those are moves other teams in their position might not have made.
Trading Felix means you're tossing away even the slightest hope for 2011, and also puts 2012 and beyond in serious doubt. With reinforcements on the way from the minors, the Mariners may opt not to take a huge step backwards.
The Mariners will likely head into 2011 with Michael Pineda penciled in the #4 or #5 spot in the rotation to limit his rookie season work load.
If Felix is traded, you're left with a pretty poor rotation that lacks a stopper. The added pressure Pineda may put on himself to end a long losing streak means extra stress pitches, which means more risk added to his arm. These guys are competitors, and they all want to help the team win.
While that's the fire you want in players, it's probably not something the club will want their rookie pitcher worrying about.
The Yankees thought they had Cliff Lee once before.
At the deadline last season, the Mariners reportedly had agreed in principle to a deal with the Yankees. When they reviewed prospect David Adams' medical report, and had issues with it, the Mariners then asked for the Yankees to include Eduardo Nunez or Ivan Nova instead.
Cashman refused, and Mariners took the offer from Texas instead. The Yankees weren't thrilled by this, and some public comments were made afterwards reflecting that.
So, what sort of relationship would Zduriencik and Cashman have now? Would one resent the other over what happened and the fallout? I'd certainly like to think both men are smart enough to be above that, but you never know.
Jack likes his job.
I'm not going to accuse Jack Zduriencik of looking out to save his own job, but if he is, would you blame him?
Even if you get the best trade return of all time, you're still going to be talking about unproven prospects. For the same reason that Bill Bavasi was willing to sell the farm for Erik Bedard, Zduriencik will want to avoid being the opposite end of one of those.
Zduriencik hasn't been put on the hot seat yet. At least not via public words from Armstrong. You have to wonder, though, if the team suffers another 100 loss season, will Jack and his team be sent packing?
Felix Hernandez was worth 6.2 WAR (wins above replacement player) in 2010. In 2009 it was 6.8. If you put much stock into that stat, you understand that losing Felix could be what puts a slightly improved roster back on track to lose 100 games again if the breaks continue to go against them.
So, right or wrong. Poor farm system inherited or not. Full ownership support or not. Whatever your thought, why would Zduriencik risk his job and reputation by trading the best pitcher in the American League for unproven prospects?
The Mariners need to continue to build around Hernandez.
Reinforcements are on the way.
Justin Smoak struggled in his first major league stint, both before and after the trade to Seattle. After being sent down, he had a chance to settle down and get comfortable again. After being called back up in September, he went 17 for 50, good for a .340 average. He ended the season with a 10 game hit streak, including four multi-hit games.
Dustin Ackley saw struggles early on in 2010, but it was his first year in pro ball. He was learning a new position and using wood bats for the first time. He ramped it up though, and had a slash line of .274/.338/.439 during his time at AAA Tacoma. While not very second-overall-pick like, he went on to tear up the Arizona Fall League, winning its MVP award. You can never take too much from the AFL, but it was more time spent honing his craft at second base, and you can't ignore the offensive improvements either.
Michael Pineda exits the 2010 season as the top pitching prospect in the organization, and one of the best in baseball. In 12 AAA starts, his ERA was higher than you'd like at 4.76, but he sported a very shiny 10.97 K/9 - 76 strikeouts to only 17 walks. Add to that only three batters hit and no wild pitches, and you have a kid entering his age 22 season already blowing guys away with good command.
These three additions will be big to a team coming off perhaps the worst season performances and expectation wise in its history. So, what if you remove Felix Hernandez from that group? Their additions resemble less of an upgrade, as they'll have to fill the void left by Felix's departure.
Ichiro isn't going anywhere
Ichiro isn't getting younger. While he had a fine 2010 season, he's bound to slow down eventually. Players with his skillset typically age well, but he's not immortal.
No one will ever know how much ownership, specifically that of Japanese principle owner Hiroshi Yamauchi, meddles in these things. There have been a lot of unfair things said about Howard Lincoln, Chuck Armstrong and the owner who has never stepped foot inside Safeco Field.
While the process hasn't always been well received, and the results even less, the ownership group has commited to one of the top payrolls in the game for the past decade. A large part of that has been Ichiro. Whether his contract is part of a seperate budget (it's not) doesn't matter. He's being paid elite player money and is on the back half of his career.
Ownership still wants to build a winner with Ichiro as a centerpiece. If Felix goes, it doesn't make sense to keep Ichiro around. Since the latter isn't likely under any circumstance, don't count on the former.
George might have made this happen.
Could you imagine if "The Boss" was still around? Like him or not, Steinbrenner loved his Yankees and loved to win. After seeing Boston add Crawford and Gonzalez, you have to wonder how loud George would be yelling when the Phillies pulled the rug out from under them.
If George were still here, he may have demanded Cashman make a big splash, regardless of the cost.
That's all hypothetical, because George of course passed this year. It seems like his sons Hal and Hank are taking a different approach, and we know Brian Cashman values prospects.
The Mariners need to continue to build around Hernandez.
There is always a compelling reason to trade pitchers. They age differently. They're inconsistent. They get hurt. They're expensive.
When you have one with a universally accepted "King" nickname, though, you have to be careful. These guys don't grow on trees. He's young, dominate, still has upside and is locked up through 2014 on a reasonable contract.
Even if you get approval to ship him off for major league or near ready talent, you still need a horse to head your rotation if you plan to contend soon. Aside from Michael Pineda the Mariners have no one ready to fill that role in the foreseeable future. Also, Michael Pineda will probably never be Felix Hernandez.
The Mariners could be in position to do just that as soon as 2012. If Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Michael Pineda all pan out, you have yourself a nice core. Ichiro has to start declining at some point, and that could be in this time frame. You then have kids further down in the minors such as Nick Franklin that could be ready.
The potential for 2012-13 is real. Without Felix Hernandez, it isn't.
Felix is ours and you can't have him.
UPDATE: Per Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated in two seperate tweets, the Mariners not only have no intention of trading Felix, but it appears the Yankees are on his no-trade list. Felix has made it clear to anyone who will listen that he loves Seattle.
Tweet #1: #yankees believed on king felix's no-trade list. he loves seattle. tho, yanks 1 team that can sometimes change things (hint: $)
Tweet #2: "i have no interest in trading felix,'' #mariners gm jack zduriencik just texted. cant blame him a bit.