This is an insane column, folks.
To butcher a line from my good friend (never met the man) Allen Iverson: “Felix? We talkin’ ‘bout King Felix?”
I got a really good look at Seattle’s pitching staff that year and if somebody told me that they were going to trade Cliff Lee, I would have performed, right there on the spot, my best Iverson impersonation: “Lee? We talkin’ ‘bout Cliff Lee?”
I would have bet my bank account (good for about two trips to Bojangles—Bo-rounds one trip and seasoned fries the next; gotta mix things up a bit—and a nosebleed seat to a Bobcats game—I’m trying to embrace my new surroundings since my move from Los Angeles) the Mariners wouldn't trade Lee.
Thankfully, I never made that bet because I love Bo-rounds and the Mariners shipped Mr. Lee to the Texas Rangers for first baseman Justin Smoak, a couple of young pitchers and some other guy.
The Rangers, incidentally, went on to play in the World Series. The Mariners did not.
You can look at this thing two ways.
First, you can ask yourself how the Mariners could essentially make the same mistake two years in a row and thus conclude that writing about a King Felix trade is just an extreme waste of my time, or you can pitch your tent on the other side of camp, where the “well, they did it before, so I can see them doing it again” people reside.
Where are you most comfortable?
In order to trade Hernandez, Seattle must believe it has some extremely pressing needs at the plate. Looking at last year’s Cliff Lee trade, we see that the Mariners definitely upgraded their bats and defense with Justin Smoak, a very promising young slugger.
You see, Seattle went into last season making a deep run in the playoffs without even playing a single inning. In addition to Cliff Lee, they acquired Chone Figgins at third base, Casey Kotchman at first base and Milton Bradley in the outfield. They were stacked to make a run for it.
Then Bradley self-destructed (big surprise there), Figgins essentially decided to take the year off but still collect his paycheck and Kotchman proved that there was a significant reason why the Red Sox only used him as a “just-in-case” man.
All of these things made Seattle believe they needed to move Lee for some bats. What will make them believe that this year?
In taking a look at Seattle’s roster, not much impresses me. There is the ageless Ichiro Suzuki manning the outfield, Justin Smoak at first and then there is...well...you tell me.
Miguel Olivo is a decent enough catcher, batting .318 with Colorado last season, but then again, Chone Figgins was good before his move to Seattle.
Unfortunately, the Mariners' Gold Glove center fielder, Franklin Gutierrez, has a stomach illness that they’re unable to diagnose; thus, he’s listed third on the depth chart at his position. It seems that the Mariners have big bat concerns.
As for its starting pitching, Seattle has King Felix and not much else to write home about. At this point the question becomes, what can you do to improve your team overall, and does keeping Hernandez actually hurt you since he can’t single-handedly take you to the playoffs?
I argue that they have to trade the man. He is worth so much in return, especially to teams that have a legitimate shot at the playoffs this year. Seattle has little else in the way of trade chips; in fact, it has nothing else. Holding on to Hernandez would be the wrong move for the Mariners.
I understand that the fans will have to wait several more years for their team to be contenders, but with last year's trade blunders behind them, it is time to start anew.
If you believe that King Felix needs to be traded, then the “who will take him” problem comes into play. There are the usual suspects, led by the New York Yankees.
It seems that the Bronx Bombers aren’t exactly awesome on the mound this year—at least not as awesome as they would like to be. CC Sabathia is followed by Phil Hughes (promising but not an ace), A.J. Burnett (overpaid and underperforming), Ivan Nova (who?) and finally Freddy Garcia (everybody rejoice—he won his final spring training game, whoop-dee-doo).
The Yankees brass knows that rotation won’t hold up to a healthy Red Sox lineup with additions Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, and that is whom they’re fighting for a playoff berth.
The Yankees are very much the team to beat in the King Felix trade discussions. The Phillies will be making a playoff run but have no room for Hernandez. Tell me where you would place King Felix in a rotation with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton.
On ESPN yesterday Curt Schilling projected the Milwaukee Brewers to win the NL Central, and he may be right—they are looking very strong at the plate. It isn’t inconceivable that they would make a run at King Felix. Hernandez would make a very nice addition to a rotation led by youngster Yovani Gallardo.
But whom would they give up for the best pitcher in baseball? If they were making a World Series run, they would still need Prince Fielder’s bat in their lineup along with the other Brew Crew starters. Maybe they have an unbelievable farm system that Seattle can raid in return; I don’t know.
The Boston Red Sox have no need for Hernandez. They are pitching Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka. All are under long-term contracts, and all are pretty damn good.
Maybe the Cubbies or Mets would take a run at the King, but I don’t see them landing him.
My take on Seattle’s situation is grim. They won’t make the playoffs by keeping King Felix and they won’t make the playoffs by trading him, at least not this year.
I project that Seattle shops him around before the deadline and that Hernandez gets snatched up by the only team in Major League Baseball that has the money, prospects and current roster players to make such a deal: the New York Yankees.
The Yanks were spurned by Cliff Lee and are scared of the Red Sox additions. With the Baltimore Orioles adding a lot of pop to their batting order this offseason, the boys in pinstripes are staring third place in the AL East squarely in the face. King Felix could change all of that.
By the trade deadline, I see the Yankees mortgaging the farm to acquire Felix Hernandez and the remainder of his five-year, $78 million contract. I also see Seattle being the better for it in a couple of years when the zillions of top-rated prospects that they’ll surely get in return finally showcase their abilities at Safeco Field.
Speaking of the Yankees and pitchers, here is a little trivia for you.
The Yankees had a guy pitching for them at one point who was the winningest left-handed pitcher in baseball over a three-year span. The twist is that he wasn't pitching for the Bronx Bombers when he held this distinction.
Can you name the player and the years?