Hear me out on this one before you dismiss it out of hand.
I know that every previous offer for right-handed starter Felix Hernandez has been rebuffed by Seattle, and he supposedly wants to finish his career there, but here’s a road map for getting a deal done.
Seattle’s greatest strength is its starting pitching, starting with King Felix and followed by Michael Pineda and Jason Vargas. In the minors they have a gaggle of arms that many consider to be major-league-ready, or close to it: James Paxton, Danny Hultzen (the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft) and Taijuan Walker. Mauricio Robles and Dan Cortes are also in the wings.
However, Seattle has an abysmally bad offense, so bad that many superb pitching efforts are wasted. This year they were dead last in all of MLB in most offensive statistics: batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, RBI, runs scored, hits and OPS.
In the process the Mariners set the franchise record for worst-ever team batting average (.233), breaking the previous record, set in 2010, of .236.
Their .292 on-base percentage followed a .296 OBP in 2010, making Seattle the first team to have an OBP of under .300 since the mound was lowered in 1969.
By contrast, the Red Sox hit .280 in 2011 and have hit less than .260 only once in the last 39 years (.246 in 1992).
The Mariners have holes at DH, left field, third base and shortstop, and they need to fill those holes with good sticks—preferably left-handed hitters who can take advantage of the short porch in right at Safeco Field. To get such bats, and provide more balance in their lineup, Seattle must give up some pitching.
As mentioned above, some say that Felix is now part of the fabric of Seattle and that he does not want to leave.
As the Red Sox know, Adrian Gonzalez had a similar situation in San Diego, his birthplace. As well ensconced as he was in that city’s Hispanic community, he was still traded when the business of baseball demanded it. At the same time, Gonzalez knew that coming to Boston gave him a chance to compete for a ring every year—in addition to the nice contract extension and salary bump.
Hernandez does have a contract which allows him to veto a trade to 10 teams. According to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, Felix blocked (in alphabetical order) the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies and Texas Rangers (along with two other unknown teams).
Just looking at the list, one thing pops out: all these teams are large-budget franchises. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Hernandez would not want to play for any of these teams; in fact, the opposite may well be true. Such a no-trade clause could be used as leverage to obtain a significant contract extension for Hernandez to agree to the deal.
I guarantee you that Felix will leave in a New York minute when his contract is up in 2014 if the Mariners have not become a competitive team with a chance to go deep into the playoffs.
Interestingly enough, the best way for that to happen is if Hernandez is traded away now to get the necessary bats for Seattle to make a run.
The slides to follow outline one way a deal could get done.