As the Seattle Mariners toil through another lackluster season, many have begun to wonder if this team will ever be competitive again. Fan interest is at an all-time low with only one true star to rally around; that poor soul being Felix Hernandez. As the Mariners drudge through what feels like their 10th straight rebuilding year, some have started to question if trading the ace might actually be in the best interest of the club.
While that seemed almost sacrilegious a couple years ago, it’s becoming more plausible with every passing month of Mariner obscurity. As it looks today, the Mariners are still a couple years away from even being relevant in the competitive AL West. The Oakland A’s have hit on a number of their prospects, something the Mariners have failed to do so far during the Jack Z era. The Texas Rangers, meanwhile, have made smart moves in free agency, most notably not resigning the likes of Josh Hamilton and CJ Wilson. These two teams appear to have the rosters to stay atop the division for the foreseeable future even with the impending improvement of the Mariners young roster.
If this is the case, then why not trade Hernandez for a plethora of top minor league talent? A pitcher of his prowess will command multiple Grade A level prospects, meaning guys who are can’t miss big leaguers. Why waste Hernandez’s talents on a team that will never make the playoffs? By trading him, the Mariners could finally acquire some offensive talent to pair with their stable of young pitching prospects in Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton. The trio that has been touted as the saviors of Mariners baseball should all be in a major league uniform by the end of next season. But still the question remains, how will they score any runs? There are multiple contending teams with high level offensive prospects that would love to add Felix Hernandez to the top of their rotations. In a lot of ways, trading Hernandez makes sense from a purely baseball perspective for the Mariners.
But here’s why you absolutely cannot trade him.
He actually likes being a Mariner. He’s Edgar Martinez as opposed to A-Rod. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to attract marquee players to the Pacific Northwest. Why would we dump one who enjoys being here? He’s stuck with us throughout all the dismal seasons. Maybe he just wants to be a part of it when the Mariners finally turn it around.
Another reason why you can’t trade him is because he is a true number one. At his best, he has arguably the best stuff in baseball. You could definitely make a case for Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw and a few others, but he is right there. There are only a handful of guys in Major League Baseball that can be as consistently dominant as Hernandez and they don’t just grow on trees. Those prized few need to be guarded and protected. Also, he’s been doing this at the big league level for seven years. We, and the Mariners, know what we’re getting from him. Even the most talented of prospects have proved nothing on the big stage. Nothing is guaranteed but it’s always a safer bet to count on a guy who’s already doing it as opposed to someone who still has to prove they can.
Felix Hernandez is the one identifiable star within the Mariners organization. He’s the face of the franchise. Without him, fan interest could dwindle to practically nothing. With all of the talk and excitement about potentially landing an NHL team and now with rumblings of NBA expansion coming, Mariner fans could be looking elsewhere to spend their time and money. Leaving them without a star to cheer for could do irreversible damage to the Mariners.
One day the M’s will be competitive again. Hopefully Felix Hernandez is still a part of it.
Zach Beehler is on Twitter. Follow him at @ZachBeehler