The Seattle Mariners have started the year 5-11 and a turnaround doesn’t look to be coming in the near future. With an inept offense and a pitching staff that currently ranks 25th in ERA (4.89) it could be a long season in the Pacific Northwest.
With that in mind, conventional wisdom would say that the Mariners might be best served by unloading their biggest trade chip at some point to help the rebuilding process. That piece would be ace right-hander Felix Hernandez.
Last January the Mariners rewarded King Felix with a five-year, $78 million* contract extension, and the team was rewarded with 249.2 innings, a 2.27 ERA and 232 strikeouts. Unfortunately for Hernandez, he only had a 13-12 record to show for his incredible season, but he was rewarded with his first AL Cy Young Award.
At just 25 years old, Hernandez would easily be the most sought after player on the trade market if he was made available. While trading him away would be incredibly unpopular with Seattle’s fans, they aren’t exactly packing Safeco Field as it is. Plus, moving Hernandez for a big haul of prospects could be the quickest way for the Mariners to turn things around.
So far this season, Hernandez is 1-2 with a 4.33 ERA in four starts. Hernandez has received 17 runs of support in those four games.
Last year Seattle packed Cliff Lee off to Texas and received (among others) Justin Smoak. While Smoak was fairly disappointing last season, he appears to have found his groove in Seattle and looks much more comfortable at the plate this season (.300/.419/.460).
Current Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik has claimed he won’t trade Hernandez, but the league is littered with GMs who have made similar claims about certain players. Besides, Zduriencik’s opinion might change as the season progresses. The problem is, it just doesn’t make good business sense to have one guy taking up an average of $15.6 million in payroll. Especially on a team that lost 101 games last season and seems headed for a similar fate.
Yes, 16 games is a very small sample, and sure the Mariners could improve. But as it stands things in Seattle look grim, and moving King Felix might be the best path to hastening the turnaround.