Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Push For The King

Looking back over the trade deadline, the stories are coming out that Boston made several strong plays for elite players. The ones for Halladay and Adrian Gonzalez are well known. But there is one name no one considered at the time.

The revelation that the Sox pushed hard for Seattle's Felix Hernandez isn't all that surprising. After all, the Sox still need a reliable third pitcher in their rotation. No, what was surprising was the talent they offered Seattle in the deal.

Boston offered the Mariners any five players from a list of eight. They were:

  • Clay Buchholz
  • Daniel Bard
  • Justin Masterson
  • Nick Hagadone
  • Michael Bowden
  • Felix Doubront
  • Josh Reddick
  • Yamaico Navarro

That list (at the time) represents three MLB pitchers, a top 20 pitcher in the Boston system, and the #4, #12, #2 and #10 prospects that are still in the Boston system. That is a remarkable offer.

Seattle turned down the deal because they think they can get a similar deal in the off-season or in 2010. They control Felix until the end of the 2011 season, so I would wager they are right. It may come down a slight bit considering that another team would get two years instead of two-and-a-half, but Seattle will get a boatload of talent in return.

And King Felix is worth the haul. Only 23 years old, he has lowered his ERA each of the last four years. He has never thrown less than 190 innings in a season and has a career strikout K/BB ratio of 2.83. This year Hernandez is 12-4 with a 2.78 ERA. He hasn't even entered his prime yet. Oh, and he can hit triple digits on his fastball. People talk about him becoming the best pitcher in the game...and it isn't hype.

So, in looking at the list we know that Masterson and Hagadone are out since they left in the trade for Martinez. Reddick may be on display with his outings in Baltimore, but I think that would be a mistake by Boston. He is the right-fielder of the future for this franchise. So maybe this is what a new list would look like:

  • Clay Buchholz
  • Daniel Bard
  • Lars Anderson
  • Stephen Fife
  • Michael Bowden
  • Felix Doubront
  • Ryan Kalish
  • Yamaico Navarro

Anderson would take the place of Masterson and is expendable with the addition of Martinez to the roster and other 1B prospects in system. Fife is a comparable arm to Hagadone and Kalish is another solid outfield prospect. So this list would offer two major-league ready pitchers in addition to the #3, #16, #4, #12, #9 and #10 prospects in Boston's deep farm system. Giving the Mariners five of these players would be more than sufficient for the services of Felix Hernandez in 2010.

And if that came to pass, you would see a rotation in Boston come April of 2010 that would start Beckett, Lester and Hernandez. There is no other team in the majors that could match that trio.

Keep in mind that Boston has the talent to make up the losses from this list. If Anderson goes, they have Rizzo. If Fife, Bowden and/or Doubront go, they still have Tazawa, Stolmy Pimentel and Casey Kelly. If Ryan Kalish goes the Sox have Che-Hsuan Lin or Ryan Westmoreland. And if Navarro was selected, the Sox have just-signed Cuban defector Jose Iglesias to fill the gap. This is the advantage a team gains with a deep farm system, the ability to make a move to win now while still being able to build for the future.

If I had my way, I'd add J.D. Drew to that list and offer to pay 100% of his remaining salary just to get him the hell out of here.

Look for Boston and Seattle to revisit these talks in the off-season.


Aviv said...

It's possible they'll talk during the offseason, but the Mariners also could try to make a run. They surprised many early this season with a nice run and with Jarrod Washburn gone and Miguel Batista and Adrian Beltre set to become free agents, they'll have some money to spend. Their payroll also is nearly $20 million less this season than in 2008. The King, Luke French and Erik Bedard (if he can stay healthy) gives the Mariners a nice foundation and if Ian Snell turns it around, they can challenge the Angels in the West next season.

Dave said...

It's possible, but Felix is due big money come the end of 2011. And the Mariners don't want to wait that long b/c of diminishing returns on a possible trade (see Halladay, Roy).

And even with that admittedly good rotation, is the rest of the team good enough to send Seattle deep in the playoffs next year? With Johjima behind the plate, your 3rd baseman hitting .217 and the rest? I think the Mariners are still off and know it.

They can go with French, Bedard and Snell and a smart FA pickup or two and still compete. But by trading Felix, they'll likely get another major-league arm (or two) and some very talented youngsters. Wait until 2011 to make the deal and it'll be one or the other, not both.