The Mariners Really Need to Trade Felix Hernandez

The Upper Echelons of Major League Pitchers-

  1. Justin Verlander
  2. David Price, Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw, Jered Weaver
  3. Matt Cain, RA Dickey , James Shields, Zack Grienke, Cole Hamels, Gio Gonzalez
  4. Cliff Lee, Stephen Strasburg,  Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Johnny Cueto
  5. Ian Kennedy, Anibal Sanchez, Jon Lester, Yovani Gallardo, Trevor Cahill, Jordan Zimmerman etc.

Those, in a nutshell, are the top pitchers in baseball. Notice the placement of RA Dickey and James Shields. Both have been traded in the last month, yet both are ranked below (in my estimate) Felix Hernandez. In addition to those two big offseason moves, the Angels signed Josh Hamilton. I say this for one reason, Texas isn’t going anywhere,  and Los Angeles just added Hamilton to their team. The other team in the division is Oakland who, I might point out, was probably the second best team in the AL playoffs last year.

Regardless of Seattle’s current talent (meh,) the team is in a stacked division. Anything besides last place is probably a miracle (barring an Angels’ season-long flop.)

The team isn’t going anywhere soon. Thus it makes sense to trade Felix Hernandez, especially since their top two pitching prospects (Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen) are ranked fourth and eighth in terms of the top 100 prospects in the game per Jonathan Mayo.

There are two, if not three, (James Paxton could be special as well) potential Hernandez replacements waiting in the system. Yes, the fences are being moved in and the Mariners need to sell tickets, but dealing Hernandez makes sense.

Let’s put a few things out there. One, Hernandez is four years younger than Shields and twelve younger than Dickey. Not surprisingly, King Felix is a much better pitcher than both. The point on Shields, or even Dickey, is that Shields fetched the number three overall prospect (again all this per Mayo,) Wil Myers, who has at least “star” potential if not more. Another prospect that went to Tampa was starter Jake Odorizzi, ranked the 30th best in all of baseball. Tampa also picked up two other prospects who are ranked in the top 20 of their system.

New York got the 11th and 83rd best prospects in the game by selling high on a 38-year old.

What I’m getting at, if you haven’t gotten there first, is that the Rays and Mets got some of the better packages of prospects that the trading market has seen in the past few years. I would think that the Mariners would want to cash in with a haul of that kind.

The Mariners need a hitter to lead them into the next phase of the franchise (hopefully contending.) I’m sure they’d jump at a package of Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt (not that Texas would consider that seriously.) But Seattle needs a corner stone. They need the next Miguel Cabrera or Evan Longoria. They need someone who can carry a team on his backs/bats. Maybe Felix Hernandez is the way to find that player.

Surely if James Shields and RA Dickey can fetch outstanding hauls of prospects, then a younger and better pitcher (Felix Hernandez) can get a better one.

What do you think? Should the Mariners trade King Felix or should they keep him and try to contend?

He Did What!?! A Look at the Genius of Billy Beane and Friends

Here are a couple names for you:  Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Sweeney, Fauntino De Los Santos, Brad Peacock, Tommy Milone, Derek Norris, AJ Cole, Josh Reddick, Miles Head and Raul Alcantara.

Now I’ll give you one other name, Nick Swisher.

With the addition of Andrew Bailey in a trade with Sweeney to Boston to get the last three, all of those players are the byproduct of one Nick Swisher. Now you’ve validated the title of this piece yourself. Most likely because that’s what just flashed through your head. (Minus the “Billy Beane and Friends” part obviously.)

The first trade has Mr. Beane moving Swisher, who didn’t have an amazing year, to Chicago for Sweeney, Gonzalez and De Los Santos. Swish wasn’t coming off a bad year, nor was there any statistical reasoning for Swisher being dealt. It was just tabbed as a “rebuilding effort”.

Sweeney contributed right away as a fourth outfielder/platoon type in Oakland. He provided fourth outfielder/platoon-guy production in most categories except batting average, posting BAs of at least .286 in three of his last four years in the Bay.

The wait with Gonzalez was a little longer. He struggled in a ten-game stint in ’08. He followed it up with a pedestrian 2009 in which he only won 6 games in 20 appearances. Also his ERA was a worse-than-a-pedestrian 5.75. Then we saw the transformation, or rather the revelation. Gio Gonzalez posted 31 wins in 2010-2011. His ERA in both years was under 3.25. That and an All-Star nod last season vaulted Gio into being one of the premier pitchers in the game.

With Oakland going nowhere fast, Beane took advantage of Gonzalez’s high-for-awhile stock and moved him to the Washington Nationals for near-Majors-ready-potential-frontline arms Brad Peacock, Tommy Milone and AJ Cole. They also received do-it-all-power-hitting catcher Derek Norris. It should be noted that all of them, with the exception of Milone, (with the big league club as we speak) are seated in the club’s top-seven prospects as well as top 100 in baseball overall, according to Jonathan Mayo.

If you’ll remember, Beane acquired Gonzalez and Sweeny along with De La Santos for Swisher. Which brings us to back to Sweeney. He was dealt, along with bullpen arm Andrew Bailey, to Beantown for Josh Reddick and two more minor leaguers, listed way above. Not only is Reddick a younger alternative to Sweeney, he leads the rebuilding A’s in a Shaq-sized handful of categories. I should point out that we haven’t heard the last of the minor league prospects either. Odds are they’ll contribute to the parent club at some point.

De Los Santos is still kicking around as well. The bullpen arm is currently with the A’s AAA squad in Sacramento. Just like the minor league prospects, you haven’t heard the last of him either.

Bottom line, here is the baffling thing. Over the course of five plus years, Billy Beane, albeit unintentionally, has turned one outfielder into three potential frontline starters, a potential All-Star catcher, a useful bullpen arm, a 25 year-old outfielder who currently leads the team in almost every offensive statistical category you can shake a stick at (pun completely intended), another potential starter as well as a possible third baseman.

Yes, he did that.

Kurt Suzuki’s Value

Kurt Suzuki is only 28. An age that most would think would be part of a player’s prime. So, despite an underwhelming offensive season last year, it’s safe to assume that Kurt Suzuki is in his prime.

There are a few things that are wrong with this. Perhaps not wrong, but they certainly work against Suzuki staying in Oakland.

One: He is a solid offensive option at a position that is mainly derived of offensive threats (catcher).

Two: As stated, he is in somewhat of his prime, meaning he still has prime years of his career. (Duh.)

Three: He plays for a rebuilding Oakland team.

Let’s start with one. Despite the aforementioned underwhelming seasons, Suzuki is still a very good option at catcher. In his breakout year in 2008 he posted a WAR of 3.3., which was the same WAR posted by Mark Teixeira and was a higher WAR than those of Miguel Cabrera (3.1) and Robinson Cano (1.2). Position-wise, his WAR blew those of Jason Varitek (0.2) and AJ Pierzynski (0.6) out of the water. (All according to baseballreference.com, mind you.)

Two, he’s in his prime. If I had a nickel for every time I said that in this piece, well let’s just say I’d be in the prestigious 15 cent club.

And now we get to the fact that he plays for…Oakland (buh, buh…. buh.) So now that you’ve taken in that Kurt Suzuki is not only in his prime (20 cents!) and is an offensive threat at an offensively depleted position, take into account that he plays for Oakland. The A’s are in the midst of another Billy Beane rebuilding phase and are currently siphoning out their current talent for younger, future talent. (Gio Gonzalez, Andrew Bailey and Trevor Cahil were all quietly dealt for an intriguing hull of prospects.)

In one of those deals, Beane acquired former Nationals top-five prospect Derek Norris: a catcher who can do a lot of things. He hits for power and draws a lot of walks (now it’s starting to make sense as to why Beane acquired him) and is a good defensive catcher. Basically everything but hitting for average.

Norris is presently at AAA and should be with the A’s in the next season or two. Meaning Suzuki’s time in the Bay Area could be short.

Because of his offensive ability at a position where contenders might look to upgrade (Boston, Tampa Bay) or if an injury strikes, Kurt Suzuki might very well be a big draw on the trade market.

The Real Deal or Not So Real: Early Season Contenders and Pretenders

It’s early in the season. Perhaps too early to make assumptions and what not, but here goes anyway.

Every season some teams get off to fast starts, and somewhat slower ones. A fast start could propel you to a successful year (‘06 Tigers) or send you on your way to a horrendous one (‘08 Tigers).

The following teams are off to scathing starts and could very well be contenders…or pretenders:

Candidate Numero Uno- The Texas Rangers

The Rangers are a very deep squad. They feature a rotation that has possibly five front-line starters, when their stuff permits. They also feature two more pitchers who would make most clubs rotations in their bullpen: Alexi Ogando and Scott Feldman.

To continue with the pitching, Texas’ ‘pen could be hit or miss (pun completely intended). Joe Nathan could be one of the better signings of the offseason, or one of the worst. If he doesn’t work out, the bullpen could go into a tailspin without a defined closer.

(Side note, the Rangers are 10-2 and Nathan has both losses.)

If you live under a lake or something, you’ll be surprised to know that the Rangers’ pitching rotation isn’t even their “strength”. That “strength” would be the offense. Yes, Texas’ offense is very good. Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre and Mr. Eye Brows himself Nelson Cruz are all guys who could hit .300 with at least 20 bombs. To be fair, David Murphy, Elvis Andrus and Mitch Moreland aren’t terrible either.

So if you haven’t reached the conclusion, the Rangers are CONTENDERS.

 

Candidate Numero Dos- The Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers have Matt Kemp and Andre Etheir going for them. That’s almost it. Clayton Kershaw is the Cy Young winner, and rightfully so. But after that there isn’t a ton to be excited about.  Dee Gordon and James Loney are nice pieces. Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly are very good rotation options. There are some young, talented arms in the bullpen, but I’m running out of huge positives here.

Yes, the Dodgers are off to a hot start, but they beat up Pittsburgh and San Diego. There, go ahead, let that sink in a little. They crushed teams that they should be crushing, so to speak, which is what you’re supposed to do anyways.

The Dodgers might have shown their true colors against Milwaukee, who might not even get second in the NL Central. The Dodgers lost the first two games and, as I write this during the third game, it doesn’t look amazing.

Overall this might just be a fluke, or the Dodgers simply beat teams they should. Until they can start beating the big boys I’m labeling them PRETENDERS.

 

The Third Candidate is the Montreal Expos Washington Nationals

I write that because the Nationals haven’t been good in DC. Period. But that could change here soon. Right now as it is the Nationals look very good on paper. They have really good youth and talent at most positions in the field. They seem to have a strong bullpen with the likes of Henry Rodriguez, Brad Lidge and All-Star Tyler Clippard holding down the fort until Drew Storen comes back. Stephen Strasburg leads a rotation that includes, get this, Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson and Jordan Zimmerman. Granted Jackson is in town on a one-year deal, but regardless that’s an exciting first four.

Their offense is led by Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and a seething Adam LaRoche. That middle of the order is pretty good even without the currently injured Michael Morse and the long-awaited-and-still-waiting-for Bryce Harper.

Sounds pretty scary.

After all this I still think the Nationals are a year away. They will no doubt be playing meaningful games late, and it wouldn’t totally surprise me to see them sneak in. But with Strasburg’s innings cap and Harper’s late arrival… Next year they definitely will be a force. This year, second or third in the division is more likely.  Verdict: PRETENDERS (for now).

 

Saving the Best for Last- The Detroit Tigers

The Tigers are legit. The only possible questions of concern for Detroit entering the season were their infield defense and the back end of the rotation. Those questions aren’t really of concern much anymore. Miguel Cabrera has been turning in pretty good glove work at the hot corner and Prince Fielder isn’t a terrible fielder to begin with (again, pun completely intended). Jhonny Peralta should have won a Gold Glove last year and Brandon Inge is one of the better defensive players in the game wherever you put him.

The back end of the rotation has been quality as well. And when I say quality, I mean to use it as the worst transition known to mankind to get to the fact that Adam Wilk and Drew Smyly have posted quality starts. They have helped fill the short-term void of Doug Fister’s rotation spot as well as the fifth spot in the order.

The only glaring question now is the back end of the bullpen. Jose Valverde has been shaky this season, but really, anything is shaky compared to his perfect campaign of 2011. He’ll get it together. Other than that the rest of the team is loaded. And with Austin Jackson finally raking at the top of the order, the Tigers will propel themselves to a deep October run. Verdict- (If you haven’t guessed yet) CONTENDERS.

(your Seattle Mariners working title here)

The Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim) are all in next season. Meanwhile, the Oakland A’s dealt their two best players, frontline starting pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahil, to NL clubs for prospects in what is presumably a rebuilding year. The Seattle Mariners on the other hand…. Eh…

We’ve been over the fact that the Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero swap was a little confusing for a number of reasons. The Mariners aren’t in a real rebuilding mode. They are trying to win with a roster that probably isn’t going to get it done.

The pitching for Seattle is good for a 76-86 record. Felix Hernandez is the best pitcher in baseball not named Justin Verlander. Brandon League is a solid closer. Jason Vargas is a quality pitcher. There isn’t a lack of pitching here in the northwest, but rather a lack of hitting.

The hitting is the issue. Texas and the Angels both have somewhat balanced attacks from the mound and the plate. Oakland’s pitching numbers will always be a smidgen better due to their ballpark. Seattle is in Oakland’s boat, but there’s a big difference.

Have you heard the phrase “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”? Well the Mariners are broke and they need fixing (not financially, they’re fine, but you get the point).

There is no rebuilding project plans in Seattle. They aren’t even throwing out their failed attempts to improve their hitting. There are no Richie Sexson or Adrian Beltre transactions coming. No mid-season Ben Broussard or Eduardo Perez addition. Not even an opportunity to buy migraine pills for watching Milton Bradley. Nada.

Here’s what the M’s need to do: blow it up. At least from an offensive stand point they do. Ichiro is on the wrong side of 30 and is coming off a down year. Franklin Gutierrez is coming off an injury-riddled year. There aren’t a lot of players outside of those two and Dustin Ackley that are going to make people lose a lot of sleep.

The catcher position is confusing from the point of having Miguel Olivo, Adam Moore, John Jaso and potentially Jesus Montero in the mix. There’s a lot of offensive-minded players there, but not in a lot of other places.

If the Mariners are going to win, or even come close to it, they are going to have to hit.