Mid-Season Trade Candidates for 2012—Felix Hernandez

Every year at around this time, I pick a few players who normally wouldn’t be available on the trade market and envision scenarios in which they’ll be dealt.

In the past two years, I’ve been right on two who were considered untouchable—Dan Haren and Ubaldo Jimenez.

Let’s spend Christmas with postings on players who fit this profile for mid-season 2012 and start with Mariners righty Felix Hernandez.

The Mariners are still getting calls on Hernandez and they’ll continue to get calls on Hernandez.

Until the Mariners are in a position where they need Hernandez to compete, teams will puruse him; at some point, the answer may change from “not available” to “I’ll listen” and they’ll let it be known he can be had.

How could it happen?

There are ways.

GM Jack Zduriencik could decide that his best asset will yield the biggest return and a team like the Yankees gets crazy and offer 4-5 players for him; or—and this is the most likely scenario—Hernandez grows frustrated with working so hard for a team with no chance of contending and seeing his prime years go to waste that he quietly asks to be moved.

That’s the key word: quiet.

If it’s out there that Hernandez is in play, the Mariners have to trade him; if it’s kept quiet, they can sift through the offers and make a decision based on what best fits their needs.

The Mariners are sort of on the right track and have been sabotaged by bad luck, tragedy and mistaken judgments both personal and professional. Dustin Ackley’s going to be a star; Michael Pineda is an impressive power arm; unless ownership forces Zduriencik to keep him, they’re going to be free from Ichiro Suzuki in the near future as the mercurial right fielder’s contract is up after 2012; and right now, they’re in the market to spend some money on Prince Fielder.

But the Angels and Rangers are tough competition and by June or July, the frustration could lead to the point of the pitcher saying enough’s enough.

And I think it’s going to happen. He’s signed through 2014 and he’s coveted. The Mariners can rebuild the team in one shot if they get the right package and judging from what the Padres were able to pry loose from the Reds for Mat Latos and what the A’s got from the Nationals for Gio Gonzalez, Hernandez could acquire a greater bounty of blue-chip players.

For a team that’s unlikely to contend for 2012 and probably 2013, what good will it do them to have Hernandez fronting the rotation in his contract year of 2014 when they might—might—be ready to make a playoff run?

It wouldn’t. Hernandez is never going to be more valuable to them than he will be in July of 2012 and if they’re hovering around .500 or worse and out of the race in an impossible division, it makes sense to move him for a group of players who will assist them in multiple areas when they are ready to win.

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