There are few young pitchers in the majors today more talented than Seattle ace Felix Hernandez, and the Mariners know it. There has been talk that the team intends to make a strong effort this offseason to sign Hernandez to an extension, but they did listen to trade offers for the right-hander in July. The M's have Hernandez under team control until 2011, when he becomes eligible for free agency for the first time.
The 23-year-old is a Cy Young candidate this season, posting a 2.49 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over 224.1 IP, while striking out nearly a batter per inning. Considering his age, his production to date, and his affordable contract (at least for two more years), it's hard to think of many players whose trade value will be higher this winter.
This brings us to tonight's discussion question: should the Mariners be shopping Felix after the season? They're set to finish in just third place in the AL West this year, but they've made strides after winning only 61 games in 2008. The Angels potentially could lose some of their main contributors (John Lackey, Chone Figgins, Bobby Abreu, Vladimir Guerrero) via free agency, and the Rangers' ownership uncertainty raises questions about their financial flexibility for 2010. Next season could be a prime opportunity for the Mariners to make a playoff run, rather than to deal their best player for rebuilding pieces.
On the other hand, without a couple of new bats in 2010, the Mariners' offense, which this season ranks dead last in the American League in OBP and SLG, won't give Felix and the rest of the staff the support they need to contend. Plus, the haul Seattle could demand in exchange for Hernandez would be massive.
So what should the Mariners' next move be? How much do they offer Hernandez to stay in Seattle? And if he turns down their best offer, do they open the floodgates for trade proposals?