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Should the Mariners trade Felix Hernandez?

By Matt Snyder | Baseball Writer

Whether or not the Mariners should trade ace Felix Hernandez seems to be a topic that just won't go away. This week, it was revived by a column from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. Then, Friday morning, Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times took a look himself.

The sentiment from both seems to be -- generally speaking, of course -- that it makes sense to pursue possible trades. Rosenthal reported that the Mariners "touched base" with the Cubs about Starlin Castro and the Royals about Billy Butler, among others.

Hernandez, 26, is one of baseball's elite pitchers. He won the 2010 AL Cy Young award with a 13-12 record because his numbers that matter the most were so stellar. But here's what things really boil down to:

1. The Mariners aren't going anywhere this season. Both the Rangers and Angels seem set up to be better ballclubs for the next few years, too.

2. Hernandez is a free agent after the 2014 season, unless the Mariners sign him to an extension.

3. The Mariners' top three minor-league prospects -- Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton -- are all starting pitchers. Meanwhile, the offense of the future doesn't look overly imposing, even if it looks to get better behind the likes of Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero.

4. Hernandez could land a killing on the trade market, especially to a large-market team with a good farm system.

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On the other hand ...

1. Hernandez is already an established ace. There's way to tell definitively that any of the three pitching prospects will develop into an ace.

2. Seattle is the 12th-largest market in Major League Baseball and the Mariners appear set to strike a huge TV deal like the Angels recently did (I've noted this before). From this standpoint, the argument could be that the Mariners should work on a lucrative extension for Hernandez before looking at improving the rest of the club. Basically, continue to build around him instead of dealing him during his prime.

So there we are.

If the Mariners trade Felix Hernandez and land something like the Rangers got for Mark Teixeira in 2007 (Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia), it would probably be a great idea. And that's why general manager Jack Zduriencik is reportedly feeling out some other GMs.

If the Mariners don't trade Felix Hernandez, they risk building an awesome pitching staff who can't buy wins because the offense behind them is lackluster.

If the Mariners trade Felix Hernandez and land a package similar to what the Indians got for CC Sabathia in 2008 (Michael Brantley, Matt LaPorta and Zach Jackson) they just gave away an elite pitcher for one decent outfielder, a bust and a sub-par reliever.

If the Mariners don't trade Felix Hernandez and the three pitching prospects all flop, they still have an ace.

There's no correct answer here. My gut feeling is that I'd hold onto Hernandez knowing he's due a mega-contract after the 2014 season -- and being prepared to pay whatever it took to keep him. He's a special talent and we don't have to guess how he'll fare in the bigs. We already know what he's capable of doing.

What do you guys think?

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