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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

July 8, 2009 at 2:20 PM

Does Halladay’s situation foreshadow Felix’s?

The baseball world is suddenly abuzz with speculation about the future home of Roy Halladay now that Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi has made it known that he will trade the face for the right price. And he also made it known that the price, in talent, will be huge. As he told Joel Sherman of the New York Post, “Imagine you have a house worth $500,000 and weren’t really interested in selling it, but someone offered $1.2 million. That would make you at least listen. So if someone is that motivated we will listen.”

My hunch is that someone — many someones — will be interested enough to meet their demands, with the Phillies at the top of the list. The same Phillies that reportedly had scouts in town this week to watch Erik Bedard (and probably Jarrod Washburn). In fact, any pursuit of Halladay could impact the Mariners, because Washburn and Bedard both figure to be highly coveted arms at the trade deadline, presuming Bedard shows he’s healthy and the Mariners decide to go that route (both of which are still open questions). Every new arm on the market — especially one the caliber of Halladay — just adds to the competition.

This Los Angeles Times story on possible Angels’ interest in Halladay speculates that it would take Jered Weaver, a top pitching prospect such as Trevor Reckling or Jordan Walden, top hitting prospect Brandon Wood and a young big leaguer such as Erick Aybar or Howie Kendrick to get the deal done. Sounds to me like that’s offering about $2 million for that $500,000 house. But the lure of a Halladay — combined with visions of a World Series title — may cause some GMs to go against their better judgment. We’ll see.

At any rate, I have to wonder if the Mariners could be going through this same scenario with Felix Hernandez at this time next year. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the challenges of locking up Felix to a long-term contract. By the middle of next year, Hernandez will be at the exact same place on his free-agent clock as Halladay is now — 1 1/2 years away. And that’s the time that a prudent team starts dealing with the reality that the player might actually leave, and explores alternatives to make sure he doesn’t walk away with the team uncompensated (other than the two draft picks that a high-caliber pitcher like Hernandez would almost certainly garner).

That’s what the Jays are doing now, and in a division in which they’re continually looking up at the Red Sox, Yankees and now Rays, it’s a smart thing. It doesn’t mean they have to trade him, but you might as well see if someone is willing to give up the farm — and some of the big-league club — to get such a high-caliber player.

The best solution for the Mariners, clearly, would be to lock up Felix for as long as they can. I see him, in the best-case scenario, as the foundation of the franchise for years to come. But that presumes Felix’s camp is motivated to get a deal done. So far, the two sides have not been able to get an extension that takes away arbitration years, let alone takes him past free agency. If that’s still the case next July, it’s possible the buzz in baseball could be about the future home of Felix Hernandez.

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