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August 1, 2009 at 11:09 AM

Report: Red Sox discussed package with Seattle Mariners in trade attempt for Felix Hernandez

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Lost in all of the hoopla surrounding the trade deadline and yesterday’s departure of Jarrod Washburn was the flurry of teams that are said to have tried to pry Felix Hernandez loose from the Mariners. We have obviously been discussing this for the past few days. Hernandez is set to become a free-agent after 2011, will be in Roy Halladay’s shoes one year from now and was going to be seen by teams at this year’s deadline as an even better alternative than Toronto’s ace because of an extra year of team control.
When I asked Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik yesterday about how many teams had approached him on Hernandez, he declined to specifically discuss talks about any one player. But he did say, in general terms, that teams had approached him about a bunch of his players and that, out of courtesy, he listened.
“I wouldn’t address numbers or teams,” he said. “But at end of day it doesn’t mean there was anything real serious. To move Felix Hernandez would have to be something enormous. People inquired about many players on our ballcub. Some of those were just conversations.”
However, this story in today’s Boston Globe, primarily about the Red Sox acquisition of catcher Victor Maritnez from Cleveland, is certainly of interest. It mentions that the Red Sox attempted to explore a Hernandez deal and makes it sound as if the Mariners may — I said may — have actually listened to their offer and had some internal discussions about it. Maybe even made some suggestions of their own.

Here is the key element of the story, which begins with a quote from Red Sox GM Theo Epstein.
“We engaged, in previous days, we had some things working, things we were really excited about, and a couple that got really close, but didn’t happen,” Epstein said. “That’s par for the course in deadline season. We shot big on a couple things, a deal that could provide maximum impact. We were very aggressive in use of our own prospects, those deals got close . . . Maybe the foundation is laid for the offseason.”
Epstein didn’t elaborate on what those deals were, but the Red Sox were very much involved in trying to acquire Padres All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, Seattle righthander Felix Hernandez, Indians lefthander Cliff Lee, who was traded to Philadelphia, and to a lesser degree, Roy Halladay. Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi said the Sox did not come back with a last-minute package, but they were never willing to surrender reliever Daniel Bard.
Epstein said one deal required five or six prospects, but the pieces didn’t quite fit. The Mariners listened to a half-dozen offers for Hernandez, but elected not to trade one of the best young, established pitchers in baseball. Epstein has always coveted Hernandez, once naming him when asked at a charity event a few years back which player he would start a team with.”

Now, on that list, there are really only two players — Hernandez and Gonzalez — who would have required the type of package Epstein is talking about. We know that because of what was offered for Halladay and what Lee’s pricetag was. If you notice, three of the names belonged to pitchers. Boston did want to add a starter badly.
So, was Hernandez the guy the five-or-six player package would have been needed for? Sounds like what a Hernandez starting point should be. Look what Erik Bedard fetched. Epstein says he got really close on a couple of deals. If he’s talking about Hernandez, which the story seems to imply, then that means the Mariners were more than passive listeners here. But again, for now, there’s a whole lot of smoke but no real fire in sight…yet.
A Red Sox blog post in the Boston Herald, by beat writer Michael Silverman, speculates that Epstein may have been referring to Halladay or Hernandez when he talked about the groundwork being laid for a future deal this winter.
In any event, that’s done. Hernandez is staying put until at least this off-season, at which point you can expect teams to make additional inquiries about his price. This is not a secret. All of baseball is aware of how big a deal extending Hernandez’s contract at some point in the next 12 months or so, is about to become for the Mariners. They won’t be able to afford to wait until the 2011 season begins, lest they want to place themselves in the worst bargaining position possible. If they wait until after the 2010 trade deadline, Hernandez’s trade value, like Halladay’s right now, will start to drop because he’d only be a one-year rental.
This is obviously a sensitive topic for the Mariners, who in no way want to be seen as actively negotiating a Hernandez trade with anyone. Not while they still have hopes of inking the pitcher long-term. And there’s still no definitive proof they did that here.
This sensitivity to the topic was apparent yesterday when Zduriencik intitially declined to even confirm with the Seattle media that he’d received offers for the ace.
“There were inquiries on a lot of our players,” he said. “That’s all I’ll say on that.”
But Zduriencik, when talking to Peter Gammons of ESPN, did confirm that teams had called about Hernandez.
Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told ESPN’s Peter Gammons there also was interest from a slew of teams for Mariners ace Felix Hernandez.
“I had calls,” Zduriencik told Gammons, “and I listen to everyone. But it would have taken too much to even discuss a realistic trade.”

This ESPN rumors site quotes Gammons and Jayson Stark saying “a half dozen teams” had called about Hernandez. And that had come out before yesterday’s Zduriencik conference call with the Seattle media.
Why the difference in how much information to let out to Seattle media versus national types? I don’t believe for an instant that Zduriencik thought nobody from Seattle was going to hear what he told ESPN. My impression is that this was a knee-jerk response to a sensitive question, in order to prevent further follow-ups in a conference call setting. Like I said, Hernandez is going to be an explosive topic locally. I know it’s a topic that infuriates some of you. But it’s only going to get bigger until the Hernandez situation is resolved. It’s out there nationally for all to see. And now, you see it and can opine on it to your heart’s content.



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