Yesterday, Ken Rosenthal suggested "the planets are perfectly aligned" for Mariners, who lack enough talent to compete, to feast upon the Yankees' desperation for a frontline starting pitcher by swapping King Felix Hernandez for five prospects. To be clear, this isn't the a case of quantity of quality. Rosenthal suggests the inclusion of Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances, Ivan Nova, and two C+ type prospects.
Quickly, lets look at this trade in a bubble, before trying to quickly contextualize this trade.
Props to Sky for creating the original trade calculator. I modified it slightly to create a variable inflation rate.
One can argue about the Wins Above Replacement projection I've got here for Hernandez. I understand that he is the best combination talent, age, projection, and health in baseball today. But, I think we can all agree that we need to discount his performance to account for uncertainty.
In contrast, using the chart that Sky published on this site not too long ago, we can try and see how this proposal grades out.
I've adjusted the numbers for inflation, increasing them by 10%.
In a bubble, the surplus value of Felix Hernandez comes to match up. However once we start looking at this proposal in context, its important to consider that the salary implications matter far less to the Yankees.
Currently, the Playoff Odds Report located at Baseball Prospectus has the Yankees playoff odds at over 70%, the third highest chance behind the Phillies and their division rivals. I couldn't tell you the exact effect acquiring the King would have on those odds, but, I assume most Yankee fans are far more concerned with the team's chances of winning the World Series.
Of course, there are other factors too. Upon Ichrio's possible departure two seasons from now, Felix will be the sole face of the Mariners Organization. Trading him would likely have an adverse effect on ticket sales. Just as important, of course, is the current roster construction. The Yankees are in an enigmatic situation. On one hand, the window of opportunity for their aging team is getting smaller (as small as it can get with a $200m payroll, its hard imagine them not contending outside of being decimated with injuries) so it may be appropriate to trade some of their farm for Hernandez. Certainly, the Yankees farm system will not be depleted as they'll still have Dellin Betances, Andrew Brackman and Gary Sanchez atop their system. Additionally, they should be able to replenish their system quite quickly by continuing to invest heavily in both the draft and international free agent market.
But, Rosenthal also assumes the Mariners are currently in a place that they should tear things down. That may be the case with them projected to lose at least 90 games, but with Michael Pineda and Dustin Ackley ready to make their major league debuts this year and with Chone Figgins, Michael Saunders and Justin Smoak better than their 2010 seasons indicated, there are players on this team who have a lot of upside. It shouldn't shock anyone if Pineda, Ackley, and Smoak all produced well above average years in 2011.
In the end, I don't think the package Rosenthal suggests is enough to entice the Mariner's brass. Likely it would take adding another "B" in place of one of the lesser impact prospects. Jack Z is aware, the additionally salary the Yankees would add by acquiring Felix will not burden Cashman's wallet like it would other teams. Nor do I believe Cashman is ready to trade half of his farm, yet. But, with an insanely talented AL East, Cashman could be under a lot of pressure by July.