Is it time for the Seattle Mariners to trade Felix Hernandez?

The King's Court would not be too happy if the Seattle Mariners decided to trade Felix Hernandez. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

One of the big questions the Seattle Mariners face every year is whether or not to hold on to ace Felix Hernandez or trade him. The righty is currently signed through 2014 and would be at the top of any team’s board as a potential midseason pickup.

I think it’s safe to say the Mariners aren’t going to make a run at the American League West this season, or perhaps any time in the foreseeable future. While I understand the need to keep the face of the franchise, I think it would be best for them to unload King Felix.

Here’s my reasoning.

The King has been on a down trend since his Cy Young campaign in 2010. And it has been a rather dreadful downfall. In the 2010 season he posted a 2.27 ERA and the season before that a 2.49 ERA when he finished second in the Cy Young vote.

Last season, his ERA climbed 120 points to 3.47, while he actually had more wins than the year before. He gave up 27 more runs than he did the previous year in 16 fewer innings.

Now you could just blame that on a bad year, but his early numbers in 2012 don’t show any sign of improvement. Through 87.2 innings, his ERA is at 3.70. He’s striking out nearly a batter an inning, but he’s also giving up a hit an inning. His current WHIP of 1.31 is the highest since his 2008 season.

I’ve always been a fan of King Felix and still believe he’s one of the best in the game, but he seems to be aging a little quickly. Even though he’s only 26, he’s already put up six years of 190 innings or more, including over 200 in his last four years.

The fact is people still view him as an ace, and if you’re ever going to get anything for him I believe now is the time. Look at what the Athletics just did with Gio Gonzalez. There are a lot of pieces the Mariners need before they can start to compete in the west, and if they can do a four-for-one deal and sure up some missing parts in that lineup, it will at least give this team a chance.

The Mariners have a great group of young pitchers coming up, and while that talent doesn’t always translate to the big leagues, you have to believe at least one or two will be able to fill the void that you lose if Hernandez goes.

They need bats to fill some holes, and they need All-Star type bats. They acquired Jesus Montero in an offseason trade that is working out great for them at the moment, but he’s not going to be enough. Other than Dustin Ackley at second base, every position on the roster is open for improvement.

My advice would be to trade King Felix for some major-league-ready talent. I know that’s easy to say, but if you’re giving up a guy with the credentials of Hernandez, you better make sure you’re getting someone back who is going to have just as big of an impact in the future.

So, the Mariners front office needs to decide: Is it better to keep King Felix around for the fan interest while they suffer in last place, or are they ready to part ways with the most prized possession on the trade market? It’s not an easy decision, but it’s one that could change the fate of the Mariners future.

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