Seattle Mariners

Is it time for the Mariners to find a trade for Felix Hernandez?

Seattle Mariners’ GM Jerry Dipoto is nearing a trade with the Mets for Robinson Cano, giving him the chance to focus on Felix Hernandez.

The Seattle Mariners, already having a busy offseason dealing away veterans, are in full rebuild mode as they’re reportedly about to trade Robinson Cano to the New York Mets.

Cano will head back to New York, where he spent the first nine years of his career with the Yankees, along with 24-year-old All-Star closer Edwin Diaz. While nothing is finalized yet, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports “there is significant momentum” for the deal.

Cano hit .303 with 10 home runs and 50 RBI for Seattle last season, during which he was suspended 80 games for testing positive for a banned substance in May. The eight-time All-Star signed a 10-year deal with Seattle before the 2014 season and averaged 21 home runs and 82 RBI in five seasons with the Mariners. He’s due $24 million each of the next five years, an amount Seattle thinks is too much to spend on a second baseman who will be 36 next year.

Diaz, meanwhile, led the majors with 57 saves in 2018 with a 1.96 ERA. He made just $570,800 last year and is under team control until 2023.

In return for Cano and Diaz, the Mets will send two prospects back to Seattle. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports those prospects are outfielder Jarred Kelenic and pitcher Justin Dunn. Kelenic, the sixth overall pick in June’s MLB Draft, and Dunn are the No. 3 and No. 4 prospects in the Mets system, according to MLB Pipeline. While Dunn is close to making a major league roster, Kelenic doesn’t turn 20 until July and won’t be ready anytime soon.

Now that Cano looks on the move, general manager Jerry Dipoto can now turn his attention to another pressing issue: what to do with Felix Hernandez.

The 14-year veteran Hernandez is the Mariners’ all-time leader in ERA, wins and games started. Last year, however, he lost his spot in the rotation after posting a career-worst 5.55 ERA and eight wins. Hernandez, who turns 33 in April, will make $28 million next season on the last year of his contract.

Hernandez has 10-5 rights, giving him the choice of vetoing any trade the Mariners could make. But if Seattle can’t guarantee him a spot in the rotation in 2019, he’ll likely decide it’s time to move on.

Another factor that could influence Hernandez: he has yet to pitch in a playoff game in his career. The Mariners haven’t made the postseason since 2001, the longest active drought in the majors. Now that the Mariners are entering a rebuilding phase, the chances of them making the playoffs in the near future look remote. A chance to finally pitch in October could play a role in Hernandez’s decision to leave Seattle.

The Mariners looked ready to end that drought for most of 2018. They led Oakland for one of the AL Wild Card spots before finishing 31-34 after the All-Star break, ending up eight games behind the Athletics. That was the last chance for this current generation of Mariners. They traded James Paxton to the Yankees on Nov. 20, and catcher Mike Zunino to Tampa Bay on Nov. 7.

Cano and Diaz are the latest Mariners that appear to be on the move. The question for GM Dipoto now is, will Hernandez be next?

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