The New York Yankees have been drooling all over Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez for three years. Rumors circulating about the Yankees swiping King Felix from the Mariners are just that--idle talk. New York has a better chance of putting Keith Hernandez in pinstripes this season.
Every summer, while the Mariners wallowed in last place and New York chased another playoff spot, the whispers about the Yankees getting Hernandez before the July 31 trading deadline got louder. This year the Mariners will put a gag on it.
The Mariners have won nine of their last 10 games and are tangled up in the wide-open AL West race which separates all four teams by only 2 games.
Hernandez, the 25 year-old righthander, is one of the most valuable commodities in the majors and there isn't one team that wouldn't want him. Once a team has an arm like his, you don't let it go.
Combine Hernandez with the Mariners latest phenom, Michael Pineda, and you've got one of the best 1-2 punches in the American League for the next few years. The Mariners GM, Jack Zduriencik, would be run out of town for trading away Hernandez--the foundation of the team for three more years.
The Yankees, meanwhile, are still looking for their front-line starter and an rotation identity. CC Sabathia has been his usual work-horse self. A.J. Burnett has reverted back to his bi-polar ways while Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon are low-rent pick-ups who have been capable four and five starters, but both are susceptible to their aging arms fading down the stretch. That leaves the Yankees young guns--Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova.
Comparing Hernandez and Pineda to the Yankees youngest arms can only make Yankees GM Brian Cashman cry.
Nova has held his own in his first season in the starting rotation, but has not shown the unbridled potential of a Pineda. And then there is Hughes.
Hughes was supposed to be the Yankees' wunderkind, but has been troubled by dead arm troubles. Hernandez is the same age as Hughes but it seems like the Mariner pitcher is Hughes' grandpa. Hernandez was nineteen when he broke in to the majors in 2005 and seems to have gotten better every year. Hughes was shuttled between the bullpen and limited innings during that same time and doesn't even come close to having the body of work his Seattle counterpart has.
Hernandez went 19-5 in 2009 and, even on last year's pitiful Mariners team, went 13-12 and picked up the Cy Young Award for his efforts.
Hughes seemed to be living up to his potential in 2010. He won 18 games last year, but struggled after the All-Star break. His troubles continued into 2011 and, unless he can regain his fastball, he is only a shell of what Hernandez is.
Hernandez signed a 5-year $78 million contract which keeps his talent in Seattle through 2014. Until then, Yankee fans can only dream about King Felix coming to the Bronx. On the bright side, he'll only be 28 and still in his prime.