Heading down the home stretch, the Red Sox have a pitching staff built for October glory. The rotation is clicking at exactly the right time , the bullpen is deep and talented and everyone's ready for the postseason. Simply put, the Red Sox have a staff stacked like none other.
That almost wasn't the case.
Consider the rumor circulating a month and a half ago, in the wake of baseball's trading deadline — news broke in early August that the Red Sox had made a colossal offer to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for 23-year-old All-Star hurler Felix Hernandez.
Allegedly, here's the scoop. The Sox are said to have offered up a mammoth list of touted young prospects — Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Michael Bowden, Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone, Josh Reddick, Yamaico Navarro and Felix Doubront — and told the M's to pick any five of the above eight.
The result would have been a blockbuster of epic proportions. While the trade wouldn't have immediately propelled Seattle into the playoffs, it would have ensured the Mariners' pitching depth for years to come. In exchange for their depth, the Sox would have gotten some firepower at the top of the rotation. A questionable trade-off, but one can certainly see the merits.
It didn't happen. And with the Sox riding the success of Buchholz and Bard into October, it's hard for them to regret not pulling the trigger on this rumored deal. But the question lingers — is King Felix still up for grabs? What will it take to pry him away from Seattle this winter?
It's hard to put a price on the production that Felix has to offer. He's still only 23, and he's going strong at 15-5 for a middling Mariners team — he has a 2.52 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and 193 strikeouts in 207.1 innings. Along with Zack Greinke and Jon Lester, he's emerged as one of the premier young power pitchers in the American League. No doubt, the Sox would love to have him on their side.
He'd come relatively cheap, too. With 3.060 years of major league service under his belt coming into this season, Felix remains arbitration-eligible through 2010 and 2011. It'll be a long time before he hits the open market and demands top dollar. This year, he's making $3.8 million to pitch like an All-Star — he'll get a raise in the years to come, but likely a modest one. He's still young, and in baseball, that's how these things work.
Felix will be an affordable, young, dynamic budding superstar of a pitcher in 2010. And his home is at the moment unknown. The Mariners don't have the talent to contend against the Angels in the AL West, and it appears that they'd rather trade Felix now, while they can still get a boatload of young talent for him, rather than wait for him to become a free agent and skip town.
The only question is how big is the boatload. The Red Sox' "five of eight" package was a pipe dream — the chances of the M's actually landing an offer that big are next to none. Eventually, the Mariners will stop high-balling Felix' suitors and make a realistic offer. When they do, expect the Red Sox to pick up the phone.
Masterson is gone, traded to Cleveland for Victor Martinez. And Buchholz, just now starting to come into his own in the big leagues, is an underrated talent that could never command equal value. For the Red Sox, the best trading chips left are Bard, Bowden and Reddick. Perhaps those three could interest the Mariners in making a deal.
It's certainly not outside the realm of possibility. At the moment, the Red Sox are focused on 2009, with the chance of winning a title looming large. But this winter, the Sox will have some decisions to make in preparation for 2010. If one of those decisions is regarding King Felix, it could make for a very interesting offseason.