After Tuesday’s rookie showcase, Ichiro’s fading numbers, and the ever-growing King Felix following, it is becoming difficult to ignore one glaring question. In the aftermath of the crumbling 2011 season, who stays and who goes? With Mariners ownership tightly clenching the team wallet, it is clear that the M’s lineup will need to be sacrificed.
Many Mariners fans grimace at the thought of losing Ichiro. However, with his contract ending after the 2012 season, M’s brass must seriously explore their options. At 37, Ichiro isn’t getting any younger and his stats are beginning to reflect that. His OBP, .310, is listed at #12 on the Mariners roster. In the past, Area 51 has been used to justify Ichiro’s continuing residence in the #1 hole. However, with the growing fraternity of King’s Court, Area 51 is beginning to look more like a retirement home in a ghost town.
Last Friday, Dick Vitale tweeted, “King Felix Hernandez of Seattle will eventually be a Yankee – their theory ‘can’t beat him Buy him!’” So, is there any fact behind his fiction? Markedly, the Mariners do have a horrifying history of trading away great players for benchwarmers. A particularly devastating trade of Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek for Heathcliff Slocumb is the subject of many a fan’s reoccurring nightmares. More so, the growing list of ex-Mariners who have come back to present us with yet another loss is longer than Mike Carp’s last homerun. So, the nauseating thought that M’s brass would trade away Felix remains a possibility.
On the other hand, Mariner’s execs could go the other way. Trading youth for elderly maturity and star power could be the answer. Notably, Wandy Ramirez, Ivan Rodriguez, and Jim Thome are all listed as possible trade bait. Understandably, it may be difficult for the Mariners to resist the temptation to march our newly acquired parade of rookies out of the stadium doors.
In any case, the team purse strings are not likely to be released and, consequently, Mariners Nation will not be able to have their cake and eat it too. To be sure, this argument will be repeated many times over the offseason.