Hot hypothetical: Trade for King Felix

What would it take for the Texas Rangers to pry Felix Hernandez away from the Seattle Mariners? AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

It’s the Hot Stove season and that means the odor of rumor, speculation and half-baked truths wafting around the baseball kitchen in addition to teams actually cooking up real deals.

In that spirit, let’s have some fun and look at a pie-in-the-sky trade scenario. Please note that this is just pure speculation, but it’s designed to get some discussion going and gives us a chance to play the what-if game.

Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik has gone out of his way to make it clear that he has no interest in trading ace Felix Hernandez.

But this Mariners team needs plenty of players and the Texas Rangers have the ability to give them some that could be in the organization for a long time.

So what if the Rangers could trade for King Felix?

To get him, Texas would likely have to overpay a bit. Why? Because fresh on the minds of Zduriencik and his staff is the Cliff Lee deal. The centerpiece of that trade was Justin Smoak and the Mariners are still waiting for the switch-hitting first baseman to blossom. He’ll get another shot in 2013, but if it doesn’t click then, you have to wonder how patient the Mariners will be. But right now, that Lee trade doesn’t look like a great one for the Mariners.

Hernandez is much more valuable than Lee was in 2010 because Hernandez still has two years left on his current contract. This is not a half-season rental. And for a team like the Rangers, the thinking would be they’d do everything they could to lock him up after those two seasons. Factor that in, along with a slight premium because it’s trading in the division, and this will take some aggressive maneuvering by the Rangers to entice Seattle.

That all starts with Jurickson Profar. I can’t see how a Hernandez happens without Profar. While Brendan Ryan is an excellent defender, the Mariners need to score more runs. Ryan didn’t help them do that in 2012, hitting .194 with three homers and 31 RBIs (in 407 at-bats). Slide Profar in and he could be the club’s shortstop for many years.

The Mariners could use a corner outfielder with some power. How about Nelson Cruz? He’s a free agent after the 2013 season, but with the fences coming in at Safeco Field (especially in that left-center field area), Cruz could provide an offensive boost. If the Mariners don’t see him as a long-term fit, they can walk away after a year. I’d even agree to pay some of his 2013 salary ($11 million) if needed.

Of course, if you take Hernandez away you’ve got to provide the Mariners with some pitching. My bet is they’d insist on something major-league ready and a solid prospect. That might mean parting with Derek Holland or Matt Harrison. If the Mariners want a pitcher under club control for a while, Holland would be a good pick. He’s got a club-friendly deal that pays him $26 million the next four seasons and then there are two club options for 2017 and 2018 that would require a total of $2.5 million of buyouts if they don’t take them. If they want a little more flexibility, Harrison is arbitration-eligible for two more seasons and then becomes a free agent.

As for the minors, maybe there’s a pitcher (or two) the Rangers could add to the deal. It might take Martin Perez or Justin Grimm. Cody Buckel could come up in discussions too.

To me, that’s the kind of package it would take for the Mariners to ponder trading King Felix. It’s a lot to give up. But this is Hernandez, the 2010 Cy Young Award winner. He’s a guy that has thrown at least 200 innings every year since 2008. He’s had an ERA of 3.47 or better in all of those seasons and has struck out at least 217 batters the past four years.

Can you imagine the 1-2 punch of Hernandez and Yu Darvish in the Rangers rotation the next few years?

Imagining is all it probably will be, assuming the Mariners are serious about keeping him. But if there was any chance to move them off that position, it would take a huge group of players headlined by Profar. Even then, I’m not sure the Mariners would make the deal.

What do you think? Is this package enough? Is it too much to give up for Hernandez? Give us your trade proposal to the Mariners for Hernandez.