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A King’s Ransom? Report Details Sox’ Offer for Felix

08.03.09 at 1:19 pm ET
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According to Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, the Red Sox offered the Mariners a chance to choose five players from a group of the team’s eight top prospects as part of a package for pitcher Felix Hernandez. According to the report, the Sox made available a group of players that included right-handed pitchers Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Justin Masterson and Michael Bowden, as well as left-handers Nick Hagadone and Felix Doubront, shortstop Yamaico Navarro and outfielder Josh Reddick. Baker said that the Mariners declined that offer, and so the Sox tried to arrange a three-way deal that would include the Padres and send first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, Buchholz and other prospects, with the Padres receiving prospects from both the Red Sox and Mariners.

Baker said that Seattle ultimately pulled the plug on negotiations for a deal for a few reasons. By keeping the 23-year-old Hernandez, the organization can get a better sense for whether it will have a chance to sign him to a long-term deal to keep him in Seattle beyond 2011, the season after which he will become eligible for free agency. If the team decides that it cannot, and wants to move him either in the offseason or in the middle of next year, Seattle felt that a similar package would be available should they ever choose to deal Hernandez.

The pitcher, who is making $3.8 million this year, does not become eligible for free agency until 2011. Hernandez is 12-4 with a 2.78 ERA this year. He turned in one of the most dominant performances in Fenway Park history in 2007, a complete-game one-hitter in which he stole the thunder from Daisuke Matsuzaka’s Red Sox debut.

‘€œHe’s like an upgraded version of Dwight Gooden. Dwight Gooden made the big leagues at the age of 19 and he was dominant,’€ Mariners pitcher Miguel Batista said the day before that start. ‘€œHe’s showing not only the stuff. He’s showing aggressiveness, no fear, an approach that guys at a mature age do.

‘€œThat’s when you start thinking’€”can he be a phenomenon? Can he be a different era of baseball?’€ Batista continued. ‘€œHe’s going to be an ace of any team he goes to, unless he goes to a team with Johan Santana or Pedro Martinez in his best years. And then, they’re still going to have to flip a coin to see who’s going to start on (Opening) Day.’€

The appeal of Hernandez is fairly obvious. He is young, dominant and appears to be getting better, as each full season that he’s been a starter has shown a drop in ERA, from 4.52 in 2006 to 3.92 to 3.45 to 2.78 this year. With 51 career victories, Hernandez is one of just two pitchers this decade to reach 50 career wins by his age 23 season, joining CC Sabathia. (For the list of the 20 pitchers who have accomplished that high a wins total by age 23 since baseball integrated in 1947, click here.)

G.M. Theo Epstein did not specifically mention Hernandez in his conference call following the July 31 trade deadline, but speaking generally, he did talk about the Sox’ aggressive efforts to acquire an impact player. While the team did land Victor Martinez from the Indians in exchange for pitchers Hagadone, Masterson and Bryan Price, Epstein acknowledged that the team had been involved in talks for a potential blockbuster deal.

“In previous days we had some things working that we were really excited about, and a couple that got really close and then didn’€™t happen, but that’€™s par for the course in trade deadline season,” said Epstein. “I think we shot big on a couple things, deals that could provide maximum impact, and we were very aggressive in the use of our own prospects. Those deals got close but didn’€™t happen. Maybe a foundation was laid for the offseason. Who knows?

“But in the end, we wanted to make sure that we had a deal that we could come back [to] and make, a deal at a reasonable acquisition cost and for a player who provides impact in his own right, and we were able to do that today, so it went somewhat according to plan where we knew if we did shoot for something really big and ended up missing, we didn’€™t want it to affect our ability to make a useful move, and that’€™s how it went down.”

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, felix doubront, felix hernandez
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