How Much Do You Really Want Felix?

The above table shows a projection of his value over the next 4 seasons. Hernandez has been worth about 6.5 wins each of the past two seasons, and there’s no reason he can’t match that and even eclipse it as he continues to mentally and physically mature. For the win values, I started with $5 million per win for 2011 and added $0.25 million to the win value each season for inflation, which is probably a little low but I’m trying to be conservative. Over the next four seasons, I’ve projected Hernandez to bring in a surplus value of $81 million, which leads us to our next question—what is that worth in terms of talent sent back.

For now, let’s stick to prospects. According to Victor Wang’s research, we have a decent idea of what prospects are worth. Jesus Montero would start the asking price, and as a top 10 hitting prospect, he would be worth $36.5 million, leaving the Yankees with $44.5 million more to fill. Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos come next at $16 million each, which after working some voodoo math leaves the Yankees with $12 million left to compensate the Mariners with. With one top 100 hitting or pitching prospect, the Yankees can get a deal done, which would mean Andrew Brackman or Austin Romine.

But what if you like those young pitchers and only want to give up one (one of them IS going), but you’re willing to fork over Gary Sanchez. Montero’s $36.5 million starts the bidding, and Sanchez reels in another $23.5 million to give the Mariners $60 million in value. The next $21 million comes from Banuelos or Betances (I’m guessing the Mariners demand Banuelos) and a decent prospect such as Brandon Laird.

Is Montero untouchable? Then it’s Sanchez (23), Banuelos (16), Betances (16), Brackman (12), and 2 lower-level prospects because I doubt the Mariners would want Sanchez and Romine.

Let’s say you don’t want to part with all those prospects and are willing to deal major-league players. Joba Chamberlain and Brett Gardner are really the only two the Mariners would be interested in, as Phil Hughes probably isn’t going anywhere as you probably aren’t trading a current starter when you need more starters.

From the above projections, Chamberlain is essentially a replacement for Betances or Banuelos, but considering some think Betances will be a reliever, let’s say Chamberlain slots in for Betances. As for Gardner, it depends on what kind of a player you think he is. Is he the upper-echelon player he was last year, then you need to look more toward the first chart (it has a + in it), which gives him a value near $65 million. If he is worth that, however, the Yankees may not want to trade him, and the Mariners may not want him if their goal is to accumulate several young players, which Gardner isn’t really anymore at the age of 27 going on 28. If you see him as the negative version, he still has significant value and can be substituted for Montero in most situations. Though if he is that, the Mariners may prefer Montero anyway. Essentially what I’m saying is that including Gardner doesn’t make much sense for the Mariners, though a Gardner (42), Banuelos (16), and Sanchez (23) deal hits right on $81 million of value.

King Felix is surely an attractive piece, and any team would want him. Even better, the Yankees have the talent to make a significant deal for him, which is good for its own reasons. The question, however, is whether or not the Yankees should give it up for him. In every scenario, the Yankees are losing 3-4 impact potential prospects and/or young players. While they are losing that, they are receiving one of the best pitchers in the game, but pitchers have significant injury risks and Hernandez has endured a lot of mileage already. Do you make the deal?

More importantly, do the Mariners make this deal? In return for their franchise player, they could get Montero (a man potentially without a position but a great DH, nonetheless), Banuelos (a promising pitcher but one that comes with the usual risks), Betances (see Banuelos but less promising), Sanchez (a great young catcher but one far away from the majors), and one of the Brackman/Chamberlain/Gardner groups that have their own advantages and disadvantages. They could use any combination of those players as they have plenty of holes, but if I’m the Mariners, I’m asking for the Montero/Sanchez/Banuelos/Laird swap to get maximum potential. They can afford to keep Felix, and there’s no real need to move him.

But if I’m the Yankees, that’s an awfully steep price when I’m not entirely sure I need Hernandez. If they wait until after next season, Hernandez starts to get expensive, and he loses $23.5 million, or Gary Sanchez, worth of value. Maybe they should wait to check back until then.

29 thoughts on “How Much Do You Really Want Felix?

  1. I would trade Montero, Baneulos, Betances, and Romine for Felix in a heartbeat, but I see very little likelihood the Mariners are willing to make that deal. For one, being in a 4 team division I don't think the idea of competing for a playoff spot is necessarily that far off (especially with the pretty good young players they already have in the organization), and if you're going to re-build a team around someone, you could do worse than the 25 year old who happens to be the best pitcher in the American League.

  2. Starting pitching is at a premium in this league, and depending on how Hughes and Garcia respond in the coming months, Hernandez may be a necessity. There's not alot of arms coming available, so this would be the best option for the Yankees. The thought of Felix throwing 8 innings and handing the ball to Rivera is friggin awesome, but I'd hate to throw away all that hot potential talent.

    • All your top prospects for 1 pitcher? Thank goodness YOU ARE NOT THE GM!!

      Felix is great granted, but like Johan Santana NOT WORTH THE FARM!!

      • the way i see it the Yanks have a two year window to win a couple more championships with the current cast of position players. Adding Felix Hernandez, arguably the best pitcher in all of baseball would make that a far easier task. As far as comparing him to Santana, he is a better pitcher and FIVE YEARS younger than he was when the mets acquired him.

  3. Pitcher A: 1285.1 IP, 122 ERA+, 23.8 bWAR
    Pitcher B: 1070.2 IP, 139 ERA+, 21.5 bWAR

    These are two pitchers, Age 20-24 seasons. One is Fernando Valenzuela (A). The other is King Felix (B). The link below is a list of Hall of Fame pitchers, who were major leaguers at age 24.… I'd say there may be reason for concern for injury, as very few of these men (all great pitchers) had as much mileage on their arms as King Felix does. Valenzuela seemed to be on this trajectory at 24. Rising star, had a strong age 25 season, but only was able to put together three full seasons from age 26-37 that were league average. (Ages 26, 28, and 36).

    I'm not trying to suggest King Felix will follow this career arc, but I think its at least informative given that the Yankees would have to essentially sell the farm to get him. If I'm Brian Cashman and I'm being asked to give up 5 of my top prospects, I want more than just this contract of him pitching at this level, but the next 5 years after that too. And there's just no way for anyone to guarantee something like that, especially with the health of pitchers.

    Now, if you want a better looking comparo, we can look at Pitcher C.
    972.2 IP, 107 ERA+, 14.4 bWAR

    Not quite as great, but hes a guy who we're all quite familiar with. C.C. Sabathia. If King Felix can produce the numbers CC has through this point in his career, Id say his employers (whomever they are) would be very very happy paying whatever he asks.

    • Great comment! And not only because you've agreed with my own thinking on this subject.

      The thing about CC is: the Yankees picked up CC at age 28. It may defy the common wisdom to say this, but by picking up CC at age 28, the Yankees had some assurance that his heavy pitching load from early in his career had not damaged his arm. That being said, trading for pitching is always risky. It is very hard to project the career of a pitcher.

    • I would advise you to follow this up with a list of 19-22 year old highly touted pitching prospects who never amounted to anything in the Major Leagues…but I'm sure there are other ways you'd like to spend the next month or so of your life that are much more productive and rewarding. ;)

      • Well, I did spend much of the LAST month doing something similar. I looked at every pitcher since 1971 who'd pitched 199 innings or more at age 21 or younger. That was much of the focus of my cited article.

        • If they pitched 199 innings or more I wouldn't really say they'd totally busted.

  4. The problem I have with this post is that while King Felix may, by calculations, be worth that much in terms of player value, the obvious goal of a GM trying to acquire him is to get him for as little in return as possible. When a team is looking to trade a potential Hall of Fame candidate in the prime (or just approaching the prime) of his career it's a distress sale. Yes, the Yankees may have to pay as high a price as you have calculated but, come on, that can't be the first offer. In a negotiation like this you always bid low and work up towards what you know is a more realistic price. You never know what the other guy will agree to to unless you try. All they can say is no and unless some other team is willing to trade off as many premium prospects right off the bat you're almost certain to get chance to improve your offer.

    One other point – even your "minus" valuation of Gardner is way, way too high.

    • Sure that's how negotiations work. But the Yankees can offer Romine straight-up to start, but that isn't bringing the price down. As of right now, Felix is "available" (most players can be had for a price), but the Mariners are only willing to listen if certain players are involved. I tried to tell who that probably is.

      As for my minus projection, he was still a 2 win player in 2009, and there's no reason not to project him around the same levels moving forward. He's had a slow start, but it's way before time to freak out about it.

      • I said the first offer should be a low ball one not an insult. Let's say they tell the Ms they can have Montero and Betances or Baneulos plus maybe Nova and a couple of B-list prospects. If they want Betances and Baneulos they get Romine or Sanchez instead of Montero. They may decline (depending on what other offers they have and how desperate they are) but you have to ask. If your first offer is the moon, the sun and the stars where do you go from there. There's no way you can improve your offer which they will expect you to do no matter how good your first one was.

        As for Gardner I'm not "freaking out". I never thought he was that good to begin with. I think he significantly outperformed his abilities last season and is now struggling to adjust to the adjustments the league has made against him. He's not as bad as he looks right now but neither is he as good as his numbers from last year.

        • I see what you mean. My point was to show what the Mariners would expect in a deal or what Felix's value to the Ms is. Yes, they may start with a Romine, Banuelos, Heathcott trade, but ultimately, the Ms should continue to ask for what they want no matter what the Yankees' first offer is. There's no reason at all to lower their demand. Sure, they may ask the Yankees to improve on Montero, Sanchez, and Banuelos, but the Yankees could also say take it or leave it. It can work both ways.

          Gardner may have outperformed his abilities last season, but due to his fielding and OBP, he's still a pretty good player no matter what. Best of all, he's still pretty cheap.

  5. This reminds me of the observation I made in 2009 about Matt Holliday; that he was overrated had become such an accepted premise in some circles that he actually started to become underrated. In this case, people have become so eager to point out that Felix *could* get hurt they're beginning to border on asserting that he *will* get seriously hurt at some point as though it's a certainty.

    In any event, if the likelihood of a pitcher staying healthy is what you want to base these decisions on that's not unreasonable, but with all due respect; you're out of your mind if you'd prefer to bet on Banuelos and Betances rather than Felix.

  6. Montero starts the discussion and Banuelos (he's the best Yankee pitching prospect) probably finishes it. The Mariners want a 'real catcher'? Send them Romine as well. The Yanks have scary depth at catcher, especially given the way Martin has played. I'm not guaranteeing he'll continue to succeed, but he could be very good for the Yanks for 4 years when Sanchez will surely be ready. Martin's success and age make Montero and Romine expendable.

    While people make a big deal about Montero lacking a position, he's a complete bat (aka Cabrera and Hamilton). That type of production alone brings him to elite status. Look at his stats, .425 BA with 1 HR and 3 2Bs. Sure that 1 HR in 42 ABs is not great, but you know he's going to smash, look what happened in the second half of last season. As for Banuelos, he looked like a left-handed Pedro in ST. Sure he has a lot to work on in terms of command, high walks, but he's 20 and can easily mature. Montero and Banuelos carry risk, but so does Hernandez.

    There really is no reason for the Mariners to trade Felix. He's cheap and is the guy you want to build a franchise around. Plus the Mariners are not the Padres, who had to trade AGon and could only secure blue chipper Casey Kelly. The Mets will be in a similar position with Reyes unless they are going to significantly increase payroll, which is unlikely. Because the Mariners don't have to trade their star, they can say no, unless it is a ridiculously high offer like Montero, Banuelos, Sanchez, Bettances and Brackman.

    • No way can you send Montero and Sanchez in the same deal. The Yankees "depth" at catcher is not as strong as you make it out. Posada will never catch again. Martin may turn into a pumpkin after a couple of turns around the league. Montero may be Mike Piazza but its also possible he may not last more than a season or two behind he plate leaving you with Romine who may or may not make it and Sanchez who is several years away. If you trade Montero and Romine and Martin gets hurt or doesn't produce where are you?

  7. Great Column.

    While I believe it premature to talk about Seattle trading Felix, anything is possible. I agree that it will take 4 or 5 of the Yankees top prospects to get the deal done. If they would take Montero, Banuelos, Sanchez, and a Laird type player, I would have to believe that the Yankees would jump at the offer. Remember just 10 months ago the Yankees were willing to trade Montero for 3 months of Cliff Lee, with no guarantee that he would resign (and we all know that he probably wouldn't have now). Montero will not be a catcher in the Big Leagues, which is where a lot of the value is when considering his bat. If he is just a DH, even an All-Star DH, he is not as valuable a prospect as he is being led on to be. I worked for the SWB Yankees from middle of '09 through all of '10 season. He is a great kid and I believe will hit in the Bigs, but DHs are easy to find, especially with the Yankees payroll.

  8. Being a Yankees fan, as I assume most of us are, we know that our goal is to win the World Series every year. There is absolutely no guarantees (Montero in mind will be at least above-average hitter)with any of the prospects mentioned in the "potential" trade and even less of a guarantee that the Yankees would be willing to wait to let them develop. It is a lot to give up, but being Brian Cashman, with the presure to always win now, this is a no-brainer for him, in my opinion.

  9. Yeah, when you do projections, it's hard to take injuries, etc. into account. I looked at his past performance, but I looked forward asking if that performance could be maintained or improved. In any case, when Seattle looks to get a package back, they aren't going to short themselves on value simply because he might get hurt. They project forward anticipating him remaining one of the game's best. The Yankees, however, need to be more realistic, but that doesn't mean the asking price is coming down.

  10. Isn't there a strong argument to be made that Felix is worth more than 81 million? The 5 million/win mark is just the avg. for major league free agents. The Yankees on the other hand are clearly willing to spend more than 5 mil for each marginal win, probably around 7-8 million. The cost to the Yankees of missing out on the playoffs is much worse than the avg. cost for most teams, so the Yankees value getting to the playoffs more, which is why they are willing to pay more than usual per marginal win.

    This also does not include the kind of value adding a Felix type would create in the playoffs. For these reasons it seems there's a strong argument to be made that Felix' value to the Yankees would probably be around 100 million or more.

    • Absolutely. I was just trying not to go overboard and have people yell at me that I was being too nice to Felix. The Mariners definitely could ask for the moon from the Yankees, and honestly, he's probably one of those players that has so much value that he's untradable, or at least should be, from either point of view.

      • That's understandable. But do you really think that Felix will produce 21 WAR from 2012-2014? Isn't this more of a best case scenario kind of thing? I guess the best way to explain this is a discrete distribution kind of thing:

        Say he has a 15% chance of providing zero value (injury), 35% chance of about 5 WAR (good season, maybe injury limits inning some), 35% of providing about 7 WAR, and 15% of providing 10 WAR (monster season). Our expected (mean) WAR using this distribution would be 5.7 WAR.

        • Here was my thinking. When projecting forward and looking at the trade, it should be looked at from the Mariners' point of view because they are in the position of strength, having the best player and not needing to move him. In that scenario, you pretty much need to assume he'll continue to at least be the guy he has been, which is about 7 wins. At least the Mariners should look for that. The Yankees wouldn't be in a good position here, and I would expect the Mariners to extract a huge ransom from whatever team they work with. If I was actually projecting his true talent-level, I would have looked at it a bit more like you did, but in this situation, I think it's more appropriate to look at it optimistically given the relative positions in the negotiation.

  11. If the Yankees trade their four top prospects this year for a King Felix, how will they manage to acquire the key piece they need to compete next year? The Yankees need players faster than they can draft and develop prospects. I personally think that the Yanks' success depends on successfully developing a percentage of their prospects.

    But if you want to focus on player acquisitions, consider that the Yanks have two ways to improve their team with players from the outside: trade their prospects for established stars, or buy the stars in free agency. The Yanks have a lot of cash with which to buy free agents, and a limited pool of prospects to trade. So long as the Yankees are the Yankees, they're going to make lots of money, finish near the top of the standings every year, and draft at the bottom of the board in those years where their draft choices are not lost as free agency compensation. This means that for the Yankees, top prospects are going to be at a premium. The Yankees will never develop prospects at the rate of, say, the Rays or the Royals. If the Yanks trade Banuelos, Betances, Montero and Sanchez, it could be five years or more before the team can develop a comparable set of prospects.

    • I kind of understand what you're saying, but I don't see why the Royals can draft and develop and the Yankees can't. I understand how trading and free-agency play into those players playing for the Yankees, but there's no reason why the Yankees can't draft and develop well, other than that they lose out on some first-round draft picks. If they lose out on those picks, they should use the left-over money to continue looking into Latin America, where they seem to be doing well.

  12. The entire point is moot. The M’s are NOT trading King Felix. Period! I know you are the Yankees’. But you do not have that kind of money….

    • The Yankees have Posada's 13mil coming off the books, Marte's 4 mil, Kei Igawa's 4 mil… that's Felix's salary next year right there with almost 2 mil left over (and the only hole those guys leave behind is a DH (and a spot on the DL and minors). Heck for King Felix, plug Jorge Vasquez in from the minors next year at DH and/or use it as a rotation to rest regulars. Or find a 1 year aging slugger contract.

      The Yankees would only be paying a prorated portion of the ~11mil Felix is making this year (it jumps to 19 then 20 in the next 2 years), so the issue would be jumping the salary by ~10mil this year… it's not like they have holes next year beyond DH (IF and OF are under contract, Martin has an arb year and the majority of the bullpen is signed. They would be missing possibly a spot in the rotation but if you have Felix/CC/AJ/Hughes?/ Nova they may only need a 6th starter type.

  13. All things considered, I'd rather try to make a move for Wandy Rodriguez. Yankees could use a left arm in the rotation.