USAToday.com is reporting that the Twins have traded Johan Santana to the New York Mets for a package of prospects. Invariably, the details of this bleed out much more slowly, and the deal won’t be finalized until Santana and the Mets reach a contact agreement, but with the Mets payroll, there is no reason to believe that won’t happen.
The trade will be a nonsensical ending to what has been a nonsensical situation. Initial reports are that the deadline was self-imposed by Santana, which is particularly disappointing, because the Twins absolutely would have preferred to wait a few more days. The trade or non-trade of Eric Bedard was going to provide a shift that might have well have moved some teams in a different direction, so why trade Santana before we know how that affects the market? After waiting a couple of months, why not next week?
This is not the first time I’ve been confused during this mess, er, I mean, process. My paradigm of this situation must be completely skewed, because there are truly dozens of questions that I can’t answer. If we go over them, maybe we can find an explanation that makes sense. We can start with….
Why aren’t the Orioles trading Bedard to the Mets instead of the Mariners? And why weren’t the Mariners more interested in Santana?
Short of including Jose Reyes, the Mets have always been a TERRIBLE trading partner for the Twins. Their minor league system is a duplicate of the Twins, filled with mid-level pitching prospects who are almost ready for the majors, and hitting prospects who are several years away. The Mets can offer almost nothing that the Twins don’t already have.
The package that the Twins got from the Mets illustrates this. Carlos Gomez and pitchers Phil Humber and Kevin Mulvey are duplicates of half of a dozen pitchers in the Twins organization. Deolis Guerra might be special, but hasn’t made it anywhere near the upper levels of the minors. And it isn’t clear that Carlos Gomez, who headlines the package, is a significantly better prospect than Jason Pridie. He’s certainly not someone that Twins can count on before 2009.
The maddening par is that they would have been a GREAT trading partner for the Orioles. The Orioles are in full rebuilding mode. They might very well prefer some high-ceiling prospects that are a couple years away. God knows they need some starting pitching help, even if it’s just to plug the middle of their rotation. The Mets are a great fit for the Orioles. Why the hell aren’t they trading Bedard to them instead of to the Mariners?
For Twins fans, that would have be the best case scenario, because the Mariners have plenty of money to spend, and have exactly the kinds of prospects the Twins need. And they would desperately need a top flight pitcher to be any kind of threat to the Angels. They could practically be in the driver’s seat in the division (not to mention the playoffs) for the price of a AAA center fielder (Adam Jones) and a middle reliever last year (Brandon Morrow). How can they not make that deal?
Why weren’t the Cubs, Dodgers, Rockies, Phillies or Rangers in this thing?
These are teams who have a history of paying high salaries. And all of these teams could use even a decent starter, let alone an annual Cy Young contender. And all have some intriguing talent to offer back. So why didn’t we getting a sniff of rumors about them? Why haven’t we heard about Felix Pie headlining a trade from the Cubs, or Hank Blalock from the Rangers, or even some sort of salary swap with Pat Burrel from the Phillies?
The common response was that Santana would prefer to be with an “east coast” team, but was he going to turn down $140 million (before he needs to throw another pitch) because he wants to live a little closer to Florida? Really? Are Chicago and Texas so much further from his home? And why wouldn’t the Twins be trying to get the Dodgers and Rockies into a bidding war, since the Yankees and Red Sox seemed to be lost in a daze. Which brings us to maybe the best question….
What the hell are the Yankees thinking? (And for that matter, the Red Sox?)
I can kind of understand the Red Sox not getting carried away. After all, they’re coming off a world championship, so they put a couple of reasonable offers on the table. Plus, they figure they’re better situated than the Yankees to offer the offensive talent that the Twins need.
But I can’t understand the Yankees. They were clearly the second best team in their division last year. The other wild card teams, the Tigers and the Mariners, are trying like hell to improve their clubs. And they’re rotation is filled with injury histories, whether it be veterans like Mike Mussina and Andy Petitte, or rookies like Phil Hughes.
And the situation would have been damn near intolerable if the Red Sox got Santana, right? At the very least they would end up needing to face him in the playoffs. And let’s not forget facing him in the regular season as they try to stay ahead of the pumped up Tigers. Or the Mariners and their weak division. And they passed because they didn’t want add a pitching prospect (Ian Kennedy) whose ceiling tops out as a #2 starter to the deal? That’s like the Twins passing because they don’t want to add Kevin Slowey to a deal. It makes no sense.
SO WHAT WAS GOING ON??!!??
I know what I’ll hear from the fans of those respective teams – it’s all too much to give up for one year of Santana. Fiddlesticks. The Mets won’t get a year of Santana, they’ll be getting seven years of him, and they’re going include the prime years of the 28-year-old’s career. Eric Bedard would undoubtedly have been cheaper, but he also might be gone two years from now. Santana will be the defining star of that team into the middle of the next decade. And maybe of New York.
He’s too expensive? Wrong. Imagine his price tag if he had another top five Cy Young award finish this year. If you think an 8-year, $200 million contract is beyond imagination, you need to work on your imagination. And his salary for 2008 is just $13 million, or slightly more than the Mariners will be paying Carlos Silva.
Did those teams think they could just wait until next year? Maybe. But about eight teams were going to be waiting to throw money at Santana next year, and only one of them was going to get him. And now, of course, they won’t even get that chance. Instead they’ll all get to bat against him for the next seven years, of not during the regular season, then in October. How many will think they would rather have their couple of prospects than Santana in 2009?
Did teams think he was hurt? If he is, he certainly doesn’t seem to recognize it. SI.com is reporting that he turned down a $100 million extension from the Twins. That doesn’t exactly sound like a guy who is worried about his health.
Were teams just hoping that the Twins sign him? This isn’t a bad thought. Because the Red Sox and Yankees, the Mariners and Angels, and the Rockies and Dodgers, seem to be fine with the status quo. That’s also why the Twins threat to trade him to the Mets was so non-compelling. The only team that would really care about the Mets getting him is the Phils. In fact, if the Twins really wanted to Mets to offer up Fernando Martinez (and it wouldn’t have changed my disdain for this trade), they should have been floating rumors about a big deal with the Phillies.
It’s baffling. I had hoped that the “give us your best offer” was an attempt to get the Mariners to reconsider dealing with the Orioles and the insanity that is Peter Angelos. Or maybe to give the Orioles something to think about before they reject that trade. With Bedard off the market, the Mets would have practically no real options left, and the Angels might think about responding to the move by trading for Santana.
But that doesn’t answer most of the other questions, and sadly, one other thought does. I suspect that the Twins were more handcuffed by Santana than they were admitting, which is a scenario I feared a couple of months ago. Maybe Santana basically dictated that there were only three teams that he would accept a deal with. That those teams caught wind of that. And that it left the Twins with almost no leverage. And of course, it appears he ultimately forced a trade just before the Twins could really react to a positive shift in the market.
I’m looking forward to you theories. And even more to the answers we’ll get when this whole thing is over.