THT round table: Johan Santana!by Bryan Tsao
January 30, 2008
New York Mets trade Carlos Gomez, Phil Humber, Deolis Guerra and Kevin Mulvey to the Minnesota Twins for Johan Santana; deal pending Santana signing a contract extension with the Mets.
Dave Studenmund: Wow! All I can say is, yes!
Seriously, as Mets' fan I'm ecstatic. I have a real soft spot for Gomez—I think he can be a star—and Guerra may be an ace pitcher, though he's a long way away from the majors. But Santana is absolutely a key fit for the Mets. I think it does make them the favorites in the East.
Matthew Carruth: The big winner of this deal is clearly the Mets. Lesser winners are the 13 other AL teams who get to avoid facing Santana as often from now on and we finally get major talent heading to the NL to hopefully balance out some of the disparity. Boston and New York seemed to handle this situation very delicately. It appeared that neither wanted to trade for Santana, but obviously didn't want the other to trade for him either. Notable potential loser: Baltimore as this is a somewhat underwhelming package for Santana and removes one of the bigger Erik Bedard suitors if they don't trade him to Seattle.
I cannot count the Twins as losers here because Santana forced their hand and they clearly did pretty much everything they could do to extract the biggest package from the three teams.
Bryan Tsao: I don't think you can let Twins general manager Bill Smith off the hook here. While it seems the Yankees and Red Sox weren't willing to deliver an acceptable package at this late date, I suspect that the Yankees' interest—and by extension Boston's—waned when potential replacement options in center field (guys like Torii Hunter or Mike Cameron) and in the back end of the rotation started to go off the market.
In the abstract it makes sense for a high payroll team like the Yankees to concentrate as much value as possible into as few roster spots as possible (roster spots being more scarce than money), in practice they would have needed to replace the rumored major league talent heading to the Twins for the move to make sense. Smith should have known that the deeper it got into the offseason, the less a deal would make sense to the Yankees.
The window to close a deal was clearly earlier in the offseason, and while Smith did a good job of drumming up interest, he didn't close. Instead, he clearly overplayed his hand here and got burned. He deserves some credit for cutting his losses and taking the best package possible, but his tenure as GM is not off to a promising start.
Chris Jaffe: I'm no expert (by any stretch on minor leaguers), but if that's the best they could do in a trade, they should've held onto him for another year and hoped he and a hopefully Fransisco Liriano could pitch the team into the postseason.
Winners: Vikings, Timberwolves, and the North Stars. I know the Stars moved to Dallas years ago, but it's that bad for the Twins.
Another winner? Possibly Willie Randolph. I noted in an article last year that managers who reign over historic meltdowns always get brought back the next year. But they are extremely likely to get fired shortly thereafter unless they do something spectacular, such as winning the pennant. (See, Alston, Walter, circa 1963). Next year, either the Mets will win rings, or the team will fire Randolph. The stakes are that high.
Another winner: the NL. This should help limit the gap in league quality. I know one player can only have a minimal impact on that, but Santana has as much impact as any one player can have.
Another winner: people who are fighting for revenue sharing. We could get into a nice little argument on the merits of that idea, but frankly it bores the living fark out of me. I do believe the choruses calling for it have gotten louder over the last decade, and the best AL pitcher going to NY (even if it's the other New York team) will lead to new cries for it.
Steve Treder: I fully agree with Chris: after all this time, this was the best deal the Twins could negotiate? If that’s the case, walk away with Santana still on your staff. Maybe closer to the trade deadline somebody would come back with a better offer, and if not, if the worst case is that he leaves as a free agent after the season, at least you get the draft picks.
This one’s a head-scratcher for the Twins, and a windfall for the Mets.
Craig Brown: Wow. I'm not a minor league/prospect guy, but I'm surprised the Twins didn't go for a package that included someone with that was more of a "sure thing." Especially with names like Ellsbury, Lester and Hughes being thrown around.
The Mets are now the favorites in the East, but I still like the pitching in the West way too much to favor the Mets for the whole enchilada.
The clear winner is the AL Central. No more worries about having to face Santana up to six times a year.
Chris Constancio: I'm surprised the Twins didn't go for a package that included someone with that was more of a "sure thing." Especially with names like Ellsbury, Lester and Hughes being thrown around.
I actually think Humber and Mulvey are "sure things". They both have moderate upside, but both also have major league stuff (low 90s fastballs and at least one above-average breaking pitch), solid control, and are nearly ready for the major leagues. I don't see why one or both couldn't evolve into a useful middle-of-rotation arm in another year or two.
Deolis Guerra and Carlos Gomez are each less of a sure thing, but both are very young and both have very good upside. Gomez was aggressively promoted to Triple-A in 2007, and the toolsy centerfielder held his own at the plate and improved his plate discipline until a hamate bone injury ended his season. There's plenty to like about his skillset, and in many ways he's similar to the much more hyped Jacoby Ellsbury in the Boston organization.
Guerra was the youngest player in full-season baseball in 2006, and he followed that up with a solid showing against much older competition in the Florida State League last year. He improved his control while increasing velocity on his fastball in 2007, and he probably is the Twins best prospect now. They could send the 18-year-old (he doesn't turn 19 in April) to Double-A this year, but they might keep him at Class A and just try to keep him healthy for a full season.
Richard Barbieri: I think the Mets are now definitely the favorites in the East, but I don't know about the NL. How Pedro and El Duque hold up into October will be a major factor. Santana is a great pitcher, but if the Mets were to run into Arizona they'd be facing Brandon Webb (who is nearly as great) and Dan Haren (who is probably a level below, but only just).
If the Mets are countering Webb/Haren/Doug Davis/Micah Owings rotation with say, Santana/John Maine/Oliver Perez/Mike Pelfrey, I know who I'm picking in a short series, and they won't be wearing orange and blue.
Matthew Carruth: Not to mention the (albeit unlikely) possibility of a Jake Peavy/Chris Young/Greg Maddux/Mark Prior rotation out of San Diego.
Chris Jaffe: Who know you also lost in this? The AL middle class. Last year only three teams in the AL had between 76-87 wins. Two were the A's (who have already dismantled) and the Twins.
John Beamer: Everyone has said everything—the Mets are clear winners. They have addressed their biggest weakness coming into the new season, and how.
A sneak peak at the THT projections without Santana suggests they were marginal favorites. With this deal this is no doubt.
Biggest losers? Baseball publishers with Season Preview books already on the presses! Fortunately that is not us.
Lisa Gray: Not so fast.
I remember a whole lot of deals where everyone insisted that a certain team was the "clear winner," and, um, things don't always turn out the way you plan.
So I would say that right now, the Mets appear to be the clear winners.
But this is baseball, and youneverknow...
Bryan Tsao is the editor of The Hardball Times website. He welcomes comments, questions, and suggestions for both himself and the site via email.