Friday, February 1, 2008

The Fleecing of Minnesota

I can't say that I have a terribly large amount to offer on the Johan Santana resolution which has come about in the last few days. As a write this, word has just broken that the Mets and Santana have agreed on an extension, leaving only the physicals to deal with in completing the trade agreed to by the Mets and the Twins on Tuesday. There are no financial details at this moment, but current speculation places the deal at six years (beginning in 2009) with an AAV of $22 million.

Most experts and analysts, from Keith Law to Baseball America to Joe Sheehan, have come up with the same conclusion about the deal: The Mets made out like bandits in dealing away four above-average prospects for the best pitcher in the world. If the speculation about Santana's extension is true, it will be the biggest ever given to a starter. But based on how little the Mets gave Minnesota in this trade, $132 million is really the only price they have to pay for his services. Color me shocked if any of the prospects the Mets dealt wind up making the future CitiField faithful wish they'd never taken the chance on Santana. And if you're a Twins fan, that's undoubtedly the worst part about this entire thing.

Deolis Guerra, Carlos Gomez, Kevin Mulvey and Phil Humber were the second, third, fourth, and seventh-ranked prospects in the Mets' system, respectively, according to BA. In getting the best pitcher in the world, the Mets did not have to relinquish their best overall prospect (outfielder Fernando Martinez) or their best young pitcher (righty Mike Pelfrey). Some have come to the defense of rookie Twins GM Bill Smith, saying that his hands were tied and he was forced to make the trade due to Santana's wish for a resolution. All along I believed the Twins had to trade Santana, get the best possible package for him, and move on without allowing Santana to walk in free agency at the end of 2008. However, now, looking at what the Twins actually got, they really should have hung onto Santana, allowed their fanbase to rally around the club they had, and take the draft picks. I did not think it was possible to trade the best pitcher in the world and not receive at least one premium prospect in return. But the Twins did it. Unbelievable.

I know I said about a month ago that I really wanted the Red Sox to go ahead and make the Santana trade, but keeping him away from the Yankees was really the most important thing. When Theo Epstein found out Hank Steinbrenner didn't want to spend the money and Brian Cashman really wanted to give his young, cheap starters a chance in 2008 and beyond, that essentially sealed the results of the Santana sweepstakes. If the Red Sox really wanted to get Santana, they could have trounced any offer from the Mets. I firmly believe that the total value of the four prospects on their way to Minnesota does not equal the singular value of Jacoby Ellsbury. The Twins could have had Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie, and Justin Masterson one month ago had they played this whole thing correctly. I can't say that I'm upset the Red Sox didn't end up with Santana. It would have been nice, but not totally necessary, and in the end the Red Sox decided they'd spent enough time on the issue and simply didn't care enough to top what the Mets were offering. To still have the best team in baseball without needing to add the game's best pitcher is an awesome position to be in.

I feel very happy for the Mets and their fans. They endured one of the all-time collapses last September, and the feeling was GM Omar Minaya would swing something to lift the spirits of Mets Nation. I am not ready to anoint the Mets the best team in NL because of this, they still have issues in the rotation past Santana, their bullpen is kind of suspect and they are planning on trotting out Moises Alou and Ryan Church in their outfield corners. I think right now the Phillies are slightly better, the Rockies have done nothing to hurt their '08 chances and the Diamondbacks will have the best rotation. The Mets have certainly made themselves frontrunners in that conversation without having to disrupt the core of their 2008 team.

As for the Twins, they've entered a semi-rebuilding period. They will rely on the recovering Francisco Liriano and the inconsistent Boof Bonser to anchor their staff going forward. Before dealing Santana, they extended the contracts of Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau in addition to Joe Mauer's extension from last spring. They traded for Delmon Young, whom I believe can become the most dangerous hitter in the game in short order. But they've traded Santana for 20 cents on the dollar, let Torii Hunter hasten off to the land of Milk and Honey, and essentially assured that Joe Nathan will be pitching at a different address before the 2008 season ends. This is a helluva way to get a fanbase excited about their taxpayer-funded new stadium. At least they can look forward to being disappointed by Kevin Mulvey in a couple years.

One more note before I go. It was great to hear that the Red Sox signed Sean Casey to a one-year contract around $700K today. Casey will serve as the lefty bat off the bench the Sox had been looking for, spell Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, and Mike Lowell (with Youk shifting to third), and provide yet another positive voice in the clubhouse. It's hard for all the Red Sox haters out there to hate a team with Casey and Lowell, who happened to be #1 and #2 in the MLB Nice Guy Power Rankings. Casey loves Boston and wants badly to earn his first World Series ring. Now all the Red Sox have to do is figure out how they will resolve the outfield situation. Will Coco Crisp swallow his pride and accept his proper role as a reserve on this team, or will they ship him off to another team in need? We shall see.

Got the BA Handbook in the mail yesterday. 512 pages of pure awesomeness. Later.

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