The Twins finally pulled the trigger on a Johan Santana trade, sending him to the Mets for outfielder Carlos Gomez, Phil Humber, Deolis Guerra and Kevin Mulvey to Minnesota.
It's not a totally done deal because the Mets have a 72 hour window to sign Santana to a contract extension. While Santana wants a six- or seven-year deal at more than $20 million per year, the Mets likely will open the checkbook having come this far.
I argued last October that the Twins should sign Santana to an extension and make a run in 2008. Things have gone the opposite way.
A few thoughts on the trade:
* Don't call this a small market issue. The Twins could have signed him. Money wasn't an issue with the new stadium coming online in 2010. The Twins offered him a four-year, $80 million extension. He was looking for a seven-year, $140 million contract. But the Twins could have pushed hard to give him more dollars in a shorter deal. The could have offered a four-year, $100 million deal, for example. With an expected revenue boost of $25 million to $50 million per year with the new stadium, and payroll growing to $100 million or more, the Twins could have paid him. However, GM Bill Smith was on record saying he didn't like contracts of that length to pitchers.
* Where are the bats? The Minnesota farm system is devoid of hitting talent in the high minors. Getting only one hitter in this deal is a missed opportunity. The Twins will likely have to deal more pitching prospects for hitting down the road.
* It's hard at this point to really grade Bill Smith on this deal, because it's hard to know what hand he was dealt. Could Smith have even signed Santana to an extension? There were reports Santana didn't want to stay with the Twins. Did Santana and his agent force a deadline on the Twins by saying they wouldn't waive their no trade clause unless something happened by a certain date? It's also hard to know if the reported offers from the Yankees and Red Sox (especially Boston) were legit.
* If you are a Twins fan at least Santana went to the NL. In fact, I'd argue that the Twins wanted to trade Santana to a NL team so much that they'd take 75 percent of the same offer from an AL team. Unlike the Chuck Knoblauch trade, the Twins can be competitive to win the AL title in a few years. So there was a real reason not to give him to an AL rival.
* Joe Nathan, who's in the final year of his contract, has be traded at some point before August. The Twins aren't likely to be in the playoff hunt this season and it's not clear spending $10 million or so a year on a closer fits into their plans. He becomes a very risky pick in AL-only leagues as result.
* With Santana and Hunter gone, the Twins suddenly are far below last year's $75 million payroll (about $25 million by my calculations). Twins ownership usually gives the GM a budget (about 55 percent of revenue), but doesn't pressure him to go vastly under. So where do they spend this money? There are few free agents left. And next season they're going to face a similar gap, which could let them sign a free agent/trade for a veteran.
* Fantasy winners and losers in this deal? Santana's stats are only going to improve in the NL. Boof Bonser probably has more of a secure spot in the rotation. Carlos Gomez has a shot to start in center field on day one, but don't count out some time at Triple-A at just age 22.
* The Twins, and many analysts, keep talking about the Twins planning to have a competitive team when their ballpark opens in 2010. In fact, that always seems to be the plan for new ballparks. But shouldn't the plan be to have a competitive team before the park opens or after the honeymoon wears off? The Twins could be an AL dormat and they're still going to get great attendance the first few years. Better to go for it before the park opens and rebuild/re-tool those first few years. Go into the park with some momentum.
* What if the Mets can't strike a deal with Santana? It's still probably more of a possibility than you think. If Santana really wants a seven-year, $140 million deal, he simply has to just wait a year and pitch for the Twins. He'll get that money in the open market if he doesn't get hurt. It's a risk he could take. Then we're back to square one again.
* If you're a Twins fan and are mad about this deal, the real culprit here is former GM Terry Ryan. Last year at this time he had Santana, Torii Hunter, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau all asking for contract extensions. He knew he had money coming from a new stadium in 2010 to get the deals done. But he only signed Mauer. With the inflation in the game due to rising revenues, all those deals would look cheap today. Hunter may have been had for $15 million a year or less; Santana for $15 million a year for maybe less than six years; Morneau's deal certainly would be less than the one he just signed. Then Ryan compounded the problem by not trading Hunter or Carlos Silva at the All-Star break when the Twins were a long shot for the playoffs. He was a great GM, but left on a really bad streak of decisions.
* The Mets are the favorite in the NL if this goes through.
Posted by Peter Schoenke at 1/29/2008 10:35:00 PM