Saturday, December 01, 2007

SANTA SANTANA or YO HO JOHAN

It’s December, so that means one thing: Christmas. Oh, and the Red Sox and Yankees are in heated competition for a player. So, fine, two things.

This time it’s Johan Santana who is the apple of the team’s collective eye. As the consensus best starting pitcher in baseball, Santana should be a no-brainer for the Twins to resign. If he wants to, he should be able to spend the rest of his career as a Twin.

But the ever-cheap Twins, owned by the richest man in Major League Baseball (no, not Alex Rodriguez), Carl Pohlad, are again looking to pass the dinner check to one of baseball’s big spenders when it comes time to pay up. Why a team with good attendance, tons of up-and-coming talent, and a great young core of players is looking to trade away their best player in the prime of his career is, sadly, rather simple. As a two-time Cy Young winner (should be three), Santana won’t settle for a hometown discount. Minimally, it will take about 5 years at $20 Million per year to sign Santana, but likely the price will be a good bit above that. I’ve heard as high as 5 years, $150 Million, but who knows.

Simply put, the Twins are too cheap to reward their best player with something close to his worth on the open market. So rather than wait for him to play out his contract (he’s a free agent after the ’08 season) they’re going to trade him. But they’re going to have to trade him to a team that can, 1) afford to extend his contract at market value, and 2) afford to give the Twins what they want in terms of prospects in return. That’s a massive undertaking, which is why the bidding is down to the Red Sox and the Yankees. The Angels, Mets, and Dodgers all have the money too, but are reportedly either pursuing other options (read: Miguel Cabrera) or don’t have the prospects to compete.

The Red Sox could get this deal done now if they really wanted to gut their farm system. The Twins seem to like the Red Sox prospects better than NY’s. But, fortunately, the Sox are holding off. The Yankees, drool dripping down their pock-marked twins, are having trouble not throwing everything in the pot, and may just hand Minnesota the keys to their farm system any moment now.

Answering the essential question, “Should the Red Sox trade a significant portion of their farm for Santana and then give him a huge contract?” is problematic. It is so because, despite published reports, it’s impossible to know exactly what the teams are offering for Santana, and what type of contract Santana would demand upon a trade.

Are Coco Crisp, Jed Lowrie, Michael Bowden, and Jon Lester and $150 Million too much to trade for six years of Johan Santana? Before answering, ask yourself how Santana would look as the Sox number two pitcher behind Josh Beckett and in front of Daisuke Matsuzaka, Curt Schilling, and Clay Buchholz.

But before answering that, answer this: how much better will Santana be than Jon Lester over the next six years? Undoubtedly Santana will out-pitch Lester, but by how much? Is the difference equivalent to the worth of Lowrie, Bowden, Crisp, plus the difference in their salaries over that period (we’ll say about $140M)?

It’s a tough decision to make. Jacoby Ellsbury makes Crisp expendable, and Bowden is good but has yet to pitch above AA ball. The road to stardom is littered with pitchers like him. (This isn’t to say that he won’t turn into a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher, but we have no way of knowing that now.) Lowrie looks like a good major leaguer who can play an adequate middle infield position. In other words, he looks like a valuable player, but unless the Sox can trade Julio Lugo and his ridiculous contract (signs point to ‘No’), and/or the Sox are going to trade Dustin Pedroia there doesn’t look to be much room for him.

The difference between Lester over the next six years and Santana over the next six years could be sizable, but it’s probably not worth the money plus the potential of the other players involved. Plus, Lester doesn’t figure to be a bad pitcher going forward. If he can get his control in hand a bit, he could be a legitimate #2 guy, and for a whole lot less money.

The Yankees on the other hand, now run by ‘70’s era George Steinbrenner buffoon/baboon Hank Steinbrenner, who shoots his mouth off to the press as if he’s trying to surpass his father’s former bluster, might just trade the farm. In fact, if Joba Chamberlain hadn’t come up and pitched in the majors last season, you might be hearing about how the Yankees would trade anyone under their control for Santana. They may yet do that anyway.

Personally, I say let NY have him. He’s a great pitcher, but I don’t think even he is worth the haul that Minnesota is asking for from Boston. Let the Yankees trade away their future for a chance to compete next season. Let NY pay Fruitbat and Dumbo (Rivera and Posada) $80M, Santana $150 Million, A-Rod, $300 Million. Let them blow their payroll past the $250M mark.

And then let them finish second again.

1 comment:

Nia said...

Good words.