Thursday, January 10, 2008


In his excellent blog on Monday, the internet's Aaron Gleeman went through a semi-thorough explication of the Red Sox and Yankees reported offers to the Twins for Johan Santana and provides his always well reasoned opinion in terms of which deal would be better for Minnesota. (Spoiler alert: NY's offer is better.)

Its a very interesting and well-written piece, which isn't surprising for Gleeman. Probably like many baseball bloggers, reading Gleeman's stuff was an inspiration of sorts for starting this blog. And while I intended that as a compliment, now that I re-read it, I'm not so sure it really is.

In any case, Gleeman consistently does a great job, and if you don't read him on a regular basis then you are missing out. As for his post, while I agree with his analysis, I think he undersells some of the Red Sox lesser prospects who are reported to be included in the deal, Jed Lowrie in particular. I wouldn't mind seeing Lowrie play shortstop for the Sox next season, though with Julio Lugo's increasingly-terrible-by-the-moment-contract that isn't likely to happen.

The truth of the matter to me comes down to how the Twins value the different players, what the state of their farm system is at the moment and what their plans are for the next three to four years, when they would cheaply control most of the players they would acquire in trade. For example, if the Twins think they will be able to compete in their division in two years, getting a single great prospect (Hughes) could be the best way to go. A single great player can push a contending team into the playoffs. However, if they think they have many holes to fill, they could be better off getting multiple above average and average major league regulars, which it seems to me is what the Red Sox deal is about.

One thing that Gleeman nails is that most prospect evaluators regard Hughes as one of, if not the best, starting pitching prospect in baseball. Thats a hard chip to beat, whether you have a hole the size of Lake Minnetonka in center field or not. While Hughes is the one with the highest upside, conversely, its the Red Sox offer, not New York's, that taken as a whole has the higher upside.

I discussed the Red Sox players a number of posts ago, and unlike the players the Yankees have offered, each player the Red Sox have offered has the potential to end up as an above average major league regular. Of course, like the Yankees package, that probably won't happen simply due to general attrition. Lets compare. I'll skip the Lester version of the Red Sox offer simply because Gleeman does.

Phil Hughes vs. Jacoby Ellsbury- Hughes is obviously the one uber-prospect here, but thats not to say that Ellsbury doesn't have star potential. He simply doesn't have the high ceiling that Hughes does, and of course, he doesn't have the burn-out or injury potential either.

Melky Cabrera vs. Jed Lowrie-Cabrera has a lower ceiling, and in a few years he may not even be a major league regular. His body type isn't one that you often see patrolling centerfield, and though he provides good defense now, that will change once his speed starts to go a bit and he doesn't have speed to lose. He'll likely end up in an outfield corner and that means that his bat will have to carry him, and there is serious doubt about his ability to hit enough to warrant playing him somewhere besides center field.

Lowrie could be a starting shortstop in the bigs, but more ideally he'd be second baseman. Still, he gets on base very well generally (a skill the Twins badly need) and better than any player mentioned in either deal, and has some projectable power. Unlike Cabrera, Lowrie will likely stay at an up the middle defensive position, and that has some serious value.

Justin Masterson vs. 'a pair of mid-level prospects-Masterson is a hard sinkerball pitcher who projects as a good set-up man in the bigs. Its unclear which 'mid-level prospects' NY would include in the deal, but its hard to give faceless prospects the lead over someone specific (and good).

Looking at the best case scenario for each player isn't particularly realistic, but its difficult to get a fair handle on exactly what each player will be. From what I've gathered, Hughes could be a #1 or #2 starter, and has ace potential. Ellsbury will likely be a starting center fielder who could make an all-star game or two. Cabrera is likely an average outfielder who will move to a corner in a few years. Lowrie is likely a starting up-the-middle infielder in a year or so who, like Ellsbury, won't be the best at his position (like Hughes could be) but should be comfortably above average.

After that, its tough to say because all the other potential additions are too far away from the major leagues to know. At that point you probably just look at projectability, and Masterson ranks higher than anyone the Yankees have reportedly offered. Now, if the Yankees are offering Ian Kennedy, then the discussion changes, but I'm assuming, like Gleeman, that Kennedy isn't on the table.

Despite all of that, Gleeman makes the salient point that the team that gets the best player wins the deal. If you accept that as fact then you are starting from a losing position when trading the consensus best starting pitcher in baseball in Santana. The only thing that remains is to get the best players that best fit what the team is trying to do and fill holes in your major league roster and minor league system. Otherwise you end up like Arizona did when they accepted what ended up being a bunch of junk for Curt Schilling.


With today's news that the Mets are getting back into the deal, the above could be rendered useless. It seems that asside from Hank Steinbrenner, every other participant in this two month long soap opera would rather that Santana end up with the Mets. The Red Sox don't seem too jazzed about giving up prospects and meeting Santana's contract demands, though they will to thwart the Yankees; the Yankees GM, and the lesser Steinbrenner brother seem to be in that same boat. The Mets would love to get him for obvious reasons, and the Twins would rather he end up in the National League so they don't have to face him all the time.

So, if the Mets can put together an offer that compares evenly with what is on the table now, I would expect that Santana will be wearing the light blue and orange come Spring Training.

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