Friday, December 28, 2007

Looking at the Current Santana Trade Possibilities

I've been analyzing the Twins for years, and I've been reasonably on the mark, including getting most excited about stealing Francisco Liriano in the AJP deal, decrying the possibility of non-tendering David Ortiz, and calling for Jacque Jones' to be dealt after his breakout 2002 season (it was a career year, I was positive). So since I think so much of myself, I feel it only right that I should evaluate, in a very cursory way, the various options the Twins have in dealing the best pitcher in baseball.

Today we hear again the Yankees have pulled their latest offer for Johan Santana. ESPN's report was that the Yankees had offered pitcher Philip Hughes, outfielder Melky Cabrera, pitching prospect Jeff Marquez and another prospect. I'm neither sure who the prospect was nor aware that was Marquez' first name, which, along with my lukewarm feeling about Melky, leads me to exclaim, "heh?". Who knows what to think of the permanency of this decision, but for now this leave the Red Sox and Mets as the only known suitors with offers on the table.

And while the Yankees offered was pulled, it doesn't mean talks can't continue, so I'll examine the current offers the Twins have, including that of the Yankees. What strikes me as I go out and read message boards and comments from articles (like that linked above) is that fans of the teams in the Santana sweepstakes are afraid of giving up their prospects as if they're undoubtedly going to be star players.

As some Twins fans here have mentioned, the prospects being offered up by various teams are just that, prospects. Realistically, unless you're watching a David Wright hit his way up to the Mets, there are hardly any "can't miss" prospects. To give up three "top" prospects is only a bad idea in the sense that a team doing so losing some trading chips. It's a no-brainer, otherwise, when talking Santana.

The Twins can afford Santana. It would have been tougher to do so had they signed Hunter, but they were smart there. Scoping out Santana deals is a move by the Twins to bring efficiency to their organization. Signing Santana is good, but are they better served by grabbing prospects (including a can't miss), immensely lowering payroll, and using that money to lock up young studs? Let's look at what's out there in trade, both in reality and in theory. We'll go team by team.

Red Sox: Ellsbury, Lowrie, Masterson, and prospect or Lester and Crisp in place of Ellsbury. While Ellsbury, Lowrie, Lester, and Crisp will be major leaguers, only Ellsbury and Lester have a chance to be real good, and neither has a chance to be a real star. Ellsbury should be good in a few years, but the Twins don't like dealing with Scott Boras. Lester is a 3 or 4, and the Twins are looking for someone with a 1 ceiling. I would rather sign Santana than do either configuration of this deal.

Yankees: Hughes, M. Cabrera, Marquez, and a prospect. The Twins like this better because they like Hughes. He's not a sure thing, and his motion induces thoughts of injury, but he does have a 1 or 2 upside, and we think he's nearly there now. Cabrera is a filler who won't hurt the Twins, but neither of the other prospects will sway the Twins unless the Yankees give up Jackson or Tabata or possibly Horne as the TBD. The Twins will do this, possibly. They will especially do this if Cano is thrown in there, though I'm not at all high on the 2B who's had the luxury of hacking in the middle of a star-studded lineup. And that's part of the problem with Melky, too. Personally, I think the Twins are just trying to get the best deal from the Yankees so that they can bring it to the other teams.

Mets: Gomez, Martinez, Pelfrey, Humber, Mulvey. If the Mets want Santana, they'd have to give up a package like this. I'm not sure they really want him, though. Frankly, none of these players is anywhere close to a sure thing to be at least average in the major leagues. They all have baseball defects, and only the Mets being in the NL and the mass quantity of bodies here would entice the Twins. Mets fans should wake up and support this type of deal, because their team can replace the worst two of the pitchers with average (or below) veterans, and Santana will be worth far more than the best pitcher and the OFers.

And now the team who might be under the radar:

Mariners: A. Jones, Morrow, Clement, Balentin. The Twins, assuming Santana would extend with Seattle, should do this, and they shouldn't care whether Balentin is involved. Jones is a star just waiting to happen, while Morrow and Clement show extreme promise. The Twins don't get the "ready" pitcher back here, but they don't with the Mets, either.

Angels: E. Santana, Wood, Willits. Not as good as the Mariners' package, but Santana can be special, Wood can be good and dangerous, and Willits would be filler. Weaver may be substituted for E. Santana. I expect the Angels to have secretly contacted the Twins, who are very discreet about these things, and told them they will top any offer.

Dodgers: Kemp, LaRoche, Billingsley/Kershaw. This would be equal or better the Mariners offer, but the Dodgers don't seem to be interested. If it's there, take it.

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