Posted 01/30/2008 at 12:46 PM
Teams around the league must be saying to themselves “that’s all it took to get Johan Santana?” as they review the Twins/Mets trade for the superstar pitcher. The Mets didn’t have to give up their top pitching prospect nor their top hitting prospect and didn’t part with any current major league talent. If any team has a track record for finding gems in prospect trades it is the Twins, but the return for Santana should have been substantially more than the often cited successful trades made with Chuck Knoblach, A.J. Pierzynski, or Frank Viola.
The good news for Minnesota is that Santana is out of the American League, but that is better news for the Yankees and Red Sox, as well as the Tigers and Indians who will be the favorites in the AL Central. With Santana the Twins likely could have still competed in the American League with other key players locked up and a couple acquisitions that can help right away. This move appears to be preparing for making a run a few years down the line, perhaps coinciding with the new ballpark.
Minnesota still could be an intriguing team this season and making the playoffs is not impossible but obviously it will be a very tough road. Minnesota’s lineup will be as good as it has been in the recent era, the defense should be improved as well. Minnesota’s bullpen should remain among the better units in the AL, the big question is the starting pitching where there is very little experience nor proven performers. Francisco Liriano is a big question mark still, and the group of Boof Bonser, Kevin Slowey, Scott Baker, and Glen Perkins has not yet produced a consistent rotation member despite flashes of success. The potential is there for the Twins, but adding a Phil Hughes or Jon Lester to that mix would have been appealing. Carlos Gomez may be the center-fielder of the future but his bat is not as ready as Coco Crisp’s or Melky Cabrera’s, though his ultimate ceiling may be higher.
The Mets instantly become overwhelming favorites in the NL East and this move may be the perfect remedy for last season’s collapse. With the new stadium on the horizon, the Mets could steal a lot of thunder from the Yankees this season in New York. Santana is coming off a slightly down year (by his standards) but moving to a pitcher’s park and the National League should help his cause. Santana is still young enough to deliver another Cy Young caliber year. The Mets already feature a great lineup and replacing Tom Glavine with Santana at the top of the rotation is a huge upgrade.
In hindsight the Twins probably should have made a deal sooner. After the winter meetings both Boston and New York seemed capable of upping their offers and other teams were still lingering in the mix. The Twins didn’t count on Santana’s agent threatening to refuse any mid-season trades and the growing distraction was not something the Twins needed at spring training. Minnesota probably did the right thing to make the move, but they certainly gave away some value on a deal that was already going to be unequal.