Santana trade isn't a given
posted: Saturday, November 24, 2007 | Feedback | Print Entry
The Johan Santana sweepstakes are about to begin, writes Kat O'Brien. In a report earlier in the week, there was mention that the Twins had offered a five-year, $93 million deal, and that Santana might be looking for something in the Barry Zito range -- an inference to the seven-year, $126 million dollar deal that Zito got from San Francisco last winter.
Heard from a well-placed source that the Twins' offer was four years and $80 million, and in fact, Barry Zito money is significantly less than what Santana may be looking for. In fact, Santana may open contract discussions for something in the range of six years and $150 million, beginning with the 2009 season (the left-hander is under contract for $13.25 million for next season). This will make it extraordinarily difficult for the Twins to trade the left-hander, because of the dynamics that are in play:
1. Santana has a no-trade clause, which means that he can decline any deal unless the team making the swap for him agrees to give him what he wants -- and he is in position to ask for a deal that will redefine the ceiling of what pitchers are paid.
Say that the Red Sox arranged for the framework of a trade with the Twins. Santana would use the no-trade clause as leverage to ask the Red Sox (or any other team) for the record-setting deal, and he would be in position to effectively name his price. He could say, Pay me what I want, or else I'll kill the deal and just wait for free agency. And remember how remarkable a salary of $25 million would be -- Santana would be the first pitcher ever to receive a multiyear deal worth at least $20 million, and his deal would go far beyond that, by about 25 percent. "Do you know how much it would cost to insure a deal like that?" an executive with another team asked rhetorically.
2. Because of Santana's apparent salary requirements, any team looking to trade for the left-hander would not only be asked to give up a boatload of prospects -- including at least one or two of their very best prospects -- but then also pay him a record-setting contract.
If you are the Red Sox, should you be willing to trade Clay Buchholz and/or Jon Lester and/or Jacoby Ellsbury -- and then throw in a $150 million contract extension? Or would you rather just take your chances and wait to bid on Santana if he becomes available next fall? If you are the Yankees, should you offer Phil Hughes and others now and then give Santana the biggest pitcher contract ever, or should you wait?
3. Lest there be any doubt, there will be a team willing to give up prospects in a Santana deal. The Mets, for instance, might be very aggressive and agree to give up a package of players while knowing how much they might have to pay the left-hander. But then the Twins will have to ask themselves, before agreeing -- are we getting enough in return?
Say the Mets offered outfielder Lastings Milledge and pitchers Mike Pelfrey, Phil Humber and Joe Smith. Billy Smith, Minnesota's new general manager, is in his first year, and if he trades Santana, the deal will go a long way toward shaping his legacy, and perhaps his future. A Santana deal would also go a long way toward determining the relationship between the Twins and their fan base in the immediate future -- a fan base that is paying for the ballpark being built for the Twins. Would a package of Milledge, Humber and Pelfrey be enough, when weighed against the backlash that Smith and the organization will feel if they trade the planet's best pitcher? Is any deal enough?
Smith will have to ask himself: Would it be better to hang on to Santana for 2008 and hope that he and Francisco Liriano lead the Twins back into the pennant race next season? The Twins could always revisit trade talks next July, if the team is falling out of the race.
Smith will have to ask himself this: Might it be better for the Twins, as an organization, to keep Santana through next year and then settle for two compensation draft picks when he leaves as a free agent? Because the cost to the organization, in fan-base goodwill and ticket-sale backlash, might be greater than the difference in the value of a Santana trade now and the value of two draft picks. The safer play for the Twins, in how they are perceived by Twins fans, might be to let Santana walk away on his own, rather than put him on a platter and hand him to the Yankees or the Red Sox or some big-market team.
Given all the factors that have to be considered, it may be very hard for Smith to agree to a trade and for any interested team to finish the deal. We'll see.
The Twins are determined to not let Santana go free, writes Joe Christensen -- meaning that a trade could be in order.
Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury should be untouchables for the Red Sox in any Santana deal, writes Steve Buckley.
The departure of Torii Hunter signals a move in the wrong direction, writes Tom Powers.