Twins Holding Out to Deal Prized Lefty
The Baseball Winter Meetings have come and gone and Johan Santana is still wearing a Minnesota Twins uniform. First, the Yankees looked to be right up there to obtain the two-time Cy Young Award winner along with the 2007 World Series champion Red Sox. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that Santana would be moved during the annual get-together of the baseball executives.
At break-up day on Thursday at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee, Minnesota general manager Bill Smith decided to wait for the deal that made the most sense for his ballclub and not trade Santana for a package that he did not deem worthy. "I thought it would have been done already," Santana's agent, Peter Greenberg, told reporters. "I think everybody did. I guess Bill [Smith] hasn't gotten what he feels is fair value." There was one player on each side as far as Boston and the Yankees were concerned that ended up being deal breakers.
The Red Sox package included lefthanded starter Jon Lester, outfielder Coco Crisp and two prospects. The Twins were reportedly interested in Jacoby Ellsbury, who took over for Crisp late in the season in centerfield and was a sparkplug in October en route to the title, and Boston GM Theo Epstein is said to be reluctant to part with him.
In the Bronx, Hank Steinbrenner publicly stated that the Yankees' three young guns - Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy - were untouchables, but later agreed to include Hughes in a deal that would net Santana. Also included was Melky Cabrera, who would step in for the departed Torii Hunter in center. Once Minnesota asked for Kennedy to be added, the Yankees balked, even at the risk of seeing the ace starter go to Boston.
One would figure that the time would be perfect for Mets' GM Omar Minaya to swoop in and help make up for the September collapse with a deal that would beat the others on the table. The one way he could do that would be to stop trying to push off his marginal prospects and young arms as 'can't-miss' players and make the possible blockbuster that Mets fans have been waiting for a reality.
The Twins are not going to budge on a combination of outfielders (either Carlos Gomez or Fernando Martinez) and pitchers (either Mike Pelfrey or Phillip Humber) and a few throw-ins currently toiling in the minor leagues. If Minaya were trying to acquire a number three starter, maybe those guys would get it done. Santana is perhaps the best pitcher in baseball and has been dominant in the heavy-hitting American League for a number of years.
If Minaya wants to slam dunk the deal from right under the Red Sox and Yankees' noses, he would include All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes in the deal, and still save one of the aforementioned players to keep or utilize in another deal. At this time, that does not seem likely to happen, according to what Minaya told reporters in Nashville.
"Jose is one of our core players, and we're not going to trade one of our core players."
Pretty adamant and it does not seem like Minaya will waver from that statement, which also referred to David Wright and Carlos Beltran. Perhaps he does not believe that Minnesota would start the season with Santana, who turned down a four-year, $80 million extension that started the whole process with trade offers. Waiting them out may be a good ploy, but can also come back to bite the Mets if Minnesota moves him elsewhere.
Hypothetically speaking, if the Mets were to acquire Santana for Reyes and then sign free agent shortstop David Eckstein, they would be a much stronger team than the one who disappeared when the division was all but locked up. An infielder is much easier to replace than finding an ace of the staff, and Eckstein, who has two World Series rings won with two different teams, is more than capable of taking over.
Any team that acquires Santana would look to have a 72-hour window to lock him up to a long-term extension. A stud such as he, who will only turn 29 in March, would be a coup for Minaya if brought to Flushing, with his 93-44, 4.55 ERA in his first eight big league seasons. A three-time AL All-Star who also won the Cy Young in 2004 and 2006 would more than justify trading an important piece like Reyes.
For the fans to put this past season behind them, Minaya needs to make a splash in the offseason, and it may hinge on this potential deal.