Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Disastrous Trade Idea

The Yankees have been mentioned as players in the Johan Santana sweepstakes. MLB Trade Rumors suggests they may offer the Twins a package of Melky Cabrera, Chien-Ming Wang, and Ian Kennedy in exchange for the lefty ace.

This is the type of deal that could make sense for both clubs. Santana is a virtual lock to leave the Twins, so he has no value to them beyond 2008. Meanwhile, the team is in need of a cheap center fielder to replace the departing Torii Hunter, and could use affordable starting pitchers with Santana on his way out and lots of question marks in the rotation. The Yankees, with large cash reserves and in need of superstar talent, get the only ace on the market and the upper hand in signing him long-term.

That said, this deal is completely lopsided and the Yankees would be crazy to offer it. In exchange for one year of Santana's services, they give up four years of Wang, four years of Cabrera, and six years of Kennedy. Wang and Cabrera have established themselves as valuable major leaguers, and they will make less than a million dollars combined next year (versus the $20MM+ they would get on the open market). Kennedy isn't an elite prospect, but he should become a solid starter while earning the major league minimum through 2010.

(Side note: Does Melky have leprosy or something? The dude's been a league-average center fielder for two full seasons at ages 21 and 22. Maybe that's not good enough for the Yankees, but how many others have performed this well so many years before their peak? It's a short list.)

The difference between Wang and Santana next year should be in the neighborhood of three wins. The Yankees could probably use the $13 million difference in their salaries to buy three wins on the open market anyway. Why not do that, and save their young, cheap commodities? I thought The Boss wasn't running this team anymore.

As for the first crack at re-signing Santana: I love Johan, but the track record for mega-contract starting pitchers is pretty effin' brutal. He's unlikely to return positive value over the life of his next contract, so the value of exclusive negotiation rights is damn near zero and may actually be negative. Furthermore, Santana is quite likely to test the market even if he's traded.

I wonder how many times teams will deal three good young players for one year of a veteran before they realize it's* not worth it. Maybe the Yanks should throw in Robby Cano; I hear the Twins need a second baseman.

Many Yankee fans are up in arms over the "insulting" contract offer to Joe Torre, which was for twice what any other team will offer him. Maybe they should switch their focus to something that could actually damage the team's World Series hopes for years to come.

*-This refers to the first Big Unit trade; the D-Backs didn't give up any elite prospects in their deal.

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