Monday, February 04, 2008

Trade Recap: Twins, Mets

Twins receive: OF Carlos Gomez, SP Philip Humber, SP Kevin Mulvey, SP Deolis Guerra (Rating: 5/10)

Mets receive: SP Johan Santana (8)

Mets sign Santana to a six-year, $138 million extension (3)

A lot of people are surprised that this is "all the Twins got" for Johan. I find it very unlikely that they would have chosen this offer over a package of Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera just to get Santana out of the AL; the more likely possibility is that such an offer wasn't on the table.

The package isn't as big as the rumored deals with the Yankees or Red Sox, but in a vacuum, it's not a bad trade for the Twins. In exchange for one year of Santana and the compensation picks they would have received when he left next winter, they're getting 24 potential years of cost control out of four pretty good prospects. That's a good exchange; the question is whether they could have done better.

There is some strategic value to sending Santana out of the AL. Although I generally think teams care way too much about this, the Yankees and Red Sox are partial exceptions, since they are willing to go way over budget to build a winning team. If the Twins trade Santana to the Indians, that's $23 million less per year that the Tribe can put towards signing other players. But such a contract isn't likely to impede the Yankees or BoSox nearly as much.

I'm not that high on Gomez's future, but many respected scouts disagree, and I'm going to defer to them on this one. Lots of 21-year-olds struggle mightily in their first Major League experience. As for the pitchers, none of them can even strike out a batter per inning in the minors, which is a bad sign for their MLB potential, but they all come with good scouting reports as well. The Twins do have an excellent track record of acquiring pitching prospects and developing them into good Major League starters.

As for the Mets, acquiring Santana without giving up anything of value from their MLB roster was a very nice move that puts them way ahead in the NL Pennant race. The important thing is that the Mets--unlike the Mariners or White Sox--stood to benefit substantially from acquiring a big-name player. Nick Swisher takes the Pale Hose from 76 wins to 78; Santana brings the Mets from 89 to 94, which is huge not only for their chances of making the playoffs, but also their probability of winning once they get there.

I'm not a fan of the contract extension. It was a necessary evil, but just look at the other names on the list of richest contracts given to pitchers: Barry Zito, Mike Hampton, Kevin Brown. Yes, Santana is better now than those guys were at the time, but it's easy to conceive a scenario where Johan is getting paid $23 million to pitch 40 innings. That's a big pill to swallow.

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