The Santana Watch never stops.
Given that the Yankees will probably be asked to pay Santana a deal of at least six years and $150 million to convince him to stay, I’d be shocked if they seriously considered that trade. Because part of the equation for the Yankees or any other team, as they make decisions about a possible Santana deal, is this: Even beyond the question of swapping promising young players like Hughes and Cabrera and Jackson, how much money does it save them to have cheap players on their roster. How much will it cost them to replace a Cabrera or Jackson? Without Cabrera or Jackson, the Yankees might have to sign a veteran center fielder in their place in a year or two.
And it’s possible that within three or four years, as Santana gets older and Hughes progresses, that Hughes might become something close to what Santana will be then.
Three things of note here that I think require some explication.
First, as the Yankees have shown this off-season and in many off-seasons prior, money is no obstacle to this team. They have the highest attendance in the Majors and their own very lucrative sports entertainment network on TV. They enjoy millions of dollars in merchandise sales and have owners willing to pony up big bucks to put a marquee team on the field.
It is awfully sweet of Olney to worry about the Yanks’ financial plans. But the reality is that the Yanks can afford to make a deal like this, and in a few years, with the Scott Linebrink’s of this world making insane amounts of money, a contract for Santana could be a steal.
Second is the center field issue. Some commenters are already wondering if it’s a good idea to trade two center fielders, and I’d have to agree with that line of thinking. While Jackson basically has had just his breakout half-season at high A, his ceiling is, right now, much higher than Melky’s. But with regards to the center fielders, the Yanks are in a position of power.
The Twins just lost Torii Hunter and need a replacement. If the Yanks are willing to part with Melky, I think they could bargain the Twins down off that A-Jax perch. Remember, this is just the initial set of demands from the Twins. There could be a whole set of negotiations.
Finally, the pitching. Phil Hughes is a big price to pay. We don’t really know the answer to this, but how much more valuable are five years of cost-controlled Phil Hughes than six years of very expensive Johan Santana? By the end of the deal, we’re certainly looking at a position where Hughes is the better pitcher. I’m very reluctant to part with Hughes.
I still would not be too quick to pull the trigger on this deal. We know that Johan Santana wants to come to the Yanks; we know that he has a full no-trade clause. So if he were that dedicated to the Yanks, he could just tell the Twins that he’s not waiving his no-trade provisions. Then, he can just sign a deal with the Yanks after 2008. That part really just depends on what Santana wants now, but I like that scenario — as implausible as it may turn out to be — the best.