Alright. Let’s put this baby to bed. Barring a complete collapse of the contract negotiations between the Twins and Mets, this is it for RAB and Johan Santana. It’s been some ride, eh?
Anyway, with the Yankees’ missing out on landing Santana, disappointment has enveloped many Yankee bloggers. But we’re immune; the Yankees have Saved the Big 3! They’ve also saved $150 million. But we’ll get there. What is everyone else saying?
Mike Plugh at Canyon of Heroes thinks Bill Smith should be fired. Yankees Chick tends to agree, and Travis G. at New York Yankees Etc. feels that Smith overplayed his hand. Moshe Mandel at The Bronx Block believes that Smith got fleeced. These bloggers are upset because the Twins seemingly turned down or dallied to the point of no return with better offers on the table.
Meanwhile, in the comments to our Santana trade post, not at 106 and climbing, a lot of fans are upset because they feel that the Yankees could have outbid the Twins for Santana without giving up Phil Hughes, the Holy Grail of the trade demands. I don’t think so. Let’s look, one last time, at what happened since November. It’s not as clear cut as we all think.
1. The Twins wanted to trade Johan Santana, but…
We all know that the Twins wanted to trade Johan Santana. With one year left on his contract and no extension forthcoming — despite payouts to Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer — the Twins had to capitalize on Santana by getting back something. For some reason, they felt the need to trade him now before Spring Training or the trade deadline when teams would be more desperate and more willing to give up blue chip pieces to get Santana. Why the Twins acted so soon, we won’t know.
2a. The Red Sox weren’t all that interested
2b. The Yankees weren’t all that interested
David and Aziz at Pride of the Yankees speculate that the Yankees and Red Sox were just using each other to drive up the price. Neither of the AL East superpowers were too keen to give up their hard-earned farm-system spoils for Johan Santana, they speculate. I’ve heard from a few sources that this was more likely the truth than we all initially thought.
First, Boston. According to what I’ve heard, the Red Sox were never serious about trading Jon Lester, Clay Bucholz or Jacoby Ellsbury in a package for Santana. In fact, the offers on the table from the Sox were far below what the media were reporting each day. But unlike the Yankees and Hank Steinbrenner, the Red Sox kept a tight lip on the procedures.
Meanwhile, the Yankees laid their cards on the table but did so in a way to call the Twins’ bluff. The Good Doctor, writing on my post, explains this position:
Has it occured to anybody that neither the Yankees or the Red Sox really wanted Santana? I mean, at least at the price they would have to pay to get him. Did it occur that these two VERY savvy franchises ended up playing the Twins like a fiddle? Let’s face it, clearly the Red Sox and the Yankees both had the players to make the deal happen if they wanted to make it happen. Either team could have beaten the Mets offer without breaking a sweat if they really wanted to, but they didn’t.
The offers that they each reportedly made were disingenuous. First, Hank makes a tremendous offer (Hughes, Melky, etc.), but gives a ridiculous deadline by which the Twins have to accept it. He knew they wouldn’t/couldn’t accept the deadline. Meanwhile, it keeps the BoSox in the hunt, so they talk about Lester and Ellsbury, but that offer too is disingenuous. And in the end, they were reported to have taken the best parts of their reported offers off the table.
The Yankees only wanted to keep Santana out of Boston and the Red Sox wanted to make sure he didn’t go to the Bronx and the only way either one was actually going to pull the trigger on the deal was if the other was really, truly, honestly about to make a real deal for Santana. Neither team wanted him at the price they’d have to pay.
And why didn’t either of those teams want Santana? Because, as we’ve said and The Good Doctor put it, “Both would have given up big time MLB ready, INEXPENSIVE, young players to land Santana, then turn around and pay him $20 – 25 mil a year.” These two teams are not about to add another $25 million a year for seven years. It didn’t work with Kevin Brown or Mike Hampton, and it’s not working out for Barry Zito. Seven-year contracts for pitchers are not sound investments, and there’s no way that Santana’s performance over the course of the contract would have justified the lost pieces and money.
Meanwhile, it seems as though blustery Hank really did know what he was doing after all. Funny how that happens.
3. Bill Smith did not overplay his hand
Smith, an inexperienced GM but a veteran baseball guy with a strong background in talent evaluation, knew what he could get and when. If he ever really thought he could do better than what he got, he would have pulled the trigger sooner. The breaking point came today when Johan Santana basically asked for a resolution. I’m sure the Red Sox and Yankees both said to Smith that their offers would not improve in March or in July.
4. The Twins were not too keen on moving Santana to another AL team
As Casper points out in the comments to this post, it’s quite likely that the Twins did not want to see Santana in the AL. The Twins have a good a shot as any to rebuild into a playoff team before the end of Santana’s eventual contract extension. Why handicap your team by setting up another with your erstwhile ace? Whether or not this consideration led to a sound baseball move is open for debate.
5. Evaluating this non-move won’t happen overnight
For the Yankees to tell whether or not they “lost” out on this non-trade, we’ll have to wait, oh, about six or seven years. Right now, Johan Santana is probably the de facto front runner from NL Cy Young. He’s switching leagues and landing in another pitcher’s park. He’ll get to face the Nationals and Marlins more than a few times as well as the Number 9 slot in the NL batting orders. He’s got it made, and the Mets probably just punched their ticket to at least the NLCS.
Meanwhile, Johan Santana in 2008 will be better than Phil Hughes, barring injury or some sort of miracle. But that’s just year one. When Santana’s making $20 million at the age of 34, and Hughes is outpitching him for less money, we’ll see who’s come out ahead.
Yankee fans are fickle, and the temptation now is to say that the Yanks lost out big. But for once, we’ll have to do what the Yankees did and remain patient with the young kids. They’ll deliver.
Sixteen days until pitchers and catchers…