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…
Update 4:17 p.m.: The Mets have acquired Johan Santana, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
Based on reports from sources close the teams, the Twins have accepted the Mets’ offer of Carlos Gomez, Kevin Mulvey, Deolis Guerra, and Phil Humber in exchange for the All Star lefty. The deal will be complete pending both a physical and a six- or seven-year contract for Santana. The Mets have a two- or three-day window during which they can negotiate.
At this point, I don’t really see this deal falling apart, and if Johan couldn’t land in the Bronx for the right price, seeing him in Queens instead of Boston is a huge positive.
Two well-connected baseball writers – Buster Olney and Jon Heyman – are reporting the same news on the Johan Santana front: The Twins have their final offers in hand, and the Yankees are not one of the suitors.
In keeping with a request from pitcher Johan Santana, the Twins have fielded offers from all interested parties by a mid-day Tuesday deadline, and Minnesota is expected to make a decision soon on whether to keep the left-hander or trade him, perhaps to the Mets — who appear to be strong front-runners — or the Red Sox, sources say.
The Yankees do not appear to be engaged in the Santana talks.
Santana, who completely controls his fate because of the full no-trade clause that he possesses, asked the Twins to make a decision, which is why Minnesota imposed the deadline for offers from the interested team.
Heyman notes that the Yanks informed the Twins that Minnesota could not have Phil Hughes, and the Twins don’t appear interested in other packages that the Yanks could potentially put together.
Meanwhile, despite the Santana-enforced deadline, a trade is not a forgone conclusion. If the Twins don’t like the Mets’ or Red Sox’s final offers, they could sit on Santana until the middle of Spring Training. Olney notes that myriad circumstances from injury to steroid distraction could present themselves to the contending teams that might make them up their offers. Either way, this story should peak this week.
For now, it looks like the Yanks are out of it. While we’re opposed to trading young pitchers away for Johan Santana, a lot of fans are on the fence about the deal. Only time will tell, of course, if the Yanks, showing rare restraint, made the right move here.
Whitey Ford – winner of the “He’s still alive?” Award – is getting ready to auction the farm. Over two days in July during the All Star Game festivities, Ford’s personal collection of baseball memorabilia will be auctioned off at the Javits Center. So if you want Whitey Ford’s Hall of Fame Induction Plaque, you know where to find it. Said Ford of his collection, “When your house starts getting full and your kids don’t have a place to sleep, it’s time to get rid of stuff.” · (8) ·
Just wanted to mention that I took part in a prospect roundtable over at my old stomping grounds, Pending Pinstripes. I find it pretty funny that I bashed on George Kontos in the roundtable, only to have him pop up as the lead story on Baseball America’s site. You planned this EJ, I know you did.
Thanks to gang over there for asking me to take part. · (7) ·
Well, he’s a media-hating, 35-year-old, mediocre middle reliever, says Emma Span at Eephus Pitch. While the virtual free agent trade involving Luis Vizcaino and LaTroy Hawkins netted the Yanks a draft pick, I’m not too optimistic about Hawkins. Maybe that new delivery really will work. · (21) ·
October 12, 1999 — For the first time since Bucky Dent carved himself a place in playoff lore, the Yankees and Red Sox are gearing up to meet in the postseason. Boston is all abuzz as the AL East Champions are playing host to the Wild Card team and defending World Champions from New York. While the Yankees finished with 98 wins this season, the Red Sox’s 104 victories were tops in the Majors, and the Yanks will have to hope that their superior pitching can overcome a power-packed Boston lineup.
Ironic in this meeting is one center fielder for the Red Sox, the former Yankee Bernie Williams. Williams, after becoming a Yankee mainstay, left the Bronx after the Yankees’ 125-win season last year. While the Yankees were prepared to offer Williams a five-year, $60-million contract, the star and his agent Scott Boras rejected that deal. They knew they could get more elsewhere and were tired of playing games with George Steinbrenner.
So now Williams will face off against his old team in Fenway. The Yanks — with their tempestuous twosome of Paul O’Neill and Albert Belle — look strong, but can they overcome the Red Sox?
* * *
We know that didn’t happen. Bernie Williams wasn’t on the Red Sox in 1999, and the Yankees were the AL East champs again.
But it was close. For a while in 1998, it looked like Bernie was Boston-bound, and if he had landed in Fenway, it’s not hard to imagine the Sox taking the division. Williams was the top offensive center fielder in the AL in 1999. His VORP that year — a measure of how much better he was than the next best available option — was 79.9. Darren Lewis, the Red Sox’s starting center fielder, pulled down a -24.8 VORP. That swing of 100 would have theoretically netted the Sox 10 more wins and a spot atop the AL East. It’s funny how history turns out.
“Bernie on the Red Sox?” you might say with a chuckle. “That never would have happened, right?” While it can be tough to see through Scott Boras’ hyperbole and fake seven-year offers, by all accounts in November of 1998, Bernie Williams nearly ended up in Fenway.
Bernie’s tale begins in 1997 when the Yankees were trying to extend their center fielder. They offered him a five-year deal worth just south of $40 million. As you could guess, they were laughed out of the room, and for a while, it seemed as though their offer and past contract snubs were insulting enough to convince Williams to cease negotiations entirely. Money and loyalty are powerful motivators.
Throughout November, Scott Boras and the Yankees engaged in their usual dance as reports of other deals surfaced. At various times, the Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Rockies and Red Sox all expressed interest in Williams. But by the end, it became a battle between rivals. The Yankees and the Red Sox squared off with a big x-factor waiting in the wings.
To the dismay of Yankee fans, that x-factor was none other than hotheaded slugger Albert Belle. As the Yankees and Bernie looked to finalize their looming divorce, a new marriage between the Yankees and Belle was on the horizon. While the Yanks were initially interested in Jim Edmonds, those talks fizzled, and at 32 years old, Belle was one of the most sought-after free agents of 1998. The hip condition that would end his career two seasons later was nowhere to be found, and his numbers and temper were fearsome.
When Williams rejected that five-year, $60-million deal, the Yankees turned their attention to Belle. When I left my apartment on Wednesday night, November 25, 1998, to attend a friend’s Thanksgiving Eve party, I believed that Bernie Williams’ tenure in the Bronx was over. The Yanks and Bernie, as Buster Olney had reported that morning, were nearing a final separation, and Bernie was about to land in Boston.
The Yankees however had an out: Scott Boras offered them one last chance to match the Red Sox’s supposed seven-year, $90-million deal. Bernie, it seemed, wasn’t as keen to get out of New York as earlier reports indicated. When I got home late that night, my dad had left me a note on the door: Bernie Williams signs with the Yanks for seven years and $87.5 million, it said. I was ecstatic. Somehow, the Yankees and Bernie were able to overcome their differences, and Bernie would remain a Yankee.
In the end, it was always tough to tell if Bernie was actually going to leave. Three columnists in The Times — Jack Curry, Harvey Araton and Buster Olney — all speculated that Boras used vague, half-serious offers to get the Yanks to ante up. By keeping the archrival Red Sox involved, Boras knew the Yanks would pay, and he won.
When the real 1999 ALCS dawned, the Yanks, led by Bernie, beat the Red Sox with their sad excuse for a center fielder. As we know, Bernie’s Yanks would go on to great success. While Bernie’s contract became something of an albatross by the end of it and Williams still seems to have a poor relationship with the Yankees, keeping Bernie out of Boston was a sage move.
David Cone, star of the best Yankee commercial ever, is back with the organization. According to Joel Sherman, Cone will join the YES Network, filling one of the two Yankee broadcast vacancies. Cone will serve as an in-game analyst and host of “Yankees on Deck.” · (14) ·
The Twins now say they would like an offer from the Yankees for Johan Santana in exchange for a package centered around Melky Cabrera and Phil Hughes. I think they’re a little bit late on this one. Rookie GM Bill Smith is about to learn what happens when you overplay your hand. No more Santana today after this unless, of course, a trade goes down. · (85) ·
Short and sweet because everyone knows where we stand on this topic. Let’s play connect the dots:
- The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that the Twins will probably trade Johan Santana within the next ten days.
- Buster Olney reports that Jon Lester is off the table.
- The Mets are beginning to think that maybe they are being used by the Twins.
- Meanwhile, Hank will only be so patient with the young pitchers.
So it seems that this saga will play itself out in the next 10 days. Somehow, I don’t think the Yanks are quite yet as out of it as we thought. Surprise.