There are a lot of great points from both sides of the Hughes/Santana issue, and I expect the conversation will continue through the weekend (might we have to start a third overflow post??). Anyway, just to steer the conversation in a slightly different direction, I’m going to pose a hypothetical.

Stick, Cash, Opp, and Hank are sitting in the Tampa offices. They’ve already traded Melky and Hughes for Santana, and have signed Santana to an enormous extension. As a bonus, Andy Pettitte has announced that he will return, so the Yankees rotation looks as formidable on paper as any other in the league. The only problem that remains is a center fielder.

Two of the guys in the room want to stick with internal options. Damon can start the year there with Matsui in left, which would have the added benefit of allowing Jason Giambi to play as the everyday DH. That, according to Buster Olney, is the current thinking from a confident Yankee front office. However, as we all know, this plan might not fly. Damon still has plenty of range in center (personally, I trust him more than Melky for tracking flyballs), but he throws like a girl. Matsui’s arm isn’t as bad, but he’s not gunning out Curtis Granderson going from first to third on a single to left.

The other two guys in the room want to sign a free agent. They say that both Jones and Rowand have good range in center (don’t believe the hype regarding Jones’s supposed defensive decline; if he is declining, it’s not significant enough to fret over).

Somehow, the “sign a free agent” couple convinces one of the “internal options” guys to sign either Jones or Rowand. In fairness, the majority says to the sole “internal options” guy: “It’s your choice. Rowand or Jones?”

Which do you choose? Remember, this is inevitable. Carved in stone. Either Andruw or Aaron is guaranteed to be the Opening Day center fielder.

Me? I’m going Jones, and it isn’t even close. Jones is just four months older than Rowand, and has a far better track record. Jones has had two below-average years, and he socked 34 and 26 homers in those years, which is tremendous for a center fielder.

Rowand, on the other hand, has has only three years of over 500 plate appearances. Over the past four seasons, when he has been a regular, he has had two good seasons and two well below average seasons. He doesn’t draw a lot of walks, and he strikes out his share — once every 5.84 plate appearances, as opposed to once every 5.21 PA for Jones.

Now, Rowand isn’t going to get the five years and $90 million that the Angels gave to Torii Hunter. But he’s looking for somewhere between five years and $60 million and six years and $84 million. Jones is likely seeking six years and $108 million…same deal as Hunter, just with an added year, which makes sense considering Jones is nearly two years Hunter’s junior.

The overarching idea is that if you’re trading Hughes and Melky for Santana, you might as well go all in. Why half-ass a 2008 championship run?

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John Harper and Bill Madden are reporting that the Yanks are going to offer Phil Hughes in a package with Melky Cabrera and one other player to the Twins for Johan Santana.

After two days of internal discussions among front-office executives, the Yankees swallowed hard Friday and decided to offer Phil Hughes to the Twins as part of the trade package they hope will land them Johan Santana.

“We’re going for it,” was the way one club source put it…According to the club source, there was spirited internal debate in the organization via conference calls about whether to make Hughes available.

Among the prominent people on the calls were GM Brian Cashman in New York, and owner Hank Steinbrenner and superscout Gene Michael in Tampa. Though the club source wouldn’t say who needed to be convinced, it is no secret that Cashman has wanted to build the team around young, homegrown players, and saw the three pitchers as the centerpiece.

So if Cashman wanted to keep Hughes and Gene Michael as we knew wanted to trade him, I guess Hank could have been the deciding voice. My first reaction: Meet the new Boss, same as the old Boss.

At first glance, I’m not a huge fan of this deal, but the Yanks aren’t giving up anything else. Gene Michael was instrumental in building up the Yankee dynasty in the late 1990s. So maybe we should trust him. Or maybe we should all just jump off the nearest bridge. I’ll leave that one up to you.

We’ll find out over the next few hours, I’m sure, how this story progresses.

Update by Joe: Maybe Harper and Madden are hearing things, but mum’s the word from Hank:

“Anything said at this point, and I expect the other people in the organization to follow suit, you never know how it affects whatever, especially with other teams we’re dealing with,” Steinbrenner said. “It’s just no comment for now. At this point, until we get something done or don’t get something done on whatever we’re looking to do, it’s kind of as far as I’m concerned a lockdown now.”

I’m a psychiatrist. Believe me, I can be vague.

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The title says it all. In the name of all that is holy, please say no. If you could see me, I’m actually down on my knees typing this. Please, I’m begging you. Don’t do it.

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Available for sale at the shop.

It does go nicely with the fresh rosemary and white wine. But seriously, is anyone going to buy that? Can you break that out at a dinner party with a straight face?

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30 ranks Joba 5th

By in Minors. Tags: · Comments (22) · finished up its Minor League prospect rankings today, and Joba took the 5th spot. The Yanks ended up with three of the top 50 prospects, and Jose Tabata didn’t even make the list. Not bad for a team that didn’t have much of a farm system a few years ago.

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To be honest, this Johan Santana talk has gotten a little bit out of hand. Names and crazy deals are flying left and right, and the papers in Boston and New York are feeding this media frenzy like no other.

Luckily, a voice of reason is trying to speak out through this riotous din. For that glimpse of sanity, we turn to the Twins beat writer for [name of paper], LaVelle E. Neal III. In a piece on the Santana trade discussions , Neal urges everyone to take a step back. Not only is a trade still not even all that close, but more teams are involved than just the Yanks and Red Sox.

Blasphemy, I know, but take a look:

Several teams — including the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Angels and Dodgers — have expressed interest. And it was learned on Thursday that the Mariners are in the running, too…

Smith said the Twins could be one of the busier teams next week at the winter meetings in Nashville.

“We’re just looking for the best players we can get,” he said. “Obviously, we’d like to continue add core players at any position. We’ll see what the winter meetings bring, and what’s in the following months.”

So calm yourselves. As you can see, no one’s getting traded yet, and the Yanks aren’t about to do something stupidly drastic such as trading Robinson Cano with a package of players for a guy who’s going to pitch once every five days.

We should all really take a deep breath, back off the trade talk and keep things in perspective. The Yanks are not alone in the hunt for Santana; things are a long way from being settled; and nothing foolish is going down. (At least, nothing more foolish than trading Lastings Milledge for Brian Schneider and Ryan Church.)

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Mark Loretta signings asides, based on reports this morning, it sounds like the Yanks aren’t even considering trading Robinson Canó. Jack Curry at The Times writes that the latest trade offer includes “pitcher Ian Kennedy, center fielder Melky Cabrera and at least one minor league prospect, perhaps outfielder José Tabata.” The Yanks feel they could have Santana if they offered up Hughes, but they are rightfully reluctant to part with the youngster. Canó’s name is not at all mentioned. Just say no to trading Canó.

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Caught this one off a link from Buster Olney’s blog. Apparently, the Yanks are close to a deal with Mark Loretta. This comes in reference to the Rockies showing interest in the infielder:

However, the Rockies don’t like their chances, believing he will end up with the Yankees. While that deal is close, Loretta has made it known how much he likes the Rockies and would prefer to see how their second base situation plays out before signing with the Yankees.

According to Troy Renck, the Rockies have “as many as six internal candidates” for second base. They want to sign Loretta to add competition to the positional battle. This scares me.

Why? Because he’d have a far better shot at starting on the Rockies than he would the Yankees. Unless, of course, they planned to send Robinson Cano to the Twins in a Johan Santana deal. That would guarantee Loretta a starting job, or at least an unbiased competition with Wilson Betemit.

Of course, it could just be the money, and the Yankees are surely offering more. But with a full infield and Betemit as the backup, this report really makes one wonder if there’s something brewing at Yankees HQ.

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