Twins’ demands for Santana coming into view

Ken Rosenthal reports on what the Twins expect will be the opening bids for Johan Santana. According to Rosenthal, the Twins want one bona fide Major League star and multiple prospects while Santana will expect a seven-year, $140 million contract.

Wow. That’s a fairly demanding package.

Basically, Rosenthal reports, the Twins want the equivalent of a Robinson Cano or Jose Reyes as a starting point. After that, a package of top prospects should seal the deal with the Twins. At that point, the Twins will grant their trading partner a few days to negotiate a lucrative and ludicrous contract with Santana.

Considering the demands, Santana’s age and his recent trends, I would pass if I were the Yankees. It’s hard to believe that Santana would be more valuable to the team than Robinson Cano along with the prospects the Twins will demand. If the Mets or Red Sox want to saddle themselves with this seven-year deal while literally giving up the farm for Santana, let them. I’ll take my chances with Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy and the rest of the Yankee arms who have yet to the reach the Majors.

Joe Kennedy, 28, passes away

Blue Jays pitcher Joe Kennedy died earlier this morning at his home in Florida. Ken Rosenthal speculates that the young lefty died from a sudden heart attack or brain aneurysm. This tragic death gives us just one more reason to be thankful that Shelley Duncan, after suffering a blood clot in his arm, is okay and will be healthy enough for spring training. Our thoughts go out to Kennedy and his family.

Filling the pen just got more expensive

As we all know too well, one of the glaring holes the Yanks have to fill this season is the bullpen. The revolving door circus of the pen has had a tough time reaching Rivera of late. Sadly, it just got more expensive for the Yanks to sign Major League relievers with any semblance of past success because the White Sox are going to give mediocre reliever Scott Linebrink a four-year, $19-million contract. At this point, the Yanks are better off with their internal options — Ohlendorf, Sanchez, Ramirez, etc. — than with any of these Farnsworth-lite contracts sub-par relievers are now going to get this winter.

A look at the Rule V draft

The Rule V draft is one of baseball’s bastard children; the lesbian sister of the Rule IV draft (more commonly known as June’s first-year player draft). Even though it’s an avenue not many teams choose to travel, several big time players have been Rule V draftees. You probably know by now that Johan Santana and Dan Uggla were Rule V selections, but did you know that Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente and Christy Mathewson were Rule V’ers as well? One-time great Yankee John Wetteland is another Rule V alumni.

For the most part the rules are simple: if a player is signed at the age of 19 or older, spends four or more years in the minors and isn’t on the 40-man roster, he’s eligible for the Rule V draft. The same is true for players signed at age 18 or younger, except that they get to spend five years in the minors before having to be added to the 40-man. For years the criteria was three and four years, respectively, but the latest CBA stretched that out a bit, allowing teams to keep their best young prospects off the 40-man a little longer, thus sapping the Rule V talent pool. For all intents and purposes, high school draftees from 2003 and college draftees from 2004 are up for this year’s Rule V draft if they’re not on the 40-man.

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Putting together a trade proposal

Let’s enter the Neighborhood of Make-Believe for a minute, and play a game.

You are a General Manager of a baseball club. It’s your job to field a competitive team within the limits of a budget set by the team’s owner. Using a combination of internally developed players and free agents, you have to build a team each year knowing that, as the seasons tick by, the players that came up through your system will be one step closer to free agency. If you run a mid-market team and happen to land a superstar player through an international signing or a draft pick, you know this player will cash with one of the major market teams when free agency arrives.

So as this player — whether it’s a Johan Santana, a Miguel Cabrera or an Albert Pujols type — gets closer to the end of his contract, you have three choices. You can let him play out the contract and gain a draft pick when this Type A free agent signs somewhere else. You can offer him a contract extension and hope he takes a reasonable offer to stay with his team like Albert Pujols has seemingly done. Or you can try to trade him for the appropriate package as free agency nears.

Now just about every Major League general manager would rather not trade a player that he would probably consider to be the face of a franchise. Why would the Twins want to trade Johan Santana when his mere presence gives the team and their fans hope for a good year and puts fans in the seats?

The answer to that question opens the door to discussions of trade proposals. A General Manager would opt to trade a player like Johan Santana if he can get back star young players who will be under contract to that team for the foreseeable future and will perform well above league average.

Over the last few days, as we’ve discussed Johan Santana and the trade possibilities, I’ve read a lot of proposals. They range from deals including star pitching prospects with decent Major League talent to deals where the Yanks or Red Sox would throw in a lot of spare parts and some younger players who may be good but haven’t been lately. As we move ahead this winter, the former proposals are realistic; the latter are simply wishful thinking on the part of fans looking for a steal of a deal that won’t happen.

If you’re a GM, imagine how you would justify trading Johan Santana for a slew of sub-par prospects. Four B-rated prospects don’t equal that sure-fire ace. While some Boston fans are offering up Coco Crisp and Julian Tavares, and Yankee fans are throwing in Shelley Duncan and Wilson Betemit as starting points, those are unrealistic propsoals.

To get a Johan Santana, an interested team would have to give up a lot. Trade proposals should start with names like Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buccholz, Jon Lester, Phil Hughes, and yes, Robinson Cano. The only way to get the Twins — the team in the real position of power because they hold Santana’s contract — to the table is by offering up something they want and need. Enthusiasm aside, no one really needs or wants Shelley Duncan in exchange for Johan Santana.

So as trade rumors heat up and cool down, think about Make-Believe. Put yourself in the shoes of the other team’s General Manager and ask yourself this: If you were in charge of Johan Santana, would you be able to justify to your team’s fans why you made the trade you’re proposing? We want a steal, but the 30 GMs won’t be taken for a ride all that often. That’s just not the way Major League wheelin’ and dealin’ works.

Santana wants Zito money

Johan Santana, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, wants Barry Zito-like money. He’s asking for seven years and at least $126 million. While the Twins seem destined to trade Santana, I think that Santana will be a stronger position with regards to other teams’ finances after 2008. Following next season, the Yanks will have Giambi, Mussina and potentially Pettitte off the books. The Red Sox won’t be paying Manny Ramirez or Curt Schilling. This could lead to a bidding war of epic proportions.

Thanking the Baseball Gods

With Thanksgiving upon us, blogging — and readership — will be light today. Go spend time with your family and forget about the Yanks for a few hours. We’ll be here when you get back.

But for those of you jonesin’ for some baseball, let me present five things for which I’m thankful right now. It all relates to baseball or sports. I’m thankful because…

…The Angels — and not the Yankees — are going to be paying Torii Hunter $80 million over five years to play centerfield. And, yes, the Angels now have $120 million tied up in centerfielders over the next five seasons. That’s just unnecessary.

…The Steinbrenners — and not the Dolans — own the Yankees. The Knicks lost against last night, and since Isiah Thomas was undeserved awarded a contract extension last season, New York’s hapless basketball club has gone 6-24. That is a fireable offense.

Alex Rodriguez will be manning third base coming April. The Yankees are better with A-Rod at third base. That’s not an opinion.

…Spring Traning is just 2 months and 20 days away.

…so many people read this blog every day. Thanks to all of you for stopping by, reading and contributing to the discussion. Enjoy your Thanksgiving.