Life After Shoulder Surgery

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

I didn’t see the top half of the eighth inning in last night’s win  because I was busy watching Johan Santana throw the first no-hitter in Mets history. Having grown up in a family full of Mets fans, it was pretty exciting. I have a bit of a soft spot for the Amazin’s though I never actively root for them like I did last night. It was a lot of fun and that’s what baseball is supposed to be all about.

As you know, Johan came back this season from major shoulder surgery. He tore the capsule in his left shoulder, the same injury that kept Chien-Ming Wang on the shelf for the better half of two seasons. It was a long road back and Santana deserves a ton of credit for getting back in time for Opening Day and throwing a career-high 134 pitches to finish off the no-no. The Cardinals went into the game leading the NL in AVG, OBP, and SLG, so he certainly earned it.

The Yankees are currently waiting for one of their own to return from a serious shoulder procedure, though it’s still kinda weird to consider Michael Pineda a member of the team given the zero meaningful innings he’s thrown in pinstripes. His shoulder injury was significant but not as significant as Johan’s, who had to have the joint cut open and fashioned back together. Pineda’s surgery was arthroscopic, just a scope. That doesn’t make it insignificant, but it’s better than having an incision.

Santana’s no-hitter and successful return from shoulder surgery don’t really mean anything as far as Pineda is concerned. The Yankees have invested a lot in the young right-hander — in terms of players, not necessarily money — and need him to become a big part of the future, but it’s very easy to feel like he’ll contribute nothing of substance to New York and that’s disappointing. Pineda is no more likely to make a full recovery today than he was yesterday, but Johan’s historic night was a nice little reminder that shoulder surgery is not always a career death sentence.

email

Four years later, revisiting the winter of Johan

For the Yankees, the off-season of 2007-2008 was practically the polar opposite of this year’s. That year, a good number of fans were rooting for the Yanks to do nothing whereas this year we’re rooting for them to do anything (as long as it’s sensible and short term). We didn’t want the Yanks to trade a package of pitchers centered around Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes for Johan Santana, and on a blustery night in February of 2008, we learned that the Mets, and not the Yanks, had secured the rights to Santana.

We staked out a position against a Santana trade. There was no doubt that Johan, a lefty, would have fit the Yanks’ needs, but he had a year remaining on his contract. According to the rumors, the Twins had asked for a lot for that one remaining season of team control, and the Yanks would have had to sign Santana to a lengthy contract as well. With CC Sabathia‘s free agency on the horizon and promising arms moving up the ranks of the farm system, we wanted the Yanks to wait, and they obliged.

Santana went to the Mets for a package of not much. Deolis Guerra hasn’t broken out of the minors yet while Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey aren’t pieces the Mets are missing. The Twins, it seems, were either willing to take less if it meant sending Santana to the NL or weren’t asking for the sky in the first place. The Mets gave Santana $137.5 million, and it kinda, sorta worked out for a little bit.

Over the first three years of his contract, Santana made 88 starts and had a 2.85 ERA for the Mets. Alarmingly, his strike out rate dipped by nearly 2 per 9 innings, and he has not made a professional appearance since September 2, 2010. Just three seasons into a six-year deal, Santana had to undergo shoulder surgery similar to Chien-Ming Wang‘s, and he’s still trying to make it back to the Mets’ mound.

On Thursday, Santana took the mound at Sun Life Stadium in Miami where he threw for teammates and reporters. Anthony DiComo was on hand, and he spoke with the Mets afterwards. They still do not know what the future holds for Santana. “How close is he going to be to where he was? I don’t know if anyone can tell,” manager Terry Collins said of his erstwhile ace.

Doctors too are cautious in their assessments. Santana was supposed to return last year but suffered through some setbacks. After a winter of rest, his arm either is ready now or may never be. “The beginning of next season is going to be telltale,” Dr. Jonathan Glashow said to DiComo. “After a long winter’s rest, if he’s not back to his level by Spring Training or beyond, I would be somewhat more pessimistic that he’ll ever get it.”

The Mets still owe Santana at least $54.5 million over the next two seasons, and had the Yanks made the move for Johan, fans would be screaming bloody murder over the dollars. Instead, the Mets are treated as the Mets. It was an expensive move that turned into an injury, and outside of the dollars, they didn’t lose much in terms of prospects. As Ian Kennedy turned into Curtis Granderson and a very respectable Major League pitcher and Phil Hughes has turned into an enigma, I’m still glad the Yanks never made that Santana trade. The price was just too high.

Mailbag: Hughes, Catcher, Johan, Joba

We’ve got a relatively short but still sweet mailbag this week. I assume all of you were too busy scheduling your parties for Bartolo Colon‘s start tomorrow to send in questions. Anyways, this week we’re going to talk about a long-term deal for Phil Hughes, Plan B after Russell Martin, a Joba-for-Johan trade, and one more Joba-to-the-rotation scenario. Send your questions in via the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Vinny asks: Though it will obviously be determined by a combination of performance coupled with salary demands, do you see Phil Hughes staying with the Yankees long-term once he hits free agency?

We’re a long ways away from this, but I’ll go out on a limb and say yes. That assumes he’s healthy and performing at a level deserving of a long-term extension, of course. The Yankees have no trouble paying to keep their own guys unless they have concerns with the medicals, so the cost won’t be a problem unless Hughes is being unreasonable. Remember, when Andy Pettitte left after 2003, it was because the Yanks were worried about his elbow. Sure enough, he hurt it the next year.

Hughes will hit free agency after the 2013 season, when he’ll be just 27 years old. Quality pitchers make major, major bucks when they hit the open market at that age, and the Yankees have more money than anyone. A seven-year deal (if it comes to that) would only take Phil through age 34 as well, so it wouldn’t be a crazy commitment. As it stands, I think he stays.

Joe asks: Even though Cashman stated that Russell Martin is the primary catcher, what happens if he does not make it? What will be the best pair then? Cervelli/Montero, Cervelli/Romine, Montero/Romine or at the very least Cervelli/Posada? Or sometime of different catcher combo?

If Martin doesn’t hack it for whatever reason, injury or poor performance, I’m all for turning Jesus Montero loose. Jorge Posada is the designated hitter now and should remain there; I only want him catching in an emergency or in an NL park during the World Series or something. Frankie Cervelli would stay in the backup role because that’s what he’s best suited for, and Austin Romine just isn’t ready yet. He absolutely needs more minor league seasoning.

Montero’s ready as far as I’m concerned. I have no worries about the bat playing against AL East pitching, and he could work on his defense at the big league level as long as he’s behind the plate regularly. In fact, an argument can be made that being around Joe Girardi and Tony Pena everyday would be the best thing for his defensive development. We all know he’s going to be below average defensively but that’s fine, you take the bad with the good. We’ve been talking about Montero’s time coming for over a year now, and that time is rapidly approaching.

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Brian asks: Assuming he’s healthy, would the Yankees trade Joba Chamberlain for Johan Santana straight up?

They’d better be willing to do that. Joba’s nothing more than a middle reliever right now, a middle reliever they only control for another three years at a below-market but not absurdly team friendly rate. If you can’t give up a reliever for an ace level pitcher, you love your players far too much, I don’t care how good your guy is. If I was the Padres or Dodgers, I’d give up Luke Gregerson or Hong-Chih Kuo for a healthy Santana in a heartbeat.

Of course, Johan is not healthy and won’t be for some time, so this is just a hypothetical. Shoulder surgery is scary stuff, and Santana would have to show he’s healthy and effective before I’d consider trading for that contract. For all we know, that ace level pitcher could be gone forever.

Shaya asks: Is it all possible that Joba remains a reliever until his late twenties (when there is absolutely no more physical maturing and the body is more durable) and then they try again as a starter (a la C.J. Wilson etc.)?

Sure, it’s always possible. I don’t see it happening with the Yankees though, so Joba will have to either get traded or sign elsewhere as a free agent first. The Yankees seem pretty hellbent on keeping him in the bullpen, which is fine, it’s their call. I don’t agree with it but I’m not the one with my neck on the line if it blows up in my face.

Open Thread: Johan Santana

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

It’s been a long, long time since we campaigned to Save The Big Three. That was three offseasons ago, when the Yankees (and Red Sox) were talking to the Twins about acquiring two-time (shoulda been three-time) Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana. The rumored package was Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera, Mitch Hilligoss, and Jeff Marquez, though Minnesota was supposedly holding out for Ian Kennedy. Think the Cliff Lee or Andy Pettitte stuff is too much this winter? That was nothing compared to the non-stop Johan rumors, around the clock coverage of a trade we never wanted to happen. Three years ago today, it all came to a merciful end when the Mets officially acquired Santana for what amounted to a package of spare parts.

We were happy, many were not. The Yankees were in clear need of pitching help, moreso than they are right now, and there was Santana, an ace in his prime waiting to be had. Brian Cashman gambled that he could keep his prized young players (though four of those five guys are long gone) and simply buy CC Sabathia as a free agent the next offseason. It was a ballsy and absurdly risky move, but that’s exactly what happened. Less than two years after the Johan non-trade, Sabathia, Hughes, and the rest of the Yankees were parading down the Canyon of Heroes, world champs for the 27th time. They took their lumps along the way, missing the playoffs in 2008, but here they are today with both Sabathia and Hughes headlining their rotation while Johan recovers from major shoulder surgery across town. I don’t think Hollywood could have written a better script.

Here’s your open thread for the evening. The Isles, Nets, and Knicks are all playing, but talk about whatever you want. Go nuts.

Reevaluating Johan Santana: part 2 of 2

This is part 2 of my attempt to reevaluate Johan Santana and his desirability as a trade target for the Yankees this summer. Yesterday we looked at the nature of Santana’s injury, and saw some speculation on when he might be back to full strength. I also noted that his decline in performance from his Minnesota years may obscure the fact that he’s still a very valuable pitcher, provided that he’s healthy. Today we’re going to examine Santana’s contract and try to handicap what a trade might look like.

The dollar bills

When the Mets acquired Santana from Twins in February of 2008, they immediately inked him to a long-term extension which replaced the final year of his contract. His new contract is a 6 year deal worth $137.5 million with a club option of $25M for 2014 ($5M buyout).The contract is backloaded, a present from Omar to Sandy, meaning that the annual salaries increase as the deal progresses. It’s often said that Santana has 4 years and $80 million left on his contract. It’s not so simple.

In 2011, Santana will make $22.5M. In 2012 his salary escalates to $24M and then to $25.5M in the final year of the deal in 2013. As mentioned, the team has a $25M club option ($5M buyout) for 2014. It’s worth noting that this club option transforms into a player option if Santana reaches certain milestones, which you can read about here. To my best understanding, Santana would have to win the Cy Young in 2012 or 2013, or finish second or third in Cy Young voting in both 2012 and 2013, or be on the active roster for the final 30 days of the 2013 season while pitching 215 innings in 2013 or a combined 420 innings between 2012 and 2013. Got that? Suffice it to say, if Santana earns his player option for 2014 it will mean that his 2012 and 2013 seasons were productive and valuable for his club. We will operate on the assumption that he does not earn his option though, since this would represent the more cautious scenario for the acquiring team.

Assuming the option is declined, this means that Santana is due $77M between now and the end of the contract. However, it’s extremely unlikely that Santana is dealt any time soon, meaning that by the time he goes on the trade market in July or August of 2011, roughly half of his 2011 salary should be paid out. The Mets don’t provide a convenient contract amortization schedule for us, so we’ll ballpark it and say that Santana will be due $10M in 2011 by the time he hits the market. This reduces the total contractual obligation of the acquiring team to $67M.

Again though, it’s not so simple. Santana’s contract defers $5M of the payout annually, a true Mets specialty (see: Bonilla, Bobby). Santana receives $5M of his annual salary seven years after the season in which the salary is earned at 1.25% compound interest. Say what you want about Omar Minaya, and you can say plenty, but getting a player to defer roughly a quarter of his annual salary for minimal interest is a nice touch. If we assume that the Mets defer $5M of the contract at the beginning of the year, this would reduce Santana’s 2011 salary to $17.5M, meaning that the total remaining obligation in 2011 by the time he’s dealt would be roughly $8M. In 2012 the total salary obligation would be $19M and $20.5M in 2013. Depending on how you slice it (and it’s unclear whether the team treats the deferred compensation as a future liability with no bearing on current cash flow or amortizes it over the course of the year in which the salary is earned, I’m guessing the former), the acquiring team would be on the hook for roughly $47.5M during the life of the contract and then $5M in both 2019 and 2020. The common refrain that  Santana is due $80M over 4 years is enough to make one blanch. However, when the club option and the deferred compensation are factored in, the total obligation is far more team-friendly.

The trade

It seems clear that the Mets won’t contend in 2011. The Braves and the Marlins have put together decent clubs, the Phillies are an evil four-headed monster, and the Nationals’ acquisition of Tom Gorzelanny essentially ensures them the divisional crown (I kid). The Mets’ focus ought to be on 2012 and beyond. They have a fair amount of money coming off the books after 2011 in Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Oliver Perez and Francisco Rodriguez, but one has to imagine they’ll at least attempt to keep Reyes long-term.

The Mets may be looking to cut payroll now not only in recognition that their contention window is at least 2012, but also because of the team’s rather precarious situation. Yesterday Joel Sherman reported that the Wilpons may be interested in selling a non-controlling stake in the team in order to raise money. As Sherman noted, the obvious implication is that the Madoff scandal has handicapped them in a far more significant manner than they’ve let on. Indeed, part of the reason for seeking a strategic partner is the lawsuit attempting to recover money from the Madoff scheme. There was speculation yesterday that the trustee for the Madoff victims could be seeking as much as one billion dollars from Fred Wilpon. Wilpon’s statement admitted that the team desired to raise cash in response to this:

“To address the air of uncertainty created by this lawsuit, and to provide additional assurance that the New York Mets will continue to have the necessary resources to fully compete and win, we are looking at a number of potential options including the addition of one or more strategic partners”.

As Craig Calcaterra noted, though, it may not be possible for the Wilpons to keep a controlling stake in the team:

Even if these numbers are not accurate, however, the key point is clear: the Wilpons’ current financial situation is going to be directly impacted by how much the government is seeking in its clawback lawsuit. If it’s anything close to figure Hubbuch is reporting, they will have to sell way more than a minority share in the Mets.  Indeed, they’ll likely have to sell the whole team.

Bringing it back to Santana, it may be the case that the Mets could seek to unload his expensive contract in 2011, both as a way of shoring up their annual cash flow and for preparation for 2012 and 2013. If so, the trade of Roy Oswalt from the Astros to the Phillies last summer may serve as a model. Last July the the Phillies sent J.A. Happ and two prospects to the Astros in exchange for Oswalt. Oswalt had $23M left on his contract and the Astros agreed to pick up nearly half of it, $11M. Oswalt did not demand that the Phillies pick up his 2012 option for $16M; instead, if either Oswalt or the Phillies decline his 2012 option, he will receive $2M.

The Mets could consider something similar, picking up some of Santana’s salary and receiving prospects from the acquiring team in return. If the Mets were unable or unwilling to pay Santana’s salary then the cost in prospects would certainly be less. Obviously there are a lot of moving parts, but the primary concern is Santana’s health. If he doesn’t return to full strength then this is all moot. If he does, though, then it wouldn’t be completely surprising to see them try to unload his contract late this summer. Should the Yankees kick the tires and consider Santana again? Would the Mets be willing to do an Oswalt-like deal for him? Just when you thought you were out, just when you thought the Yankees’ saga with Santana was finally over..they pull you back in.

Reevaluating Johan Santana: part 1 of 2

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

By now it is nearly impossible to discuss the Yankees’ search for starting pitching without saying something like, “It’s no secret that the Yankees need starting pitching help”. It’s all been said. Even if Andy Pettitte postpones his date with retirement another year and returns for the 2011 campaign it’s likely that the team could still be looking for help on the trade market this summer. Ivan Nova is a fine fifth starter option, but it would really be nice if he was the sixth starter, an option in case of injury or a terrible outbreak of Bad A.J. The problem is that the trade market is a bit weak. There’s no Cliff Lee on the market this summer. Wandy Rodriguez looked like a decent target, but the Astros just extended him for three years. Gavin Floyd and Chris Carpenter could be very good options, but a lot needs to happen for these teams to put the players on the market. Plan B might be patience, but there’s a fair amount of contingency contained therein.

One trade option is Johan Santana. Mike addressed the possibility of acquiring Santana in this mailbag piece several weeks ago, outlining all the reasons why the Yankees shouldn’t attempt to acquire Santana: he’s coming off major shoulder surgery, his performance is in decline, and he’s expensive. All of these things are true, and yet I’m going to attempt a possibly quixotic reexamination of his desirability. This will be a two part piece. Today we will examine the nature of his injury and his perceived decline over the past 3 years and tomorrow we’ll look at his contract status and try to evaluate whether he makes sense for the Yankees as a trade target.  It sounds crazy, and it’s going to take a decent amount of time to make the case. All good things take time though, unless we’re talking about a Chipotle burrito, so try to stick it out with me. It’s not like there’s anything better to do on a freezing weekend in January. What, you gonna watch curling?

Injury

When Johan Santana was injured late last summer it was initially reported that he had a strained pectoral. This was slightly deceiving, in that the location of the injury is not where one would expect. When you hear “strained pec”, you think about how sore you feel if you do too many bench press sets. As Will Carroll noted, the strain happened right where the muscle inserts into the humerus, just below the shoulder. You can see the picture here. Despite initial good news out the Mets camp, which cruelly raised the hopes of Mets fans, it turned out that Santana’s injury was far more serious. Santana had torn the anterior capsule in his left shoulder and required surgery to repair it. The injury is more rare than a Tommy John surgery, and Carroll went to sources to get more information about the actual nature of the injury:

The anterior capsule is the front lining of the shoulder joint which then attaches to the labrum and then to the bone. The capsule is torn with the labrum often with an acute traumatic shoulder dislocation. However, in baseball with repetitive throwing the anterior capsule can just gradually stretch out and eventually give a thrower pain and a feeling of weakness and a velocity loss. This repetitive microscopic tearing and stretching injury ultimately is what the thrower may describe as a “dead arm” The type of surgery performed is very similar to the open surgery pioneered by Dr. Frank Jobe that was performed on Orel Hersheiser in the ’80s, but now with advances the same surgery can be done arthroscopically. However, the healing concepts are the same and therefore the rehabilitation can be very long to get back to high level throwing. Certainly 6-9 months is not unreasonable.

In order to repair this injury, the surgeon usually attempts to repair the ligaments arthoscopically. This was Dr. David Altchek’s goal with Santana, but he found that the tear was difficult to reach with an arthoscope and had to make an incision in the shoulder in order to repair it. This is obviously a less desirable method because it causes scar tissue, which can affect range of motion and lengthen the time of rehabilitation. As such, Santana may not return to the majors until the All-Star Break in 2011.  The final word from Carroll:

Santana will immediately begin rehab which is normally tagged at 20-28 weeks with an overlap of a throwing program towards the end. There’s no new info on whether there was anything found during the procedure that would change the outlook or prognosis. The first real sign we’ll get is likely to be when pitchers and catchers report to Port St. Lucie in February.

There is some speculation that Santana would not be fully recovered until well after he actually returns to the majors. Dr. Craig Levitz speculated that it would actually take 3 months, or 70-80 innings, after Santana’s return for him to regain his top form. He also noted that pitchers with this type of injury often return stronger than before, and that there is little risk of recurrence. As Levitz said, “Over all there is not a lot of damage to the shoulder with this injury…Once they close the hole in the soft tissue, it should never be a problem again.”

Performance

Things have been different for Johan Santana since he left the American League for the National League Mets. From 2002 to 2007 he had an ERA of 2.92, striking out almost 10 batters per nine innings and walking 2.2 per nine innings. His strikeout to walk ratio was a Lee-esque 4.38. Due to a very low hit rate, Santana’s WHIP hovered around 1.00. For good reason he was considered one of the preeminent pitchers in all of baseball. Contrary to expectations, Santana’s strikeout rate has dipped about two batters per nine innings since joining the Mets, and his walk rate has increased ever-so-slightly to close to 2.5. As such, he’s posted FIPs in the mid 3.50s since coming to New York, certainly respectable but not exactly the commensurate with the highest expectations fans might have had for the well-paid ace. This chart shows his performance as a Met compared to his career numbers:

santana

Peripherals-wise, 2010 was Santana’s worst year. This is to be expected, given that he was coming off minor elbow surgery from the offseason prior and had his season cut short by the shoulder injury in September. One thing we don’t know is to what extent Santana pitched through discomfort or pain in 2010 before acknowledging his injury. We also don’t know if the gradual destruction of his shoulder ligaments was responsible for the decline in performance. The quote from Carroll’s source above seems to confirm that the pitcher will likely experience discomfort, weakness and a loss of velocity before actually needing surgery to repair the injury. It would be logical to expect a bounceback in velocity and strikeout stuff, but within any injury there is a large amount of risk and variance. It all hinges on how well Santana heals.

Despite the decline in performance, Santana was still a very valuable pitcher for the Mets in 2010. As a quick and easy comparison, his 3.5 fWAR in 199 innings in 2010 ranks similar to Shaun Marcum and Wandy Rodriguez’s performance. Over the past three years, despite an injury-shortened 2009, he’s accumulated 11.0 fWAR. This is more than Andy Pettitte, James Shields, John Lackey or Ted Lilly. If he had thrown 200 innings in 2009 it’s likely that he would register more fWAR in the past 3 years than Matt Cain, Roy Oswalt or Javier Vazquez. Of course, he didn’t throw 200 innings in 2009, so the point is moot. Regardless, Santana is still a valuable pitcher. Compare his performance data above with this data for CC Sabathia:

Sabathia and Santana both have fairly similar FIPs and ERAs, but Santana seems consistently able to outperform his FIP. They also have similar strikeout rates. Sabathia’s walk rates are slightly worse than Santana but CC generates far more groundballs than Santana, a clear boon in Yankee Stadium. Santana’s flyball tendencies play well in Citi Field but would likely be less advantageous in another venue. Sabathia’s numbers are also more impressive in the AL East. All things considered, Sabathia is a more desirable starter, but simply because Santana isn’t replicating his same level of dominance from years past doesn’t mean that he’s no longer valuable. Mid-3 FIP pitchers with good control and strikeout stuff don’t grow on trees.

Johan Santana isn’t what he once was, and he’s coming off a major injury with a long rehabilitation timeframe. There are good reasons for optimism though, reasons that don’t solely consist of fluff and happy thoughts. If Santana can pitch again like he has as a Met, he’ll have good value for his team. Of course, there’s the whole question of the contract, a question which I’ll address tomorrow morning before trying to ascertain how the trade market could firm up. See you then.

Mailbag: Johan Santana

(AP Photo/H. Rumph Jr)

Darl asks: Any chance Johan Santana goes on the trading block? 31 year old with some injury trouble making $20MM. Mets likely will get blasted in NL East. New management will want to rebuild. He is under contact through 2014.

I think you answered your own question. A 31-year-old with injury trouble making $20M a year is ALWAYS on the trade block. The problem is that no one is going to bite. Remember, Santana is currently rehabbing from major shoulder surgery and isn’t expected to be ready until midseason. And it’s not just the shoulder either. His 2009 season came to an end in August because he had elbow surgery, so that’s two arm operations in as many years. In fact, Johan has not finished even one of his three seasons with the Mets healthy. In ’08 it was his knee.

We were adamantly against trading for Johan three years ago, and that’s when he was healthy and on the top of the game. Now that he’s on the wrong side of 30 and has been dealing with some serious injury issues, we’re even more against it, regardless of his availability and the cost. The injury concerns are very real, and are even more troubling since the last two involve his prized left arm.

Not only would the Yankees have to worry about injury-related decline, but at age 31 (32 in March), age-related decline becomes an issue as well. A case could be made that a healthy Johan Santana won’t be worth his contract for the next four years, especially since his peripheral stats have been declining since before he won his second Cy Young Award…

The injuries are just the most obvious of the red flags. Johan’s fastball velocity has been declining while his changeup velo remains unchanged, so it’s not much of a surprise that the latter’s effectiveness has slipped in recent years. There’s not the same kind of separation on the pitch anymore. His swinging strike rate has been falling for about four years now, and he’s gone from a guy that gets 40%+ ground balls to the mid-30’s. Naturally, his homerun rate has shot up despite the move to the easier league.

Don’t get me wrong, the Yankees definitely need pitching and there’s nothing wrong with taking fliers on injury rehab starters, but there’s a limit. It’s okay to go after those guys on cheap one-year deals when they’re free agents, but absorbing four years and $80-something million of a contract and giving up talent for that kind of guy is a backwards move, regardless of how talented the pitcher is. Johan is drawing ever closer to the cliff, and no one should want the Yankees to be on the hook for his contract whenever he decides to tumble off.

Anyway, it’s not going to happen, but I figured it was worth addressing since quite a few people ask each week. Santana was a devastating pitcher at his peak, a high-strikeout lefty that walked next to no one, but he’s no fewer than two seasons removed from that peak. He’s more name than production and reliability now, and that’s exactly the opposite of what the Yankees need.