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Don't Pull the Trigger Until You See the Whites of Their Eyes

NostraDennisThursday, January 24, 2008
By NostraDennis

The eyes of the Twins, that is. I would love to see Johan Santana grow old as a Met, and be the ace of our Citi Field pitching corps. It's becoming more evident each day that the Twins may have overplayed their hand in insisting on five Mets in exchange for Santana. Like a football star who declares early, and watches dozens of other players get drafted ahead of where he thought he deserved to be picked, the Minnesota front office must be muttering to themselves, "Crapcrapcrapcrapcrap... they're not buying this... crapcrapcrap". The Yankees and Red Sox, surprisingly, are both helping our team, by not acting as they usually do and waving their checkbooks frantically at Twins GM Bill Smith.

Trading three pitching prospects and F-Mart or Gomez is probably overpaying a little, but I'm solidly behind Omar Minaya making that deal. Trading both outfielders is simply unacceptable, and I applaud Omar for his refusal to blink. If the Mets were willing to do a 5-for-1 deal, it would have happened already.

Re-signing Endy Chavez earlier this week did nothing to change my stance on this trade. Endy is the best fourth outfielder in baseball, but gutting the farm clubs of outfielders forces him into the starting lineup and diminishes the sparkplug-like up-side he gives the Mets when he comes off the bench. Remember, Mookstra was better than the sum of its parts.

No question, Santana has the tools to dominate the National League for most of the next decade. His 15-13 record with the Twinkies belies what a monster season he had in 2007. Eight times last year, he tossed six or more innings, gave up two or three earned runs, and did not win. Take away the four losses he was tagged with in those games, add in eight wins, and you have a 23-9 record and a third Cy Young award.

I'm with David Wright, who said this week that the Mets could use Santana at the top of their rotation, but they don't need him. The Twins need what the Mets are willing to offer more than the Mets need what they'd get back. There's nothing more satisfying than dealing from this psychological advantage.

I bought a new car several years ago, and for one of the few times in my life, I went in to buy it knowing that I didn't need a new car right away. I could have waited a few months if I'd chosen to. The salesman could tell right away that I was more than willing to walk out the door without a new set of keys. One free 5 CD-changer, deluxe detailing job, and generous trade-in later, I was the proud owner of the best value I ever got. Because I knew, and they knew I knew, I could get along without it.

If the Twins bump along this season without dealing Santana, he'll likely be dealt as a six-week rental at the deadline. No team would give them on July 31st the type of value the Mets are willing to offer them today. A trade done now would benefit all parties, since they'd each know what their working parts will be going into spring training. All the players involved would have a chance to meet, greet, and integrate with their new teammates, rather than make their acquaintance on some road trip in August. But doing this deal today would benefit the Twins most of all; that is, if you believe in the adage "buy low, sell high".

If Omar really wants to play the strong-arm GM, he might just call up his counterpart in Minnesota and whisper that his four jewels will be available - for the next 72 hours only. Omar hasn't blinked yet. I have a gut feeling he'd win this particular staring match.

Heck, as luck would have it, Johan wouldn't even need to pay anyone off for his pinstriped number 57. I consider that a good omen.

About Dennis McCarthy: I was born in the Bronx in 1960, but moved to Long Island four years later. I became a Mets fan in '69, thanks to my Aunt Ellen, who still lived in the Bronx.   Read More -->

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Comments (4)

Nice piece Nostra. You raise many interesting points that add to the monumental conjecture regarding this deal, perhaps even trumping all other prospective deals I can ever recall.

Granted, Santana is a great talent, who is somewhat left adrift in Minnesota, as you have pointed out. But lets not forget that the Twins have had a very good team for almost all of Ron Gardenhire's tenure, which began in 2002. Not coincidentally, during that period of time Santana has become, arguably, the best pitcher in baseball. It is my belief that Gardenhire is one of the top 5 managers in baseball and perhaps the best. He has given Santana every chance to succeed, as a truly great manager does. Just look at how he was a spot starter for in 2002 and 2003 and how his control improved after his first season as a fulltime starter. The Twinkies also play good defense year in and year out, which is also the product of good stewardship. One might also observe that in the three seasons from 2004-2006, Santana averaged more than 230 innings a season or close to 7 innings per start. The leadership of Gardenhire and the lack of media "glow" has probably helped Santana to mature and win.

However, the 2007 season may have been a watershed year for Santana. While losses are less significant, batting average, slugging and on base percentage were all higher this past year. Likely, due to his velocity being down, which has been reported, especially after his 8-inning 118-pitch performance against the Bengals on July 18. For the rest of the year, Johann Santana was a different and lesser pitcher.

What does it all mean? Maybe nothing, but more likely, Santana, like Pedro, will have to be held to a pitch count of no more than 98 or so pitches for the balance of his career. That certainly does not mean he cannot be effective and help the Mets win for many years, but to give up too much talent (which a package of Gomez or Martinez plus Humber. Mulvey and Guerra would represent) is not wise.

If a mix of proven talent is what the Twins want, and Church and perhaps Heilman are packaged with Humber and Guerra, I am more interested. And here is why: Nobody mentions the ultimate debacle, which is a bad arm injury to Santana. In that situation, we still have our two best pitching prospects in Pelfrey and Mulvey AND our two best OF prospects to add to the mix. To ignore the consequences of a Santana breakdown, and the incredibly steep cost of his long term contract, would be an egregious error. Fact is, the Mets have some highly desirable prospects or none of this conjecture would be taking place. If they are so desirable, than why make the deal?

It has not gotten past a number of observers that now is the time to confront the Orioles about Bedard and perhaps Bradford. My guess is Omar can get those two for a similar package and with more financial upside.

DMm in H - Aloha. Agreed, that we'd be one freak play away from the Santana deal being a disaster for the Mets.

Not so sure about Bedard, though he impresses me nearly as much as Santana. However, the Mets putting a silimar package together publicly for Bedard would increase the perceived pressure on the Twins. "Yeah, this sedan is pretty nice....OOOH! Honey, look at that convertible at the dealership across the street. Sweet!" If players can play one team against another at the negotiating table, and they do, then teams need to do the same.

I wonder what the over/under would be on how many games Endy Chavez will suit up for? Last year he pulled a hammy, badly; this winter he pulled the other one. Shape of things to come? I hope not.

Oh boy! I am running out of note pads with possible trade names for Santanna. But I can go to sleep if they trade Church/Hielman/Humber/ and Guerra. They keep F/mart/Gomez/Mulvey and Pelfrey. Sign Mark Sweeney for 1b and of and sign Hernandez for more protection in the rotation. Thats it, Amen Iam done.

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