By Mike Steffanos
I'm still in the process of catching up on December's backlog of e-mail. Back at the end of November I wrote about all of the trade rumors circling about, and made the following statement about the speculation that the Mets would deal Jose Reyes for Johan Santana:
I know there are some who would make this deal, but players like Reyes don't come along often. I would argue that a 24-year-old shortstop with his ability would be an even rarer commodity than a front-line starter, particularly a SS that is signed to what is essentially a bargain contract compared to a pitcher who is likely to make Zito money look like chump change. This would be a DUMB trade.
That paragraph stirred up some interesting email responses from some who scolded me for placing a higher value on a shortstop than the best starting pitcher in the game. The point -- and I've seen it in the press, too -- is that it's easier to find a shortstop than an ace-quality left-handed starting pitcher.
While I do agree with this as a general rule, I think this misses the point that Jose Reyes isn't exactly a run-of-the-mill shortstop. Despite his age and his second-half struggles in 2007, Reyes is already one of the best position players in the game, and the potential is there for him to be the best player in baseball. Having this kind of player in a premium position like shortstop is quite rare -- and I would argue that it would be easier to find an ace pitcher than a shortstop like Reyes. As much as it seemed to frustrate a segment of my readers that I wouldn't see the light and sign on to a Reyes-Santana deal, I'm equally amazed at those who don't see my point on Reyes. That's a part of what makes baseball so much fun, I guess.
I have my reservations about giving up so much and then tying up so much money into a starting pitcher -- one of the most fragile life forms on this planet. But I can't pretend the Mets wouldn't be a much better team with an ace like Santana starting every fifth game. If the Mets manage to obtain Santana from the Twins they will most likely become the best team in the National League again, unless they have to give up Jose Reyes to get him. Not only that, but by all accounts it would cost the Mets Reyes and prospects to pry Santana loose. I'm sorry, but that's WAY too much for a deal that to my mind would be a loser even-up. Anyway, that's my opinion.