January 11, 2008 – Here it is January 11 and Johan Santana is still a Twin. Don’t get me wrong, I would like to see Johan wear a Twins uniform his entire career but in reality we know that is not going to happen. The Twins have stated that they would like to sign Johan but giving him a 4 year extension for $80 million but I just don’t see that happening. That means that they either trade him now or at the trading deadline or they let him walk and get nothing in return. Letting him walk and getting nothing does not make sense for a team that is dependent on promoting from within. Waiting to make a deal at the trading deadline is risky business, maybe they get more or they get less then they can get today. But what would happen if the Twins were in contention at the trading deadline, what message would that send to both the players and the fans if they sent Johan packing then? That would just paint the Twins in a corner. It just makes sense to move Santana now and be done with it. The Twins also need to make a decision on center field and hopefully that problem goes away in any trade they make for Johan.
The Mets seem to have interest in Santana and the names that have been tossed around are Carlos Gomez, Fernando Martinez, Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra. Gomez is a 21 year old top notch Mets prospect that some say could be another Carl Crawford type of player. But is he ready to play in the bigs this year? The Mets seem to think no. Martinez , only 19 years of age, played in the eastern league last year and is nowhere near ready for the majors but is considered a top prospect, maybe the Mets top prospect. Humber, 25, a right hander and a former first round selection is in contention for a spot in the Mets rotation but has no real big league experience to speak of and has had Tommy John surgery in his recent past. Mulvey, 21 and right handed had a cup of coffee at the AAA level and is also in contention for a spot in the Mets rotation this year. Guerra who will not be 19 until April is a 6’5” right hander with 1 year of pro ball experience.
The Yankees keep changing their mind from day to day as to their status in the Santana hunt. I don’t buy that, the Yankees need starting pitching and I don’t think they want to start the season with that much youth in the rotation. The Yankees have supposedly offered Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera, and some other low level prospects. The Twins want Ian Kennedy included in the package but so far the Yanks have said “no deal”. Hughes, 20 and right handed is a strapping 6’5” and is projected to be a star in the near future and will start the season in the Yankee rotation assuming he is not traded to Minnesota. Cabrera, a switch hitting 23 year old already has several years of ML experience and will probably never be a super star but can fill the center field hole for the Twins.
The Red Sox seem to be playing it close to the vest and have offered Coco Crisp, Jon Lester, Justin Masterson and Jed Lowrie. .Masterson is a 23 year old right hander who stands 6’6” and reaches 94 on the radar gun now and then. Some scouts say that long term he will make a better reliever then a starter. Lowrie is a 24 year old shortstop that some scouts say will end up as a 2B in the majors. Range is average but his throwing accuracy has been questioned. Lowrie played in the Arizona Fall league this past season but was not impressive with 1 home run and a .163 batting average in 98 at bats. Lester, a feel good story who has beaten cancer, is a 24 year old lefty who is 11-2 in 26 starts for the Red Sox the last 2 years and has a decent strike out to innings pitched ratio. Crisp is 28 and is a switch hitting lead off type hitter who can steal 25-30 bases for the Twins and play a nice center field. Although his average has been in the .260 range the last two years, Coco is a nice player that needs to get out of Boston. The Twins want Jacoby Ellsbury instead of Crisp but Boston is resisting sending the young prospect and World Series hero to Minnesota in the same package with Lester. The Red Sox also have Clay Buchholz who the Twins would take in a second but Boston is not even talking about him.
So, what should the Twins do? First off we eliminate the Mets deal since they are not offering any immediate line-up help although down the line this might be a good deal for the Twins. That brings it back to the Yankees and the Red Sox. Although I like Crisp to play center and Lester can crack the Twins rotation, I would pass on the Red Sox deal simply because they are NOT offering their top prospects in Ellsbury and Buchholz and they want the top pitcher in baseball in return. I would go to Boston just before I take the Yankee deal and tell them if they want Santana before we send him to the Yankees that you need to give up Crisp, Buchholz, and Lester. The reason I say Crisp instead of Ellsbury is that Ellsbury has not proven himself over a full year at the major league level. If the Red Sox say “no”, then I have no problem going to the Yankees and taking their offer of Hughes, Cabrera, and a minor leaguer or two. I plug Hughes into the Twins rotation and put Cabrera in center and we are ready to play some baseball. Then the only hole is at 2B but maybe Punto and Harris can platoon there and fill that slot. Come on Twins, let’s get this deal done!