29 January 2008

Twins (Finally) Trade Johan Santana...to the Mets?

Well, I guessed that one wrong, too.

Johan Santan was, at long last, traded today, to the New York...


Not what I expected.

The deal is contingent upon Santana passing a physical and agreeing to a long-term contract, which he reportedly has until 5:00 PM on Friday to do.

The Twins knew they had to trade Santana, to get as much as they could for him now, before the season starts. If they couldn't pry Phil Hughes away from the Yankees or Jacoby Ellsbury away from Boston in January, they had no shot at getting such decent prospects in return for two or three months worth of Santana's services in July.

The Mets had been rumored, at various times, to be the faforites int he negotiations, if only because they play in another league and Santana would be therefore less likely to come back and haunt the Twins in the future. But is that really a good enough reason to sell yourself short in a trade of the best pitcher in baseball? Would you willingly accept less than you know you deserve in return for a commodity like Santana just to make sure he didn't go to one of your rivals?

Neither would I.

So, that means that either the Twins really did get just as much value from the Mets as they would have from the Yanks or Sawx or the Dodgers or whomever, or at least they think they did, or...

the Yankees and Red Sox really weren't offering as much as we think they were.

Let's look at what they got for him:

Phillip Humber, RHP, age 25, put up decent numbers in AAA last year as a 23-year old but bombed in his second MLB cup of coffee. He's averaged nearly one strikeout per inning in the minors, which bodes well for his long-term success, though his homer rate became alarmingly high all of a sudden this year. Hopefully that;'s a fluke, and he just needs some seasoning. Humber apparently had Tommy John surgery, I think in 2005, and his curve isn't the out-making panacea that it used to be before that, so his upside is as a #3 or #4 starter.

Carlos Gomez, OF, age 22, has the speed and the arm to play centerfield, and is a good base stealer (31 for 38 last year overall) but does not have much power or patience. He's young enough that he could develop either, or even both, but projects as Coco Crisp with a better arm, according to Keith Law. He's listed at 6'2", 170 lbs, obviously very thin still in his youth, so I'm guessing that he'll gain some pop as he fills out. With fewer than 100 games of experience above Double-A, he's still very much an unproven commodity.

Deolis Guerra, RHP, is very young, as he won't be 19 until April, and already very big (6'5", 200 lbs), but his best pitch is a change-up, and he doesn't do anything consistently except be inconsistent. He walks too many batters and his fastball isn't fast enough to get a lot of strikeouts, even in the low minors, so he has a lot of work to do, but the tools are all there. Right now, the tools are all that's there.

Kevin Mulvey is a smart, polished college pitcher (he went to Villanova) who uses finesse and changes speeds to get outs, compensating for his lack of a dominant pitch. He's listed as 6'1", 170 lbs, so he could gain some velocity as he fills out, but pitchers don't necessarily have to be big to throw hard. Unfortunately for Mulvey, that lack of an out-pitch will probably keep him from having any real success in the majors. They have a name for guys who can throw four pitches for strikes but can't get major league hitters out: "Pitching Coach." He'll bounce back and forth between AAA and the majors, but probably won't ever be an impact player.

So that's it. That's all the Twins got for Santana, their A-1, blue chip, hot-shot pitcher. The Mets managed to keep Mike Pelfrey and Fernando Martinez, their best pitching and hitting prospects, respectively. None of the guys the Twins did get was as good a prospect as Phil Hughes or Ian Kennedy or Jon Lester or Jacoby Ellsbury, not to mention some of the other names that came up, like Melky Cabrera.

The rumors we heard last month that involved one or more of those players in exchange for Santana? I'm guessing that they were just that: rumors, perhaps floated by the Yankees, Red Sox and/or Twins to gauge whether the other teams would go for such a deal without having to officially offer it.

Or maybe, just maybe, they were trying to gauge public opinion? Ultimately, though, rumors aren't really worth the electrons that carry them. Otherwise we'd call them facts.

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