November 2007

All Johan. All the time.

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Before I get to the update on a certain lefthander, here’s something former Blue Jays manager Buck Martinez (now of XM Radio) told me yesterday:

I think there are going to be more trades. Just like the deal the Twins just pulled. There are going to be some big names being switched, and people in Minnesota probably don’t understand what a good player Delmon Young is. He’s a marvelous player. He’s got this black eye, but I’ll tell you what, I think the black eye is fading dramatically. He’s a sharp kid. He’s a great baseball player, he’s a good person, and he made a mistake. To me, he’s got Twins written all over him.

Souhan caught up with Delmon’s brother, Dmitri, who offered this gem: “This is the perfect time for him to become known as a new Twin and not ‘the Bat-Flinger.’ “.

By the way, here’s a link to the audio clip from Delmon’s infamous bat-flinging incident.

OK, sizing up the Johan Santana sweepstakes this morning, it sure sounds like it’ll be the Yankees, Red Sox or nobody. (Shocking, I know.) La Velle noted the Mariners involvement in his story today.

The New York Times notes that the Yankees have offered Ian Kennedy, Melky Cabrera and one other prospect, perhaps outfielder Jose Tabata, but not Phil Hughes. And there is a feeling within the Yankees that if they insert Hughes for Kennedy, that would be enough.

The Boston Herald has noted that the Red Sox are willing to include Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester or Clay Buchholz in the deal — but not more than one of those three. There’s some great perspective in this Tony Massarotti piece about what trades like this have brought teams in the past:

When the Red Sox acquired Pedro Martinez from the Montreal Expos in 1997, the package was Carl Pavano and Tony Armas. And when the Sox obtained Josh Beckett from the Florida Marlins after the 2005 season, the key prospects were Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez. (The package grew more complex because of Mike Lowell’s involvement and concerns about Beckett’s shoulder, leading to additional players being involved, like Guillermo Mota.)

An exception to the rule? The Bartolo Colon deal in 2002. In that trade, the Cleveland Indians sent Colon and pitcher Tim Drew (yes, J.D.’s brother) to the Expos for a group that included Lee Stevens, Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore and Brandon Phillips, the latter two of whom are now All-Star-caliber players. And while Lee had a miserable 2007, he is still just 29 (and left-handed) with a career record of 54-36.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll be happy when this is over. La Velle has been handling our main news coverage this week, and it’s still been exhausting for me, trying to help us stay in front of the story baseball people are talking about from coast to coast.

One of the New York writers told me this has been the most hectic offseason he can remember in eight years around the Yankees. It’s been non-stop: A-Rod, Torre, Girardi, Posada, Mariano, A-Rod again, and now … Johan. Actually, as crazy as the Santana Sweepstakes are, things are slowing down a little in Yankeeland.

I’ll miss Johan. But if and when this trade finally happens, I’ll probably greet it with a sigh of relief. Torii already wiped out Thanksgiving. Here’s hoping Johan spares Christmas.

How will the Young trade affect the Santana talks?

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

Two perspectives on the Delmon Young trade: John Romano, of the St. Pete Times, questions whether Tampa Bay got enough in return. And Aaron Gleeman, who notes, among other things, that Eduardo Morlan is a top-flight relief prospect, concludes that the Twins will need Young to become a perennial All-Star to make this deal pan out.

I like the deal for the Twins because I think they trusted their instincts that Young will become the bigger superstar than Garza over his career. They based that on what they knew of Garza’s makeup (and they’d better have that one right) and what they could assume with Young, who seemed like the classic case of a player in need of a change of scenery.

Gleeman’s breakdown of all six individuals is solid and worth your time. An NL GM told me last night that Harris isn’t an everyday shortstop, but he can move around the infield, hits enough and will be “a good Twin.” Still, this team has a gaping new hole at shortstop.

The Twins entered Wednesday heavy on pitching prospects and light on position prospects. That balance changed when they shipped Garza away for Young. Now, the Twins almost certainly would need to land one of the game’s premier pitching prospects in any Santana trade. For that reason, I think the Yankees (Phil Hughes) and Red Sox (Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz) are way in front of the Mets, who simply don’t have the pitching prospects. That is why the Mets would probably have to include SS Jose Reyes in the deal, and as Omar Minaya told Joel Sherman yesterday, that isn’t happening.

“I like going after the big fish, but I can’t rob Peter to pay Paul,” Minaya said. “I’m not getting rid of Jose Reyes.”

In the end, I think the Red Sox are going to keep driving up the price, but the Yankees will be the ones making this happen behind new wheeler dealer Hank Steinbrenner. I asked a couple New York writers yesterday if the Yankees would have any problem giving Santana the required six-year, $150 million contract extension. They just chuckled and basically said, “Ah, no.”

From this NY Post story by Sherman and George King, it sounds like the Twins are asking for the moon.

The Yankees have learned in the past 24-48 hours that the initial asking price by the Twins is exorbitant, well beyond just the Phil Hughes/Melky Cabrera level that had been generally anticipated.

One can guess that means the Twins are insisting upon the likes of Robinson Cano or Joba Chamberlain. At this stage of the game, why not? The Twins don’t have to do this deal until they get the offer they want. I know the price for Delmon was high, but adding him to the mix sure makes things interesting.

Stomaching the Santana trade situation

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

I’m not a GM. I don’t even play one in the newspaper. So it was a leap for me to break down the potential returns the Twins could get in a Johan Santana deal. These were educated guesses based on the conversations I’ve been having with people from around the game.

With that chart and today’s main story, I wanted to convey a prevailing theme I keep hearing from baseball insiders, that the returns on a Santana trade won’t be as impressive as people might think. As one exec put it to me, “This isn’t as simple as saying you’re trading Johan Santana, the best pitcher on the planet.” Based on the e-mails I’ve been getting, people are having a tough time grasping that.

On his blog today, Buster Olney compares the price of trading for Santana with the price of trading for Oakland’s Dan Haren:

You could back up your organization’s truck and offer two Grade A prospects and a couple of Grade B prospects and call the Minnesota Twins about Johan Santana. And if you arrange a conditional deal with the Twins, you could then have the opportunity to try to convince Santana to waive his no-trade clause. That would cost you merely the largest salary for any pitcher in the history of baseball: six years, $150 million, on top of the $13.25 million he is owed for next season.

Or you could back up the organization’s truck and offer three or four prospects for Oakland’s Dan Haren. No strings attached, no no-trade clause. And here’s the really good news: You would have to pay Haren just $4 million for 2008, $5.5 million for 2009, and he has a $6.75 million option for 2010.

So not only would you have a great pitcher on the cheap for three years, you’d have cost certainty, the flexibility of not being locked into a long-term deal — and you could spend cash that you would’ve had to spend on Santana to fill other needs.

Buster notes that another trade option for teams is Baltimore’s Erik Bedard, who won’t become a free agent until after 2009. So yes, the Twins have an amazing trade chip in Santana, but that doesn’t mean teams are going to treat him as the be-all and end-all.

I have been getting skewered over e-mail for the comment that Miguel Cabrera will bring a bigger return than Santana on the trade front. Cabrera’s weight gain has been well-documented. The Yankees, Red Sox and Mets are set at third base, so they’re not even in the hunt.

But think about the teams who could be in the running for both Santana and Cabrera — the Dodgers and the Angels. I guarantee both would give up more talent for Cabrera than Santana. And again, a big part of that is because Cabrera won’t be a free agent until after 2009.

The reaction I’m getting over e-mail proves a big point I’m trying to make. Readers expect the Twins to get a major haul if they trade Santana. If the team settles for anything less, this could be a PR nightmare, especially after losing Torii Hunter to free agency. Stay tuned, and please, stop killing the messenger. One of my best friends has two young boys who aren’t speaking to me now after all this bad news on Hunter and Santana.

Monday morning Twins briefing

Monday, November 26th, 2007

La Velle and I are keeping our ears to the ground for any developments on the Johan Santana trade front. Ken Rosenthal reported the Twins are asking for one major league star — think Jose Reyes or Robinson Cano — along with multiple prospects in their Santana discussions.

I think it’s right for the Twins to ask for those stars, but I don’t think they’d get much in the way of additional prospects in that type of a deal. Hard as this might be to grasp, a Cano for Santana deal might be more of a 1-for-1 because Cano won’t be a free agent until after 2011 and Santana can hit the market next fall.

We continue to hear major league insiders talk about how reluctant teams will be to give up three premium young players while still needing to pony up a six-year, $120 million contract extension to keep Johan from free agency. I think the Twins will know by the end of the winter meetings (which run Dec. 3-6) whether they can get enough to justify trading him.

Also, here’s a great piece by Bob Nightengale with an inside look at the Angels’ negotiations with Torii Hunter:

“I always imagined my deal would get done inside a board room or a Capital Grille,” Hunter said. “Turns out it was done at a Del Taco. Can you believe it? The deal gets done over some tacos.”

New Santana details emerge

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

The five-year, $93 million contract the Twins recently offered Johan Santana would only have kept him with the team through 2012, the Star Tribune has learned.

Santana is owed $13.25 million for next season in the final year of his four-year, $39.75 million contract. The Twins offered to terminate that deal and begin the new five-year contract, meaning they essentially offered him a four-year, $80 million extension.

The Star Tribune had reported that Santana countered the five-year, $93 million offer by asking for a deal similar to the seven-year, $126 million deal Barry Zito inked with the Giants last offseason. But a person familiar with the discussions said Santana’s comparison to Zito is only in reference to the seven-year framework. Santana told the Twins he is looking for a six-year extension, and since the Twins were only offering four, the sides agreed the team should begin exploring trade options.

Some in the industry believe Santana, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, will seek upwards of $25 million per season in his next deal. He has a complete no-trade clause and will control much of his own fate, since he can veto any deal if the receiving team doesn’t meet his asking price.

Stay tuned.