By Joe Christensen
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.
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.