December 2007

Santana smatterings

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

The Twins checked in with the Red Sox, Yankees and Mets just before everyone split for the holidays but nothing major appears to be heating up.
Yes, you just read the word Mets. Indications are that the Mets remain a viable destination for ace Johan Santana, and that the Twins like enough of their players that a deal could be worked out without shortstop Jose Reyes being part of the package.
Outfield prospects Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez have been mentioned in other reports as possible targets. Pitchers Mike Pelfrey, Kevin Mulvey and Phil Humber are considered good prospects but it’s unclear how much the Twins like them. And, it’s unknown if there are any established players the Mets are willing to part with (Reyes and David Wright seem untouchable).
This is pure speculation, but you have to wonder if the Twins would prefer to deal Santana to a National League team. Santana, a career .258 hitter, would get the chance to swing the bat. And, except for interleague play, the Twins wouldn’t have to face him during the regular season.
Other than that, things appear to be dormant on the trade front (I was told, `dormant,’ definitely was a good word to describe dealings with the Red Sox). But, like I always point out, that could always change.
Also heard that, in some trade scenarios discussed with the Yankees, that lefthander Kei Igawa’s name has popped up. Igawa, 28, was 2-3 with a 6.25 ERA last season. There’s a belief that he needs to get out of New York to establish himself. And, of course, Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson isn’t afraid of such a project. It’s still believed that Phillip Hughes and Melky Cabrera would lead any package from the Yankees.
It appears that someone is still waiting for the other to blink. The Twins are aware that going to spring training with Santana isn’t the best scenario, but they’ll do it if they have to.
I can’t commit to filing a daily report, given that it’s the holidays. But if there’s anything worth blogging, you’ll be informed here.

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 21st, 2007

The baseball department at the Star Tribune will continue to monitor any Johan Santana-related developments, but with the holidays nearing (and family members driving over from Chicago for a week) I’ll only post breaking news here. Sorry, but I haven’t even started my Christmas shopping….

If you need a Twins fix over the next week, I’ll be on KFAN with Henry Lake from 9-noon on Sunday, and I’m scheduled to fill-in for Dan Barreiro from 4-6 p.m. on Thursday (I hope Santana isn’t traded while I’m on air).

Have a wonderful Christmas.

Silva gone, Bonser disappearing

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

Carlos Silva. To Seattle for four years and $48 million. Whoo.

Congratulations to Silva, who did extremely well in what was his window to maximize his earnings potential. If that’s what the market bears, more power to him and, darn, I should have conditioned better and played better defense when I had my chance in youth baseball.

“I did have a conversation with his agent (Thursday),” Twins GM Bill Smith said. “I’m happy for him. It’s a tremendous thing for Carlos Silva.” 

Silva was 47-45 in four seasons with the Twins, who gave him a chance to become a starter and eventually land such a fat contract.

He had his ups and downs. He usually didn’t hide his frustrations when he didn’t pitch well. He would snap at reporters sometimes and there were a couple times he dashed after games and didn’t speak with us. I never held that against him much because, with Silva, it was more about passion than defiance or arrogance. I get that. And he usually was fine the next time around. 

I’ll never forget when he threw the ball into the upper deck of the Dome after getting his first-ever complete game shutout in 2004 and then watched him go up to a couple Angels players during batting practice the next day and apologize for his actions.

He walked just nine batters in 188 innings that year, something I may never see again.

He took all kinds of heat this spring when he pitched beyond horribly but recovered with a decent season – 13-14 with a 4.19 ERA. He had two fewer wins and gave up 13 fewer homers than Johan Santana in what was a down year for the two-time Cy Young winner.

Now Silva is headed to good pitcher’s park with a good defensive outfield and two slick fielders on the left side of the Mariners infield. Good luck.

The Twins do NOT receive any draft pick compensation for losing Silva because Silva didn’t qualify as a Type A or B free agent, and there’s no longer a C-class….

Moving on to the Twins’ 2008 rotation, I talked to a few Twins folk today who reported that Boof Bonser has been working out religiously and has dropped about 20 pounds. That’s pretty good with about six weeks left before pitchers and catchers report for spring training (six weeks, geez).

Bonser has been in contact with Perry Castellano, the Twins’ strength and conditioning coordinator, throughout the offseason. The Twins were concerned that excess weight worked against Bonser last season, so they are pleased with how he’s responded.

“We look to Boof to have a big year next year,” Smith said. 


Thursday: Answering some questions

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

There’s a good chance I may be unable to post until late today (if at all), so I’ll tee up a few things for you now, based on some responses I’ve read here.

Who’s really interested in Santana?: The way it was laid out to me, there are several teams interested, but the Red Sox and Yankees remain the two main suitors. Other teams will indicate that they might get heavily involved but, as of this writing, have yet to make a strong offer. The Angels, Mariners and Mets all have shown some degree of interest in recent weeks. I hate to write it again, but everything can change with one phone call.

What’s the deal with the Mets? Do they really have a shot? I still hear that, unless the names Wright and Reyes enter the picture (and I doubt they will), the Mets have no shot. The word at the winter meetings was that the Mets kept their name involved for PR purposes. This is an indication that the Twins may not be that fond of some of the Mets prospects.

The Yankees are in…no they’re out….they may be really close to getting Santana…no, now Hank says they’re on the outside: Heh, Hank Steinbrenner has to be a reporter’s dream. I think it’s obvious that Steinbrenner and GM Brian Cashman are sparring over players to offer to the Twins, but you can never count them out because they need Santana more than the Red Sox do and they can pay Santana what he wants. Hank could pop off at any time and say, “Costanza, get in here! Look, this Santana guy is just what we need, JUST WHAT WE NEED! I want him, and I want YOU go to Minneapolis and get him!” 

While we’re at it, why DO the Red Sox want Santana? We already have a good rotation…. This is not about the Red Sox keeping Santana away from the Yankees or making the Yankees drive up the price. I know a few Red Sox people. Boston trains in Fort Myers where the Twins are and I bump into their people all the time.  I met GM Theo Epstein and assistant GM Jed Hoyer at the winter meetings when they were just wandering around the hotel with nothing to do. I’ve had no choice but to talk about, `The Nation.’ The Red Sox want to dominate. They want to build a dynasty in the AL East and keep the Yankees reeling for as many years as they can. A rotation of Josh Beckett, Santana, Dice-K and Schilling with Tim Wakefield and Clay Buchholz also in play helps them achieve their domination goals. 

Are the Twins really serious about opening the season with Santana in the rotation? I, too, find that hard to believe. Most players who enter their walk year want to keep walking. While Santana’s camp hasn’t come out and said it, there are some rumbling that he won’t waive his no-trade clause during the regular season.

The Twins maintain that they aren’t afraid to open the season with Santana, and they may be willing to call his bluff at trade deadline. That”s a big gamble. They should be looking to get the best deal possible now. If they can get four players in return for Santana, just look at what your getting with the top two players in that deal and hope player Nos. 3 and 4 will be equal to what you’d get in compensation picks. So as long as they are satisfied with the quality up top, they should pull the trigger.

Why can’t the Twins sign Santana? The Twins did offer a four-year, $80 million extension, which shows that, no matter who the pitcher is, they won’t sign someone for five, six, seven years. Many of those deals (Kevin Brown, Mike Hampton, Denny Neagle) end up being wasted money by the time the deal expires. You would think that Santana would be special case but, again, history warns against such a commitment. Just like with Torii Hunter and Carlos Silva, someone will pay Santana much more than the Twins.

If I were a fan, I would not let this organization off the hook because of that. The Twins could have signed a few players a year ago before salaries jumped forward again. Now that Joe Nathan has watched Mariano Rivera sign for $15 million a year at his advanced age, what do you think No. 36 is worth?

Not signing Santana a year ago, when he was asking them to, was a massive mistake. Now new GM Bill Smith is having sleepless nights trying to make a good Santana deal. Ownership needs to be proactive. It’s a $6 billion industry. Everyone is making money, right Carl?

What about Nathan? The Cubs? I still expect the Twins to look to trade Nathan once they move Santana. Just in case Santana does wind up with the Twins in April, you might as well keep the closer and see where the chips fall. If Nathan is put in play, I would expect several teams to jump at him. He’s too good and he’s inexpensive this season. I wrote last week that the Cubs would be interested if Nathan is put on the market. A radio station in Chicago mentioned Carlos Marmol as possible trade bait, someone here immediately threw Felix Pie into the deal. This has been advanced farther it should be. Nathan wasn’t on the trade block, last time I checked.

Ben Revere? Someone threw out this name too. First of all, I believe Revere hasn’t been in the organization long enough to be dealt. Secondly, he’s good. You want to keep Revere. He’s very fast, they think he’ll hit and he may be able to drop a few over the fence. Denard Span is still a good prospect, but there are people in the organization who feel Revere has more upside. Too bad he’ll need several more years before he’s ready.

So….what’s your gut feeling: I still think he’ll end up with the Red Sox, and I don’t mind either package. I will say this: Some Twins people like Coco Crip and feel he can get back to his game if gets out of Boston. I think that’s possible, but Ellsbury could be very good. He had a .389 OBP throughout his minor league career and the Twins have watched him develop while facing their teams in the Gulf Coast League, Eastern League and Internatonal League. They know what they’re getting.

The Yankees have no shot if Hughes (a super stud of a prospect) isn’t in the deal.

Before I’d say yes to Theo, I would call the Angels and Dodgers one last time….


Wednesday update

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

Sorry for the delay, but holiday preparations (and a toilet repair today) made it hard for me to stay on schedule.

I spoke with several people today who told me nothing is close regarding a trade of Johan Santana (although that one phone call) could be happening as I write this (O.K. Tyler, are you happy now?). In fact, one person told me that nothing has happened since the end of the winter meetings.

(I’m sure some of you are thinking, “what about the Yankees getting involved, that’s certainly constitutes something”. True but, I like I’ve written before, the Twins never felt the Yanks were officially out of it.)

The Twins are still waiting for that good deal, and it was mentioned to me again today that they are willing to have Santana in a Twins uniform next season rather than make a bad deal.

Anyway, I did write a story for tomorrow’s ink editions, in which I also mentioned the names of a couple pitchers the Twins have sniffed around at. Make sure to check it out.