By La Velle
Second-guessing is so easy. And the Twins are being ripped for waiting too long to trade Johan Santana and getting less than what they could have several weeks ago. The word incompetence is used here. And Red Sox officials feel they had a better deal, whatever deal that was.
We may never learn exactly what the November, December and January offers were. It’s hard to believe that the Twins only got a quartet of prospects for the one of the top pitchers in the game.
But it can’t be stressed enough how much Santana affected what the Twins had to do. He had grown too big for Minnesota. He wanted to pitch on the big stage, which Minnesota isn’t.
He wanted a large contract, so large that he turned down a four-year, $80 million extension from the Twins – and the Twins let it be known that they were willing to add a fifth year to their offer. I’ve heard that Santana and his agent will pursue a contract from the Mets that includes a signing bonus large enough to bridge the gap between the $13.25 million he’s due this season and that they feel is current market value ($7-9 million?). The players association obviously wants Santana to redefine the already exploding market for pitching.
And that’s not a rip on Santana. Some players are comfortable dropping anchor in some places. Santana wants to pitch in the largest market and get paid accordingly. It’s his right. I think Santana had made up his mind that it was time for a change, which led to the request from his agent that the Twins agree to a deal by Tuesday or he would just play out the final year of his contract.
Twins GM Bill Smith tried to wait until someone stepped up with an improved offer. The Red Sox and Yankees never did -it looks like both actually pulled back their offers. Who can predict that happening?
I can understand the Red Sox. They were talking dynasty at the winter meetings when it looked like they could get Santana. But they only wanted him. They didn’t need him and weren’t sure if they could sign him anyway.
The Yankees baffle me. GM Brian Cashman, who doesn’t have an easy job working with Hank Steinbrenner, was able to hold on to young players when it’s obvious the Yankees don’t have enough top pitching to beat the Red Sox.
And I’m not buying their sudden fiscal concerns. They have Bob Abreu ($16 million), Andy Pettitte ($16 million) and Mike Mussina ($11 million) coming off the books after this season, and probably won’t pick up Jason Giambi’s option after he makes $21 million this year. And there’s a new stadium opening in 2009. I’m just not buying it.
If the Twins are fortunate enough to have the best pitcher in baseball again, they hopefully will be more aggressive to sign that pitcher when he’s two years away from free agency. The Twins had a shot a year ago but were unable to extend Santana. That’s when they put themselves in a box. And that was the beginning of a season during which Santana became disgruntled over personnel decisions.
The Twins kept reminding me that no trade is better than a bad one. It’s too bad we’ll have to wait three years before grading this one.