Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Santana Trade Analysis

I can't imagine the Mets not reaching a contract extension with Johan Santana. Can you see them telling their fans that after winning the Santana sweepstakes, they've decided not to pay for him and are sending him back to Minnesota? Since this just isn't going to happen, I'll analyze the trade now.

Like I said in my last entry, it feels like the Twins settled. When talking about the biggest move of the off-season, not to mention one that will have a lasting influence on Minnesota's rebuilding effort, "settling" is not what you want to feel. It was a difficult situation to begin with, since Johan Santana has a full no-trade clause in his contract, therefore limiting the place he could be traded to. He also said that he didn't want to be traded mid-season, therefore giving the Twins a deadline. I think that deadline played a major part in pushing this trade through to completion.

At one point the Red Sox were offering two packages:
#1: LHP Jon Lester, RHP Justin Masterson, CF Coco Crisp and SS Jed Lowrie.
#2: CF Jacoby Ellsbury, RHP Justin Masterson and SS Jed Lowrie.

The Yankees had a top notch offer also of RHP Phil Hughes, CF Melky Cabrera and another prospect.

All three of those offers have comparable or higher ceilings and are less risky than the offer taken from the Mets. Lester, Crisp, Ellsbury, Hughes and Cabrera are all young players who have proven that they can compete in the majors and would fill holes on the Twins' roster. Only about a year ago Hughes was considered the best pitching prospect in baseball, and Ellsbury looks to be an excellent centerfielder and lead-off hitter now.

The time has passed on those deals. The Twins waited too long and those offers were pulled off the table, leaving them no where else to go but the Mets and with no leverage to increase their offer. The Mets stuck to their guns and refused to include their top prospect, OF Fernando Martinez, instead selling off OF Carlos Gomez, RHP Phil Humber, RHP Kevin Mulvey and RHP Deolis Guerra.

That's not to say the deal was a total bust. They did get 4 players and there is a mix of major league talent and minor league upside in there.

Centerfielder Carlos Gomez is a tremendous athlete with great speed. He's also 6'4", so many scouts are predicting that he'll develop power as well. The downside is, he is very raw and unpolished. His plate discipline needs work and he hasn't shown much in the 125 AB he's had in the majors. Sure he has upside, but he looks like one of those guys who boasts tons of athletic ability, but isn't much of a ballplayer. I think that will keep him from reaching his full potential.

Phil Humber was a 1st round draft pick back in 2004, so he's got that premier talent pedigree. But along the way he had tommy john surgery. He hasn't quite been the same since. He still should contribute. He could compete for a back of the rotation slot for the Twins this year, but I wouldn't expect him to "wow" anyone. He gave up 21 homeruns in 139 innings in AAA last year. He might be getting taken out of the game early and often.

I like Kevin Mulvey much better. He's still a year away from the majors, but he has much more upside than Humber. He projects as a solid #3 pitcher. For the sake of comparison, he only gave up 4 homeruns in 157 2/3 innings in AA last year.

Deolis Guerra is the sleeper here. He pitched in class A advanced last year at the young age of 18 and has front of the rotation potential. He's got a good fastball and a great change up, but needs to refine his breaking stuff. That said, he didn't dominate last year, just holding his own. He can be the deal breaker, making this trade worth it for the Twins if he reaches his potential. But given his age and how far away he is from reaching the majors, it's a risky move.

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