Friday, February 01, 2008

Hasta Luego, Johan.

I predicted this day would come.

Now it’s official.

Johan Santana and the New York Mets agreed Friday to a $150.75 million, seven-year contract, a record for a pitcher and the last major step needed to finalize the team's blockbuster trade with Minnesota.

After the sides were granted an extra two hours to work on a deal, the Mets announced about 30 minutes before the new 7 p.m. EST deadline that negotiations had concluded. The pitcher was scheduled to take a physical Saturday.

Terms of the agreement were disclosed by a baseball official with knowledge of the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made.

Santana's contract topped the previous mark for pitchers, set when Barry Zito received a $126 million, seven-year deal from the San Francisco Giants last offseason. Santana was due $13.25 million in the final year of his contract with the Twins, and would have been eligible for free agency after the World Series.

The Twins agreed Tuesday to swap Santana for four prospects: outfielder Carlos Gomez and right-handers Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra.

For the short-term, there’s no question that this is a bad deal for the Twins. I thought they had a good chance of winning close to 90 games this season with Santana anchoring the starting rotation. With a healthy Francisco Liriano, a slimmer Boof Bonser and up and coming youngsters Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey, the potential was there for a solid starting five. With Santana now gone, there is no longer a true ace of the staff. Certainly Liriano has a chance to be that if he shows a semblance of what he did in 2006. However, that’s far from a certainty a year-and-a-half after his extensive elbow surgery.

For the long-term, who knows? The four players the Twins acquired in the trade are all in the top 10 of Mets prospects according to Baseball America. And it appears Gomez can fit the bill of everyday centerfielder this season, which allows Michael Cuddyer to stay in right field and newcomer Delmon Young to be the regular left fielder.

The bottom line is the Twins were not in a position to demand a huge ransom in a trade for Santana. It was well documented that Santana was not going to sign a long-term extension in Minnesota, thus allowing him to walk after the 2008 season. In fact, Santana openly complained last August that the Twins are constantly in a rebuilding mode. He even went so far as to say it didn’t make any sense for him to remain a Twin. As a result, the Mets were able to take advantage of the Twins’ untenable situation. And they did so without giving up young phenoms like Jose Reyes and Fernando Martinez.

When soaking in this trade I can’t help but think of another big deal the Twins and Mets put together. In July 1989, the Twins traded reigning Cy Young winner Frank Viola to the Mets for five pitchers. One guy the Twins insisted be thrown into the mix was left-hander David West, who was supposedly a “can’t miss” prospect. However, West ended up having a mediocre 3 ½ season with the Twins. As almost afterthoughts, the Twins also acquired Rick Aguilera and Kevin Tapani in the Viola deal. But to the surprise of many, both ended up being integral pieces of the 1991 World Series champions. That season Aguilera saved 42 games as an All-Star closer and Tapani was their #2 starter with 16 wins and a 2.99 ERA.

The optimist in me hopes for a result similar to the Viola trade. Truth be told, that’s the only way I’m able to comfort the realist in me.


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