Do You Need a Johan?

Ever since the 2007 regular season ended there has been rumors that the Minnesota Twins would attempt to trade two-time American League Cy Young award winner Johan Santana. The 2008 season would mark the final year of Santana’s current contract and the Twins did not appear willing or able to absorb the type of contract necessary to retain the services of their ace pitcher. This meant that the time was probably appropriate for a trade to take place. One major sticking point was the fact that Santana owned a full non-trade clause meaning he would have to agree to whatever deal necessarily in order to waive his rights to block the trade. This of course put the Twins at a disadvantage because if Santana didn’t want to go he could nix any trade. Not exactly a position of power to be in from a negotiating perspective. For the longest time it appeared that Santana would be headed for one of the two teams that probably needed his services the least, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. The Twins asking price seemed a bit steep and trade talks slowed to a crawl. Santana’s representatives stepped in and added further pressure to the situation by announcing that once Spring Training started the window would be closed meaning that his client would not accept any trade during the season putting a very hard deadline on the negotiations. In the end, one team blinked and another opened its checkbook and a deal was done.

On Tuesday the New York Mets went from being a story of imminent failure and the demise of the 2007 season to what looks to be the class of the National League and a favorite to reach the World Series. All it took was 4 minor league prospects from the Mets top ten minor leaguers and $137.5 million dollars, and a few rolls of Tums.

When the trade was initially announced on Tuesday I was in a state of shock. Not because Johan Santana was traded but by the names and numbers of prospects given up. The Mets sent outfield Carlos Gomez and pitchers Phillip Humber, Kevin Mulvey, and Deolis Guerra to the Twins in exchange for Santana. And while may assessment was correct that each of these four players ranked in the Mets top 10 prospects it should also be noted that Baseball America didn’t exactly glow at the depth or quality of the Mets minor league system. That’s not to say these guys can’t play. It is just that if you compared the prospects the Arizona Diamondbacks gave up in exchange for Dan Haren they are much higher quality than those the Mets gave up. That is what makes this deal such a head scratcher. The players the Mets gave up in my opinion we not of the quality or caliber of those that the Yankees or Red Sox offered earlier this off season. I don’t think I am alone in this opinion either. An official with the Baltimore Orioles commented that the Mets had previously approached the Orioles with an offer for Erik Bedard that included 3 of the prospects sent to the Twins for Santana and Baltimore just laughed telling the Mets they were not even close to the amount of talent it would take to land Bedard. It is hard to believe that the fourth name on this list would have made the offer so much sweeter to land someone like Santana. Sometimes it is just being in the right place at the right time to get a deal done.

The exchange of players was only one part of this transaction. In order for Johan Santana to waive his no-trade clause he wanted a long-term contract from the Mets. The Commissioner’s office provided New York with a 72 hour window to negotiate an extension with Santana’s representatives. It took a 90 minute extension at the end of the 72 hours to finally come to an agreement that would keep Santana in a New York Mets uniform through 2014. That is a long time and a lot of money to tie up with one player. The expectations and pressure in New York increased exponentially with the completion of this deal. If the Mets fail to win or even make the World Series there will be a few people who may be dusting off their resumes as they look for work next winter.

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