Sunday, December 23, 2007

Santana - Why the Red Sox Package Makes Sense

When news of a possible Santana deal first broke, Peter Gammons speculated that it would take a package including Chien-Ming Wang or Robinson Cano, plus a premium prospect. Months later, the Twins are struggling just to get a premium prospect. I think it's fair to say that the demand for Santana isn't as high as many expected it to be.

This is likely due to a few factors. First of all, the salary that Santana would command really limits to the teams he could be dealt to. And the list of teams that the Twins could match up with in a trade is even further limited by Santana's no-trade clause. It's unclear which teams Santana would accept being dealt to, but most likely due to financial restrictions, only a few teams showed serious interest in Santana: the Mets, Red Sox, and Yankees.

As for a Mets, they simply didn't have the prospects to be a good match. And so any Santana deal would require them to give up a major piece of their major league team such as Jose Reyes. To no one's surprise, the Mets didn't bite.

As for the Yankees, Brian Cashman has become very conservative about trading young prospects. The Twins had to fight so hard to get Phil Hughes included in a deal, that once the did, the Yankees were unwilling to budge on any more talent. The best package that the Yankees seem willing to provide is a rather weak package of Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera, and Jeff Marquez. And if Cashman had his way, Hughes wouldn't even be on the table.

So that leaves the Twins with the Red Sox. Like other teams, the Red Sox aren't willing to offer a star major league player in return for Santana. But the Red Sox do offer one thing that other teams don't, multiple quality prospects in Jon Lester, Jed Lowrie and Justin Masterson. In addition to offering multiple quality prospects, the players the Red Sox are offering, would also fill the most holes for the Twins.

The Twins need a center fielder, a middle infielder, and since they've already dealt Matt Garza, they could use multiple pitching prospects. Ideally, those pitching prospects would be able to help out the major league team either in 2008, or fairly soon after.

The quantity available in the Red Sox package makes sense for the Twins for multiple reasons. First of all, the more cost controlled players the Twins receive in a deal, the more money they'll be saving on the free agent market. This has to be an utmost concern for a cost conscious team such as the Twins.

By dealing Santana for multiple quality prospects, it also diversifies the Twins investment. You could consider Johan Santana capital, and the Twins would be trading in that capital for stocks, which the they hope develop into good investments. Well, if the Twins were to trade Santana for Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera, and Jeff Marquez, what would happen if Hughes didn't work out as well as he's projected to? They'd lose almost all of the value that they received in the deal.

On the other hand, if the Twins were to acquire Jon Lester, Jed Lowrie and Justin Masterson, they could still get a good deal of value out of the deal if one of those prospects didn't work out. Would the Twins be getting equal value for Santana? No. But the Twins are in a rather odd position in that regard.

If the Twins do not trade Johan Santana, they would not be able to afford him when he hits the free agent market next year. And if Santana leaves via free agency, which he almost certainly would, the Twins would receive only two sandwich draft picks for compensation. That chances of those draft picks being as valuable as Jon Lester, Coco Crisp, Jed Lowrie and Justin Masterson are very remote.

The Twins could go into the season with Santana, hoping to trade him at the deadline, but Santana has said that the wouldn't allow a trade mid-season. So the Twins will likely have to take whatever the best offer is on the table going into next season. Currently, that offer appears to be that of the Red Sox, and there are no indications that other teams are willing to offer a better deal.

I expect the Twins to play poker a little longer, hoping the Red Sox will up their offer with the inclusion of Jacoby Ellsbury. In the end, however, the Twins will likely have to give up their bluff, as they aren't the ones holding the cards. They simply don't have the money to afford Santana, so they'll have to get the best value possible for him. And in order to do that, they'll have to trade him soon, even though it's not the best market for him.

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