Posted by: Nate | December 11, 2007

Chasing Aces

As the baseball winter meetings were taking place, El Duffah and I had the following exchange about the hot topic of Johan Santana and the prospect of the Sox landing him in a blockbuster trade.

Goatboy wrote:
In the course of reading the Winter Meetings blog it seems clear that the Yankees have pulled their offer for Santana and have had no talks with the Twins at all today. The Sox recently stated they will trade either Ellsbury or Lester but not both, and the deals on the table were believed to be a 3 for 1 of Ellsbury, Lowrie and Masterson or a 4 for 1 of Crisp, Lester, Lowrie and Masterson. This second deal is the one that I prefer for a number of reasons, one of which being I am very high on Jacoby and would like to keep him. While I feel his stretch run stats are not at all indicative of what his production will be over an entire season I like having his explosiveness, speed and CF defense as well as his small contract. Also, I feel that giving up Lester (who will probably thrive and make people think of Hanley if he goes to Minnesota), Masterson (a strong sinkerballer prospect) and Lowrie (a decent hitting SS prospect) is much better than including Ellsbury or Buchholz in a deal. It seems that the Red Sox also feel better about this deal as it is being reported that they included OF prospect Ryan Kalish from the 2006 daft class into the 4 for 1 deal, trying to sweeten it a bit and make it now a 5 for 1. Personally, I feel like if we can get the Twins to accept this package and negotiate an extension with Santana in the 5-6 year range at around 22$ million a year we would be getting good value. Thoughts on the packages and the type of deal Santana should be getting?

El Duffah wrote:
As far as my opinion on the Santana talks are concerned I would have to agree with you that I like the idea of a 4 for 1 including Lester and Crisp. If I were Theo I wouldn’t trade Ellsbury or Buchholz under any circumstances and I would be very hesitant to add a 5th prospect to the deal including Lester. You have to remember the position that the Twins are in. Although there has been a lot of talk about them having the option of keeping Santana and trying to make a run at a playoff birth this year with Liriano being back I think that’s be wishful thinking at best given that they traded away, arguably, their 3rd string pitcher in Matt Garza just recently in that deal with the Rays (no more Devil in the name by the way). You can’t ride your top two starters, regardless of how studly they may be, without a potent lineup, which they don’t have and won’t be able to build in one off-season.

Operating under this assumption I don’t think holding onto Santana would be a smart decision at all. They won’t have the option of trading him during by the July deadline since he’s already said he won’t waive his no-trade clause once the season has started. So if they don’t trade him they’ll only get 1 or 2 (do you know how many?) consolation draft picks as compensation. As we all know even top draft picks are a total crapshoot at best. This leads me to my major point, which is that they really HAVE to trade him unless they plan on mortgaging the farm and shelling out 150 million to keep him. They have no other option that really makes any sense given what the Red Sox and the Yankees are offering. I mean what sounds better, 2 draft picks or 2 quality known quantities and 2 prospects? This isn’t like the Miguel Cabrera situation where the Marlins have a young phenom locked up for two more years and as a result can demand nothing but the highest possible price without having to worry about losing him to free agency next year.  With regards to the Twins concerns about the reaction from their fanbase if they ship their franchise player I think that their fans would be much better served by getting the most player value out of the situation and rebuilding for the future than trying to hold onto him in a desperate last ditch attempt at a playoff run.  I mean I can sympathize with the good people of Minnesota on losing the best pitcher in baseball but I think it’s clear at this point that unless Major League Baseball introduces a hard salary cap the small market teams just won’t be able to afford the most expensive big name players and field a viable team at the same time.  This doesn’t mean that they can’t have playoff success but it does mean that they can’t expect to contend for a playoff birth every season like the Red Sox or the Yankees.  As the Florida Marlins have shown over the years, patience can be a virtue.  The Twins organization would be wise to adopt this as their mantra.

I’d like to go ahead and thank Hank Steinbrenner at this point for being an indignant loudmouth and subsequently killing any chance the Yankees had at landing Santana. Not only does this mean our hated rival won’t get the best pitcher in baseball it also means the Sox are in a far better position to dictate terms with the Twins. No other teams aside from the Yankees and the Sox seem to have the same strength of player package AND the money to pay Santana so he’ll waive his no-trade clause. Assuming old Hankey stays true to his word the Sox can just wait for the Twins to concede and take the Lester package since unlike our southerly neighbors we have no deadlines to make as long as the deal gets done before the season starts. I think right now this is the perfect storm that Theo needs to pull off one of the greatest trading coups of all time.

Goatboy wrote:

So as I mentioned previously, the Angels not getting MCab could propel them into the Santana discussion since they are one of the only other team with numerous blue-chippers AND cash to make a deal happen, making them a dark horse candidate. The Dodgers also have a ton of sick prospects that many people are high on, including Kershaw (who is a top 5ish prospect in all of baseball right now and a pitcher – something the Twins HAVE to get in the deal). In thinking about it, I feel like the Angels are probably getting involved to make the price go up for the Sox or other interested teams, and aren’t serious players. This supposition was seemingly confirmed when numerous sources (Buster Olney, among others) stated this morning that the Angels were denying they were looking at Santana and the GM, Tony Reagins, told the media to take it easy after reports surfaced they were going after Johan after losing out on Cabrera.

To me it seems like the Sox are still the only major player involved, and certainly the only one with a deal publicly on the table after Hank removed the Yankees from the equation Monday in some middle-aged man’s game of chicken. I doubt that the Sox will end up increasing their package in a significant manner at this point, so the Twins probably won’t be well served trying to wait us out and get us to add more to the two proposals already out there. My guess is they are waiting to see if anyone else jumps seriously into the fray while strongly considering the Sox offer, because as you said, they essentially are best served dealing him now. Getting 2 MLB ready players and prospects as opposed to the 2 draft picks they get if they keep him and he walks seems like a way better deal, especially shedding this years salary of 13.25$ million I think – using that money to lock up Joe Nathan or pursue some offensive upgrades perhaps.

Some stats for you regarding our preferred trade:

Masterson: (as of end of august; from SOSH)
YTD (AA)
IP: 54.0
H: 42 | H/9: 7.00
R: 24 ER: 23 | ERA: 3.83
BB: 15 | BB/9: 2.50
K: 55 | K/9: 9.17
HR: 4 | HR/9: 0.67
WHIP: 1.06
GB: 91/29 (3.14)

Minor League Career:
Lowrie: BA G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS OBP SLG OPS
.298 133 497 82 148 47 8 13 70 77 91 5 4 .393 .503 .896

Major League Career (6 Seasons)
Crisp: BA G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO OBP SLG OPS
.280 665 2565 378 717 140 23 49 272 104 39 195 371 .329 .409 .738

Lester: W L G GS CG IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
11 2 27 26 0 144.3 152 76 75 17 74 110 4.68 1.566

Johan: W L G GS CG SO IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
93 44 251 175 6 4 1308.7 1068 500 468 144 364 1381 3.22 1.094

Basically, you give up a guy in Lester who wins a lot of games because he is on the Sox and we score a lot, since he has had trouble with control of is pitches, leading to walks high pitch counts etc. but may be starting to turn the corner. A mediocre offensive CF with great speed and range and two high tier prospects who may or may not be good in the long run (both were rated 4 star prospects by Baseball America) for a proven all-star, ace, 2 time cy young award winner.

Short term, our rotation becomes disgusting and New England creams their pants. Long term, we replace Coco with a cheaper version of himself in Ellsbury that may or may not improve offensively over Crisp. We replace Lester with Johan with a huge upgrade there and we give up two promising minor leaguers, including a SS prospect meaning we ride out the Lugo deal or make another move if he continues to suck down the line. Monetarily, we lock up a ton of money in Johan, which may make the long-term signings of Youkilis, Pedroia, Ellsbury et al a bit trickier. Of course, you have Manny coming of the books in ’09 (if we pick up his option) and by 2010 Lowell will be up. Granted you don’t know what will come up through the pipe to replace any of these people, but it’ll be interesting if we make this deal to see how this affects the team monetarily (other than more increased ticket prices).

Another small point is that keeping a guy like Ellsbury, who is exciting to watch, young and attractive makes the game more fun to watch for some people. Chicks dig him cause he’s hot, all fans appreciate the homegrown talent and it’s more fun to watch a root for an exciting baseball team which I feel Jacoby brings to the table. I don’t get that as much from Lester and the OF already has one stiff in it in RF, so we don’t need Coco as much.

Goatboy wrote:
With the confirmation of the Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis trade to Detroit for Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, Mike Rabelo and 3 pitching prospects does this impact the Santana talks? I say yes, since the Angels can no longer get Cabrera they can use all their blue chip prospects and the likes of Howie Kendrick and Jered Weaver/Ervin Santana to trade for Johan. This makes them a serious contender because they apparently want to make a splash in a huge way this off-season and can put together a better offer then the Sox if they want to AND can afford to pay Johan (one of few teams that could).

I still like the 5 for 1 deal best for us though (if the inclusion of Ryan Kalish is indeed true), and hope an Angels emergence into the equation doesn’t up the price for us, if we are even seriously in the talks or just looking to up the price for others.

Also, that trade makes Detroit pretty legit from an offensive standpoint if they can get a rotation together that can stay healthy and effective (big if given guys like Rogers and Willis are a big part of that plan).

El Duffah wrote:
It appears, in an odd move, that the Twins will be holding onto Santana at least for the foreseeable future as no deal was in place by the end of the meetings. What are the implications here?

Goatboy wrote:
It seems clear the Twins are playing hardball with their ace, as they should since he is a huge part of their past successes and the face of the franchise in many respects. That being said, I agree with you in that they essentially have to trade him now to get max value. My feeling is that they didn’t want to pull the trigger just yet, and have informed the Sox that they are going to keep the lines of communication open going forward, so it is conceivable something gets done at a later date. Their reasons are twofold for this: one being they need to make sure this is the best course of action (which it is) and that they get the best possible deal for their best player. Secondly, this gives them some more time to put feelers out to other teams regarding their interest in attempting to get even more in return. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mets, desperate for quality starters, make a serious run at him in a deal that essentially sells the farm (no Wright or Reyes though). My money is on him coming to Boston at this point if he gets moved at all, which originally worried me but this quote by Beckett really allayed any fears about their being an alpha dog problem on our staff:

“It doesn’t matter to me,” said Beckett yesterday, “I make plenty of money. I’m starting Opening Day, though.” – on acquiring Johan Santana.

 El Duffah wrote:
Gotta hand it to the Tigers; that Cabrera/Willis trade is looking like quite the coup for them right now combined with the fact that they also secured the services of good old Edgar(Although can he play well in cold weather?).  Definitely way less worried about the Angels at this point.  Can’t really think of anyone who’s still on the market who would bring both the thump and plate patience to their lineup that they still desperately need.   Not sure what the Dodgers’ and Brewers’ theory is behind signing people coming off of down years to huge, short contracts.  I mean the shortness of Andruw Jones’ and Eric Gagne’s contracts makes sense given the risk involved in signing them but how do they deserve to make 18.1 and 10 million/year for drastically under performing?

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