The Red Sox and Twins are discussing the framework of a Johan Santana deal that would have Boston sending four players to Minnesota in return for the two-time Cy Young Award winner, including center fielder Coco Crisp, pitcher Jon Lester and minor-league shortstop Jed Lowrie, the trio that would anchor the deal.
Red Sox pitcher Michael Bowden has been discussed as a possible fourth player, sources say, but the identity of the fourth player is in flux.
Even if the Red Sox and Twins agree on the framework for a deal -- and as of early Thursday afternoon, that hadn't happened -- Boston would still face an enormous hurdle to complete the contract. Santana, who will be 29 at the outset of next season, has a full no-trade clause and is expected to ask for a market ceiling-type of contract of six years and about $150 million. No pitcher has ever received a multi-year deal for more than $18.6 million a year.
Any team that agrees with Minnesota on the framework of a deal would probably ask the Twins for a 72-hour window to negotiate an extension with Santana.
It is also possible, as the rival Yankees and the Red Sox simultaneously engage Minnesota in discussions for Santana, that the Red Sox could go to the brink of a deal in order to push the Yankees to go high in their offer as well, like two competing bidders at an auction. The Yankees, who have been involved in regular conversation with the Twins about Santana this week, may be doing the same thing -- trying to push the price high for Boston.
Crisp, 28, could fill the void created in Minnesota by the departure of center fielder Torii Hunter and is under contract for a reasonable salary in the years ahead -- $4.75 million next year, $5.75 million in 2009 and Boston holds a team option for 2010 of $8 million. Hunter signed a five-year, $90 million deal with the Angels last week.
Lester, 23, is 11-2 in 27 major-league appearances, with a 4.68 ERA, and threw well this year, his first year since fighting cancer. Lowrie, 23, hit .298 in 133 minor-league games in 2007 and finished the year with 40 games in Pawtucket, in which he compiled a .356 on-base percentage and .506 slugging percentage.
Bowden, 21, pitched for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs in 2007, finishing 10-6 with a 3.34 ERA overall. Red Sox prospects Clay Buchholz and Jacoby Ellsbury are considered untouchables in the Red Sox-Twins negotiations; similarly, the Yankees have indicated to others that they will not trade second baseman Robinson Cano or pitcher Joba Chamberlain.
It remains to be seen whether the Yankees will make headway in a Santana deal and offer the likes of Phil Hughes and center fielder Melky Cabrera.
The Twins have also talked with the Mets, Angels and Dodgers, among other teams.