ESPN: Santana Makes Mets NL Favorite

The Mets get Johan Santana without giving up Fernando Martinez, their best prospect, or Mike Pelfrey, their best young pitcher. They also immediately make themselves the favorites to win their division and have a good argument that they're the best team in the National League. It's hard to see this deal as anything other than a win for New York, and given how many people claimed (erroneously) that the Mets didn't have the prospects to get Santana, it must be doubly sweet for Omar Minaya right now.

For the Twins, or at least for their fans, this has to feel like a huge letdown after a winter that saw names like Jacoby Ellsbury and Phil Hughes bandied about by the media, although whether those players were actually available in trade talks is another matter entirely. The Twins deal their best asset and the best pitcher in franchise history -- not to mention the greatest Rule 5 pick in the history of that draft -- for quantity, but not the type of quality you expect a pitcher of his caliber to fetch in return.

In Santana, the Mets get one of the game's best pitchers, a two-time Cy Young Award winner who has to be the early favorite for the NL Cy right away, given his track record and the run and defensive support he'll get in New York. It's a five-win upgrade at worst, more if you consider the sixth- and seventh-starter types the Mets might have had to employ this year had they not made this deal. But the addition of Santana does two things for the Mets above and beyond the direct value he provides with his pitching. One, he'll give the Mets 50-75 more innings than they would have gotten from the starter he replaces in the rotation; he takes pressure off their bullpen and allows Willie Randolph to give his best relievers more rest, which he wasn't able to do last August and September. Two, he pushes everyone in the rotation back into a more suitable spot. Pelfrey now has to "win" a starting role in spring training, which, given the work he still needs to do, is not a bad situation. Oliver Perez and John Maine won't line up quite as often against opposing No. 1 and 2 starters.

Santana is not without his red flags; he stumbled to the finish in 2007 and in the past has had elbow chips, a problem that tends to recur. He's become more flyball-oriented recently, leading to a big spike in his home run rate this year; the acquisition could encourage the Citi Field architects to push the fences back a few feet. And the days of him shouldering 230-240 innings a year may be behind him, although facing the pitcher two or three times a game may help him recover some of the lost workload.

The Twins' package includes two raw prospects with high ceilings and two near-in, low-upside arms. Carlos Gomez is a plus-plus runner, has a quick bat and makes a lot of contact with a wrist-heavy swing, but doesn't project to hit for power now because he doesn't use his lower half to get more power into his swing. He's an excellent defender in center with a plus arm -- imagine a Coco Crisp who could throw the ball to the catcher without 15 hops -- which may encourage the Twins to use him in the majors right now, even though his bat's not ready.

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