All the talk right now is about Johan Santana. It’s unprecedented that a team would shop a player like that in the offseason, a true ace (and a lefty to boot) still in his prime years.
Santana has a great track record, still has every inch of break on that nasty slider, and has no health concerns, having pitched well over 200 innings in each of the past four seasons. Despite that, he ranks 50th out of 302 pitchers in Baseball Prospectus’ Pitcher Abuse Points scale, meaning his arm has a good chance of staying intact. He’s good friends with former Twin David Ortiz, and that could work in our favor.
On the other hand, Santana has one year left at $13M, then will require a $20-25M annual contract for at least five years. Probably not a bad investment, mind you, but one which could make the payroll kind of tight for a while. So if we have to give up too much to get him, we have to be able to just walk away. The problem is that the Twins could just as well hang on to Santana and take two high draft picks in 2009. With him on their squad and Francisco Liriano returning, Minnesota could have an incredible rotation next season. So we have to offer them more than they could get in that scenario, or else they have no reason to do the deal.
Then there’s Oakland’s Dan Haren. He had a 3.07 ERA last season, and his 56.4 VORP last season is comparable to Santana’s 57.7. He’s younger (27 vs 29), and the kind of big (6′ 5″), power righty the Sox like. I would not dare to argue he’s as talented as Santana, but he’s locked up for the next three years for just over $16M. That’s some real value there. If I’m going to trade away a Jacoby Ellsbury or a Clay Buchholz, I’d want to get that in return. Oakland needs a centerfielder, and they could use bullpen help. Would Billy Beane consider a trade for Haren involving Ellsbury and Manny Delcarmen?
I think Theo and the front office are keenly aware of this. I also think that we have an ace, and we’re happy with Josh Beckett. It’s the *ahem* Yankees who need a true #1. So we will hang around and drive up the price for Santana, and then maybe we can get in on Haren if the price is right. I think he will probably stick with the Twins for 2008, or New York could possibly trade away 2-3 premium young players for him. But if Brian Cashman is allowed to stick to his plan and not trade any of his prospects, there is an off chance that the Twins, desperate for a CF, could cave and we end up with him for say, Jon Lester, Coco Crisp, and one other player. Now that deal I’d do 100 times out of 100.