By David Krieger
The blockbuster trade between the Minnesota Twins and New York Mets involving the best pitcher on the planet, Johan Santana, was cleared on Feb. 2. In exchange for their ace, the Twins received four prospects from the Mets: outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitchers Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra.
This is the first step, along with the inability of the Twins to resign center fielder Torii Hunter, in what appears to be the inevitable restructuring of the Minnesota Twins. This transformation process has all begun under new general manager Bill Smith.
Smith was anxious to get the deal done, saying, “I think it dragged on long enough, and we all got to a point where you want to go into spring training knowing what you have,” Smith continued that, “The other teams certainly want to do that. The Twins, our manager and coaching staff ... I think everybody just reached the point that this was the best deal we were going to get.”
While it appeared to be clear that Santana would be leaving (Santana’s new $137.5 million contract over six years was the largest contract for a pitcher in baseball history), Twins fans are still left to question why the organization was not able to add proven players rather than just prospects.
The reason for the trade with the Mets goes something like this: After Torii Hunter left for the Angels in late November, Santana made the decision to waive his no trade clause. It was clear that the Twins would have to make a long-term offer. Because the Twins were unable to come to an agreement due to Santana’s high monetary demands, he was soon on the market. The trade talks, which began to surface sometime in early December, originally involved the two powerhouse clubs of the American League East: the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
The Twins were looking for a proven position player and young major league experienced pitcher; more specifically, they sought to acquire packages with either Phillip Hughes and Melky Cabrera of the Yankees or pitchers Jason Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox. Neither one of these deals panned out because neither New York nor Boston was willing to give up both a dominant pitcher and position player. Seeing that neither New York nor Boston was likely to obtain Santana, both seemingly dropped out of the race.
Meanwhile, Santana was still looking to be dealt, and the best available deal, in General Manager Bill Smith’s eyes, seemed to be the one the prospect heavy Mets proposed. The Twins were forced to decide if they would roll with Santana for the year and receive nothing for him after the season or take the deal. They chose the latter.
Devout fans are deeply concerned about the absence of Santana, considering the moves that the rest of the AL central teams have made. The Detroit Tigers may have the best lineup in baseball; however, fans, too, frowned upon a little deal in 2003 that sent A.J. Pierzysnki to the Giants for a couple of pitchers few had never heard of…please rise Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser.
Loyal fans of Twins territory, my advice is this: before we hang Bill Smith by his trousers on the mighty Paul Bunyan statue, let’s wait it out and see what these new Twins can do. Keep in mind, Smith inherited these problems and has made a couple of key signings, including Delmon Young and Livan Hernandez. Also, in a few years, our club will be playing outdoors, bringing in new mone, and signing our stars to long-term deals. In the words of the late Kevin Garnett to Charles Barkley after going up 2-0 on the to-be-champion L.A. Lakers, “We commmmiiiiinnnnn!” … only it may take a couple seasons.