Did the Twins Get Fleeced?
In the aftermath of the Johan Santana deal, there were immediate grumblings by pundits that the Twins “settled” for the Mets’ package of Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey, and Deolis Guerra. The general theory is that the Twins had stronger offers from the Red Sox and Yankees, but they wanted to get Santana out of the American League. It’s bad enough they traded their ace away — they certainly don’t want to see him pitching against them for the next 6-7 years.
Here’s a crazy thought: perhaps the Mets’ package WAS the best offer on the table.
If you listen to the pundits, Jacoby Ellsbury is ten times the prospect that Carlos Gomez is, and neither Kevin Mulvey nor Philip Humber (or Deolis Guerra, for that matter) can hold a candle to such uber-arms as Jon Lester, Ian Kennedy, or Philip Hughes. And there’s probably some legitimacy to those opinions. However, the bottom line is that none of these youngsters has absolutely proven to be top-notch MLBers just yet, and therefore any and all evaluations remain subjective — and open to debate.
Sure, you can say that Hughes or Lester look a lot more polished than Humber at this point in time — but you could have said the same thing about David West in comparison to Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Jamie Moyer back in 1987. In 1998, Matt Anderson was considered light years ahead of, for example, Jon Garland. Similarly, while many feel Ellsbury is a much closer to a “sure-fire” prospect than Gomez, it wasn’t long ago that Yankee prospect Eric Duncan seemed just as much a guarantee — in fact, Duncan was expected to reach the bigs long before Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Carlos Quentin. If you don’t agree with the Duncan argument, maybe the names Alex Escobar, Jay Payton, or Butch Huskey ring a bell? Also consider that the first round of the 1998 draft included Jason Tyner, Bubba Crosby, Sean Burroughs, Chip Ambres, and Eric Valent (among others) — and all but Valent were rated higher than, and taken before, Aaron Rowand. Bottom line: just because “everyone” — or Baseball America, for that matter — says that one guy will become a better MLB player than someone else, doesn’t mean it’s so.
As we’ve seen firsthand, Carlos Gomez has enormous raw talent — he’s faster than Jose Reyes, has an arm as strong as Carlos Beltran’s (possibly stronger), can play the outfield with anyone, and shows some potential with the bat. He likely didn’t hit as well as Ellsbury last year because he simply wasn’t ready; remember he was rushed to AA as a 20-year-old, and prematurely jumped all the way up to MLB last year. Similarly, Kevin Mulvey jumped straight to AA after only one Rookie League game — perhaps had he been started at a lower level, his numbers would have been even more impressive, thereby eliciting more respect from scouts.
More to the point is the fact that the Twins organization has traditionally gone against “everyone else”, often making “unconventional” decisions. Their scouting department has had little turnover for the last 20+ years, and seems to be doing a pretty good job over the years. There’s no doubt the Mets’ package was valued by their scouts — the same scouts who recommended such “crazy” decisions in the past such as drafting Joe Mauer over Mark Prior. (OK, someone screwed up when Big Papi was released, but they made up for that with Justin Morneau.) Most recently, the Twins shocked the baseball world by drafted 5’9″ outfielder Ben Revere in the first round of the 2007 draft. Knowing that the Twins’ scouts have their own opinions on players — and that they’re often in contrast to the published “top tens” of sources such as Baseball America — it’s completely within the realm of possibility that the Twins liked the Mets’ package best.
Though, it didn’t hurt to send Johan to the NL for the next seven years, either.