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.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Micalpalyn February 4, 2008 at 1:43 pm
    OK Joe: I cant help it.

    I felt we had the best package. We gave them 3 rotation candidates (2 contending this yr) and a guy who will most likely be their starting Cf at 21/22 yrs old. Isnt Ellsbury 24?

    I thought jed Lowrie and Ellsbury were a nice duo of course but I felt the true jewels out there were Hughes and really no one. Cabrera is awfull defensively and we know how much value the twins place on defense.

    Once Arz traded for Haren- (giving up a much deeper package) and houston gave up an outrageous price for Tejada- I felt the Mets were bidding againsst themselves because no one else would fork out that ($137M) contract…. right now. Considering the price for Barry Zito I thought this was fair.

    The prospects were moot. You compared this to acquiring Viola often. I think it more reminds me of Mike Hampton, who Houston were not going to resign-so gave him up for only Kessel, Cedeno and Dotel. Was Omar part of that trade? Because that incident (and several others) is what made it so important to get an extension done.

    Not so long ago beane had Zito, Mulder and Hudson: He traded 2 away and his return was 6 bodies. Charles Thomas, Daric Barton Haren et al. for Zito he got two (or 3) picks.

    The Yanks have been more concerned with divesting and control having already assembled a core over overinflated contracts. Their aim it seems is to mature Chamberlin (WHO INCIDENTLY IS TABBED FOR A ROTATION SPOT -after auditioning in the pen for a year…hmmmm, note to Willie), and Phil Hughes.

    The Sox need to get Manny off their books before adding.

    Btw: If we had brought back Glavine I believe his price was 14M. So for $5M more we get Johan Santana……….

    …Just some thoughts

  2. sincekindergarten February 5, 2008 at 5:44 pm
    As it stands right now, Mets fans can gloat and Twins fans can seethe. We got a 2-time Cy Young award-winner for four prospects with a total of 34 games of MLB experience between them. The operative words are, “as it stands right now.”

    Two or three years from now, let’s revisit this trade. My guess is that both Humber and Mulvey will be in the Twins rotation, Guerra will be at AAA, and Gomez will be on the way to winning a Gold Glove–if he hadn’t by then. If Johan Santana brings the Mets to the WS title once by then, we’ll still be ahead.

    The big thing this trade does is it energizes the fan base of the Mets. The team needs the support of its fans, and if Omar didn’t go out and make the trade, the fan support would have eroded in a crucial year. After the collapse, Omar and Fred/Jeff Wilpon needed to do pennance to the fan base by giving some of the prospects up. They got St. Johan of the Changeup to help.