Another Twins Perspective
A couple days ago, Seth Stohs gave us one Minnesota fan’s perspective on the Johan Santana trade. For me, one angle isn’t enough, so I reached out to Joshua Taylor of Taylor’s Twins Talk for a second opinion. And yes, we’re going to milk this trade for all its worth. After all, Omar Minaya made it clear that there won’t be any more changes to the Mets roster before pitchers and catchers report, so we’re running out of things to discuss before then!
Here is a Q&A I did with Joshua …
1. With Johan Santana, Torii Hunter, and Carlos Silva gone, do the Twins have a chance at the postseason in 2008?
I never say never, and the Twins will have an interesting mix of players in the lineup and in the rotation. Certainly, I don’t expect them to fall off the face of the Earth — I suspect that most teams won’t be particularly pleased to see them on the schedule. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that the Twins will be facing off against two very potent teams in the Tigers and Indians, and even if the Twins had kept everyone from last year and upgraded a couple of problem positions in addition to that, it probably wouldn’t have been enough. I’ll be rooting hard for the Twins all season, but any chance of making it to the playoffs is probably no more than about 5%.
2. Since your answer to #1 is less than “definitely”, when do you see the Twins contending again? Who are the keys to the resurgence, and what are the big “ifs”?
I’m pretty sure I’m stealing part of this answer from a national columnist, but I can’t remember who — nonetheless, I agree with it and so am repeating it. Part of the Twins resurgence will be based on the decline of the Tigers and Indians in a year or two. The Indians are likely to go through a payroll crunch and lose a couple of people (especially C.C. Sabathia), while a number of key Tigers are starting to get old. I think 2010, the year the new Twins ballpark will open, is a good guess as to when those two teams will start to come back to the pack, and I think the Twins will be poised to catch them. A rotation that looks very young now should have several very solid pitchers with a few years of experience under their belt, and the core elements of the Twins lineup (guys like Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young, and hopefully Carlos Gomez) will all still be around and in their prime.
The most important element is probably Francisco Liriano, who has the raw stuff to become the next Twins ace if he recovers fully from his 2006 surgery. There are two big “if’s” — Carlos Gomez, who may or may not develop into something more than just a speedy guy who slaps at the ball, and the rest of the Twins rotation. There are a lot of solid prospects in the Twins organization right now, but whether any of them will fully pan out is yet to be determined.
3. Who from the Santana package do you see as having the best chance to step in and make an impact in 2008? Who do you think has the most upside?
Regarding 2008: Carlos Gomez will be given every opportunity to win the starting CF job for the Twins this spring, and will be going up against two other young prospects for that position — an original Twins draft pick named Denard Span, who until last season was considered to be a shoe-in to eventually replace Hunter (he then stumbled a bit with his performance in AAA), and Jason Pridie, who was acquired from the Rays along with Delmon Young in the Matt Garza trade. The only other option for an immediate impact would be Phil Humber, but while Humber will be given a shot to claim a rotation spot this spring, I don’t think he’ll win a job.
As for upside, Carlos Gomez and Deolis Guerra are the two that come to mind as having the most upside. If Gomez figures out how to hit for average, he’ll be a significant force due to his speed, even if he never develops any power. Guerra is, in my mind, much too young to have any realistic expectations for — but he’s often mentioned as being very promising, so I’ll keep him on this list as well. I see Humber and Mulvey as being potential 4/5 starters, but not much more.
4. Is there anyone else from the Mets’ organization you would like to have seen in the Santana trade who wasn’t included?
I would have liked for the Twins to have completely raided the Mets minor league system, so sure. Fernando Martinez, Mike Pelfrey, etc. etc. would have been great additions to the package. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what might have been with this deal, though — the Mets drew a line in the sand over which they would not step, and they held to it. More power to them for sticking to their guns. The Twins did the best they could do in a tough situation.
5. Do you like the Mets’ package better or worse than those purportedly offered by the Red Sox and Yankees in December? Why or why not?
No, I do not. In fact, fairly early on in this process I ranked the three purported trades with the Red Sox package involving Jacoby Ellsbury on top, the Yankees package involving Phil Hughes second, and the Mets prospect package third. The biggest reason is that I thought the Twins needed to solve an organizational problem in the Santana trade, and I think that Ellsbury would have been a great fit, and a multi-year solution, in center for the Twins. If they couldn’t fill the CF hole, then a highly touted pitcher like Hughes would have been a nice consolation prize. The Mets package contains no sure-thing players — it’s conceivable (although very unlikely) that the Twins will get ZERO days of Major League service time out of the four players they received for Santana. That wouldn’t have been the case in an Ellsbury or Hughes deal.
6. Do you believe the Twins had much choice other than to make a trade with the Mets, at this point in the offseason? In other words, is it possible the Yankees and Red Sox dropped out of the negotiations?
I think the Twins were stuck. I’m pretty sure that the Yankees never put Phil Hughes back on the table after they initially pulled out publicly, and no deal from the Yankees without Hughes was worthwhile to make. I don’t think that the Red Sox ever officially dropped out, but I think there were some pretty strong signals that they weren’t going to spend the kind of money on an extension that Santana was looking for. If the Twins agreed with me on that point, then there was no point in making a deal, because Santana just would have voided it by exercising his no-trade clause. Considering that I firmly believe that the Twins had to trade Santana (letting him walk as a free agent would have been inexcusable, especially because, as I said above, the Twins are very unlikely to compete for a playoff spot in 2008), they pretty much had to take the last deal left on the table from a team that WOULD give Santana what he wanted, and that was the deal from the Mets.
7. Did the Twins get equal value in return for Santana, considering all the circumstances? (i.e., lateness of the deal, supposed pressure by Santana to make the deal, the necessity of an expensive extension, etc.)
The Twins most definitely did NOT get EQUAL value for Santana — one year of a Cy Young caliber pitcher along with an exclusive negotiating window for an extension is worth more than four prospects — but they did the best they could get. Consider this from the Mets standpoint — had they not made this trade, they would not have been signing Santana, because the Yankees and Red Sox would have gone absolutely crazy in free agency. From my point of view, then, the Mets weren’t trading for just one year of Santana — they were trading for 7 years of Santana. And 7 years of a guy who could win 3 or 4 Cy Youngs in the NL over that stretch (note that I said “could,” not “will”) is worth much more than the Twins received in return. Again, though, I’m pleased with the deal because it was as good as could be expected in the circumstances, even if it wasn’t EQUAL value for what was given up. File this under the category of minimizing a guaranteed loss, instead.
Thanks again to Joshua Taylor, whose blog I’ve been reading since last June for no reason other than he does a great job. In fact, his in-depth coverage of the Twins has turned me into a quasi-Twins fan — the writing is that good. Right now he’s in the midst of doing “organizational rankings” on Minnesota’s system, and it’s more interesting and detailed than what you’ll find from Baseball America. But then, I wouldn’t expect anything less of a baseball fanatic pursuing a joint JD/PhD. Be sure to check out Taylor’s Twins Talk when you get a chance.