Hype regarding Super Bowl XLII has been the topic of conversation among sports enthusiasts to such an extent that attention has diverted interest away from the largest contract in baseball history for a pitcher. Last Saturday, Omar Minaya and his New York Mets sealed the deal and acquired Johan Santana from the Minnesota Twins for a 6-year contract. The Mets traded four prospects and guaranteed Santana $137.5 million through 2013 and a team option for 2014.
This deal may have come as a surprise to baseball fans, as most assumed Santana’s free agency would either result in a bidding war between the rivaling New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox or in him remaining with the Twins. Of the three teams initially demonstrating interest in the Cy Young pitcher, the Mets seemed the least likely to pursue any offer. Minaya’s signing of the All-Star pitcher is particularly beneficial not only to the two parties involved, but also to the two teams who eventually chose not to pursue Santana.
The Yankees benefit immensely from opting out of their offer to the Minnesota Twins. Hank Steinbrenner and his Yankees were extremely close to parting ways with their promising young talent for an older pitcher. The Yankees’ pitch for Santana included right-hander Phil Hughes, outfielder Melky Cabrera and two additional mid-level prospects. Parting ways with these two young stars, along with additional prospects, would be resorting back to their old mentality of overspending on expensive, older talent and abandon the Yankees’ newly adopted approach of fostering young, up-and-coming talent through their improving farm system. Giving up young potential for a pitcher who may have already peaked would be taking a step in the opposite direction.
It seemed as though part of the Yankees’ initial motivation for pursuing Santana stemmed from a desire to keep the pitcher away from a deal with the Red Sox. The young Steinbrenner seemed to want to keep Santana away from the Red Sox almost as much as he wanted the pitcher on his own roster. Santana’s signing to the cross-town Mets allows the Yankees to keep their young talent and sleep easy at night knowing that the Cy Young Award-winning pitcher is not a member of the Red Sox pitching staff.
Red Sox fans will also take a breath of fresh air upon hearing the news of the Mets’ signing. Rumors across Red Sox Nation suggested that general manager Theo Epstein was flirting with the notion of trading some promising young players who played key roles in their 2007 World Series success. Various proposed offers included center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, pitcher Jon Lester and outfielder Coco Crisp. Red Sox fans will be relieved to hear that not only will most of the winning lineup from the 2007 season be returning in the upcoming season, but the Yankees will also not be benefiting from the acquisition of the southpaw All Star.
Johan Santana’s arrival to the Mets’ ball club will spark excitement in a team that witnessed a humiliating implosion in the latter half of last season. The Mets’ signing will regenerate the sense of hope and promise that was sucked out with their historic collapse. Santana will not only serve as a replacement for recently departed Tom Glavine, who has returned to the Atlanta Braves, but will also take some of the pressure off of the aging Pedro Martinez. Santana should benefit from his entrance into the National League. His most effective pitch is his changeup, a pitch which is purely based on deception. The pitch will be particularly effective to those who have never previously taken any at-bats against the ace pitcher.
The trade also represents a landmark event in the Minnesota Twins’ attempts to rebuild their ball club. Reportedly struck after Santana issued a deadline to the Twins – threatening to refuse to waive his full no-trade clause throughout the upcoming season – the trade landed Minnesota Mets’ outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitchers Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra. While Gomez is the only of these players to have any Major League experience, the Twins’ general manager Bill Smith remains optimistic about the long-term possibilities of his team’s acquisitions. For a team whose focus has shifted to one of rebuilding, four young prospects are more valuable than a single ace pitcher.
The Mets’ acquisition of Johan Santana in exchange for four prospects from Minnesota seems to please every audience. The move benefits all parties once involved, as it allows both the Yankees and Red Sox to hold on to their young talent, it permits the Twins to regroup and rebuild their ball club and it regenerates the sense of faith in the Mets ball club that died along with the team in the latter half of the 2007 season.
Chernick is a member of the class of 2010.