Santana Finally Traded

Oh, Thank God.

The saga that was, the always imminent but never actually happening trade of Johan Santana has finally been completed.  Well, almost.  The Mets traded four minor leaguers that nobody gives a rats ass about to the Twins for arguably the best pitcher in the major leagues.  All they have to do now is give him over twenty million dollars a year for as many years as he'll take and this trade is complete.

After months of speculation, countless AP stories, worthless quotes from Hankenstein, we can finally put this story to bed.  With all the speculation, the ending feels strangely anti-climactic.  The Mets?  For four B level and below prospects?  Twins GM Bill Smith has already iced his career in Minnesota, trading the most important player to ever wear a Twins uniform for a group of prospects that are nowhere near major league ready and may never be.  Probably best for Smith to start looking for other work.

For as bad as Smith did, you have to give Met GM Omar Minaya some credit.  When the Yankees and Red Sox both appeared to want Santana, Minaya crowed and said the Met would be serious contenders for Santana's services.  I laughed a did many others.  The Met farm system is thin at best, having little to compete with Phil Hughes or Jacoby Ellsbury, making a Mets deal seem unlikely. 

But Omar hung in there, reading correctly that the Yanks and BoSox would eventually push each other out of the race, leaving just the Mets to sweep in and lowball the Twins.  This move instantly heals what has been a lackluster winter for the Mets and propels them to NL East favorites, despite their September swoon to end the 2007 season.

Credit is also due to Brian Cashman and Theo Epstein.  Both GMs have adopted tremendous patience with their farm systems, clinging to their valued prospects.  In the case of pitchers, prospects can be difficult to predict, which usually leads to young throwers getting dealt rather than developed by their first teams.  But changing philosophies in managing young pitchers innings and workload have taken strides in keeping young arms protected from overuse and subsequent injury.

That's what makes Santana so appealing.  Former Twins GM Terry Ryan widely receives praise for the handling and development of Santana, who was never abused or forced to throw high pitch counts or unreasonable innings over a season.  Santana blossomed into one of the best pitchers in the majors.

And in typical small market fashion, the Twins had to trade Santana away when he wouldn't accept their final offer of five years, $100 million.  It's all about the money.

Mike and Loudmouth insisted from Arizona this afternoon that the Mets absolutely had to give Santana whatever he wanted to not disappoint their fans.  Well, within reason, I think.  No pitcher deserves a six or seven year deal.  Not for the kind of money Santana is asking.  The backend of these types of contracts very rarely work out for the club.  Santana could be the rare exception, but I wouldn't bet on it.

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