Thursday, January 31, 2008

Beast of the East

The New York Mets won the Johan Santana sweepstakes with a package of prospects for the former Cy Young award winner. They have until tomorrow to finalize a contract extension that would bring Santana to New York. It's an amazing coup for Omar Minaya the Mets GM and Mets fans, who had to suffer through a historic collapse of their team down the stretch last season. In fact in Vegas, the Mets are now the second betting favorite to win the World Series.

There are many who are saying that the Twins GM overplayed his hand and ended up with less than he could have gotten originally from the Red Sox or Yankees. On the surface that cerainly appears to be true. Both the Red Sox and Yankees were offering players who are major league ready and are projected to have higher ceilings that any of the players that the Twins eventually got from the Mets. Of course we have seen many "can't miss" prospects who have failed to live up to their billing and many others with less than stellar minor league careers become stars on the big league level. For instance both Robinson Cano and Chien Ming Wang were offered to Arizona in the Randy Johnson deal but they passed on both of them. It is almost impossible to predict how a players career will end up based on their minor league careers. The Mets had a trio of young minor league pitchers in the nineties (Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen and Paul Wilson) that were supposed to be the cornerstone of their franchise for the next decade. However, all three ended up with major injuries to their pitching arms and only one (Jason Isringhauser) has become a good major leaguer albeit in a different role than anticipated and for a different team.

The Yankees and Red Sox eventually both pulled back their best offers after the Twins GM kept on asking for more. In truth, I don't think that the Red Sox were really that interested in acquiring Santana. They were mostly interested in making sure that the Yankees didn't get him or in driving up the price that the Yankeees would have to pay. Once the Yankees pulled their offer, I think the Red Sox lost interest in making a deal. That left the Mets as practically the only game in town. Santana is in the last year of his contract and the team that traded for him would have to be willing to make him an offer in excess of $20 million a year for 6 or 7 years. That limited the number of teams that the Twins could talk to. The Oakland A's got a better package from the Diamondbacks when they traded Dan Haren earlier this offseason mainly because he isn't eligible for free agency for another three years. In the end the Twins management clearly decided that they had to make the deal before spring training to avoid a media circus. The problem was that once they finally came to that decision, the only firm offer left on the table was from the Mets.

With this trade, the Mets now set themselves up as not only the best team in the eastern division, but perhaps the best team in the National League. The Phillies big move in the offseason was to add the mercurial closer Brad Lidge. The Braves added the ancient Tom Glavine to their pitching staff. The Cubs added an unknown quanitity in picking up an outfielder from Japan. The Diamondbacks with the addition of Dan Haren are the only team that can claim to have improved their pitching staff as much as the Mets have. The Mets rotation, which returns two young 15 game winners, a supposedly healed Pedro Martinez and the ageless wonder El Duque can now stake a claim to being the leagues best and deepest rotation. This trade also helps the Mets in their neverending battle with their crosstown rivals for the back pages of the NY tabloids.

On it's face, this trade appears to be a slam dunk win for the Mets and Omar Minaya. It's the kind of bold move that will help the fans forget the dissappointment of blowing a 7 game lead in the final weeks of last season. Like all other fans they can now look toward spring training with a feeling of renewed hope. Unlike the fans of most teams however, they do have more of a reason to think that 2008 will be their year.

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