Mike Claiborne of AM 550 said it last night on the pregame show.
“I want Santana.”
Well, duh, who doesn’t? That’s something I’ve been talking about here for a little while. However, can we make it happen? I was expecting that we’d have to wait until the 2008 offseason, when he’d be a free agent, to even be able to consider it. That’s probably still true, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do some daydreaming.
I’ve never been good at coming up with trades, so I would expect ridicule in the comments for this one. (Hey, at least then I’d be getting comments!) I’ll explain why I think it might be feasible, but let’s lay it out there.
Johan Santana for Chris Duncan, Anthony Reyes, Bryan Anderson, and another prospect.
OK, so let’s look at this semi-rationally, if at all possible. Minnesota will have to decide 1) if they are going to contend next year, 2) if they have a chance of resigning Santana and 3) whether it makes sense to maximize the yield by trading him in the offseason rather than the trade deadline.
Santana’s contract for next year is $13.25 million, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts. There are a few bonuses, and as I read it he does have a no-trade clause. However, after his comments at the deadline, he possibly could be persuaded to have that bought out.
Money-wise, this would be a slam dunk for the Twins. From the same site, Duncan made $400K this year. You’d expect that will go up a bit, but he is not arbitration eligible yet, so the Cardinals don’t have to do anything big. Reyes made just under $400K, and the same applies to him. Anderson would make the league minimum, whenever he made the majors, and likely the other prospect, maybe Jamie Garcia or Mark Hamilton, would do the same. So, add that all up, you get not even a million for next year. That’s a large savings for Minnesota, which has often been pinching pennies in the past. That would let them make a run at Torii Hunter, if they wanted, or come to terms with people like Joe Mauer, Joe Nathan or Justin Morneau.
So, financially, it’s good for them. How about talent?
They have tried to come to terms with Morneau in the past, wanting to buy out his arbitration rights. If they were to get Duncan, either they could trade Morneau, bringing in young pitching such as maybe a Philip Hughes (if they wanted to deal with the Yankees) or Dontrelle Willis + (if the Marlins would move him) to help fill the Santana gap, or use the leverage of having Duncan to get Morneau to sign, leaving them free to DH Duncan, put him in the outfield, or flip him for pitching (though of a lesser quality).
We know that Reyes has struggled this year. However, many people still think he could regain a lot of his former luster if he and Dave Duncan were physically separated. If he could regain the #2 potential some think/thought he had, he’d make that deal look pretty good to the Twins. They’ve also had plenty of experience in developing young players, so it seems reasonable to think that Reyes could flourish there.
Anderson has been rated one of the top catching prospects in the majors. The Twins, obviously, have a pretty darn good catcher in Mauer, but there has been talk about moving him from behind the plate, due to health issues. If they were to do that in the next year or so, Anderson could move into that spot and help alleviate the drop off in production you’d expect from the move.
As for the other prospect, it’d probably depend on what the Twins wanted. Someone like Garcia could be good because, as you know, you can never have enough pitching. Hamilton is blocked by Pujols and could be moved, but with Morneau and Duncan (if this went through) there’d be little need for him.
So there’s the rationale for the Twins. They save money, they get a good bit of talent, and as an added bonus they send him to the National League, so they don’t have to face him for hopefully a long time.
What about the Cardinals? Obviously, they are very motivated to obtain pitching. No one wants to go through a year like this one again. There’s nothing interesting on the free agent market, so you are going to have to grab someone via trade.
This will also invigorate not only the fan base but the players. There would be no questions about whether people really want to win or if ownership is only in it for the money. To shut people up about their financial commitment, a window for negotiating an extension should be part of the deal, but they shouldn’t try to do anything but come at market value for Santana. Sure, it’s going to cost, but it also almost guarantees (if health permits) another long run of division titles and makes the Cardinals a favorite in the postseason.
I’ve thought before, but imagine a healthy Carpenter, Santana and Wainwright going in a short series. If pitching wins championships, you could add another ring or two in the next couple of years. Santana had a less-than-stellar second half, but 1) he’s the best pitcher in baseball, and you are going to get very few dissenters and 2) he would be moving to the NL, which should bring his ERA down and his wins up. He’d be even better facing only 8 hitters and a pitcher every night than he’s been in the DH league, and that’s saying something. (Plus, you get him away from the Indians, who seem to have figured him out, winning all 5 games against him in ’07.)
This would take a major commitment in terms of personnel and money. You’d have to replace Duncan’s bat somehow, but that’s the only thing you are taking from this team, and right now there are a number of outfielders in the system, though none with Duncan’s pop. A full year of Ankiel could help in that regard, plus return to forms by Rolen and Pujols. With these guys on the mound, though, a league-average offense should be enough to be a winner.
Will Walt take the plunge? How will the new GM in Minnesota feel about making such a radical move so soon into his tenure? Lots of questions around this, but, oh, the possibilities……………