You know, probably the best thing about teams wising up and locking away their desirable players before they hit the open market in free agency is that it’s truly brought the Hot Stove League back.
In recent years, the blockbuster trade seemed to be facing extinction, and the off-season was filled with tales not of bargaining to find the swap that would make the headlines, but of budgets and contract negotiations. The off-season of 2007-08 turned that around.
In this off-season, big names were moved via trade. Those names included Miguel Cabrera, Erik Bedard, Johan Santana, Dan Haren, Nick Swisher, Miguel Tejada, Scott Rolen, Troy Glaus and Jim Edmonds. Top prospects like Delmon Young, Adam Jones, and Cameron Maybin also found new homes. That’s a lot of movement of big time players.
Perhaps the most interesting saga of all of these was the Johan Santana deal. The talks about Santana dragged on for months, and for a long time it seemed that the Yankees and Red Sox were the only two serious suitors.
Yet in the end, it was the Mets that came out with him, and for a package that was clearly inferior to that which their respective teams got for Haren and Bedard, the other two top-tier starters who were traded.
The Twins package has some upside, but no prospect on the level of an Adam Jones (traded for Bedard), Maybin (traded for Cabrera) or even Carlos Gonzales (traded for Haren, and a slightly lesser prospect than the other two). The key figure in the twins deal was Carlos Gomez. Gomez is fast as lightning and projects to be an excellent defensive center-fielder. But he has very little power, and thus far has not shown much ability to hit for high enough averages to offset a relatively low walk rate. He’s not completely undisciplined and he makes good contact, so it’s possible his averages and his walks may rise, but he doesn’t look like a star, more like a decent centerfielder who is a bit more valuable than that because of his glove and speed.
Deolis Guerra has a crackling arm, and a lot of upside, but he’s 18 and very raw. Arms like his implode half the time, for a variety of reasons. Of course, the other half of the time they become good pitchers and some of the time great ones. But the other two pitchers, Kevin Mulvey and Phil Humber are both just about major-league ready but don’t project as much more than good fourth starters. That has value, to be sure, but that’s precisely the commodity that the Twins have an embarrassment of riches in.
I remain dubious that the reported offers from the Yankees (Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera and various combinations of one or two other players) and the Red Sox (various permutations involving one or two of Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Jed Lowrie and Justin Masterson) were ever genuine. If they were, Twins GM Billy Smith did very badly here.
But in the end, we actually have a market where Dan Haren fetches more than Johan Santana because of cost. Not only the expense of Santana severely limit the number of teams that will even try to acquire him, but the cost-certainty and relative bargain price of Haren ($9.5 million total for the next two years and a $6.75 million for 2010, as compared to nearly $23 million per year for Santana) makes him worth more in trade.
I strongly suspect the Yankees and Red sox never made a serious offer. I think names were just tossed around and the media fed on what scraps they could find or, lacking that, what they could make up. Smith probably did do as well as he could do. But it sure is an odd world where, with all due respect to Dan Haren and Erik Bedard, those two fetch so much more in trade than Santana did.