There is a lot to be said about trading for a two-time Cy Young Award winner. However, in the case of Johan Santana, there's a whole lot of other topics to that conversation as well.
Andy Martino of the New York Daily News brought up the subject of Johan Santana and his possible trade value on Sunday, and the one team that was focused on in the article was the Los Angeles Dodgers.
To say that Santana is going through a rough patch right now is akin to saying that the Houston Astros are going through a bit of a struggle. Santana has now given up at least six earned runs in five consecutive starts, a new New York Mets record.
Prior to the five most recent outings, Santana was 6-4 with a 2.76 ERA and the proud new owner of the the only no-hitter in Mets franchise history.
In fact, his last outing before setting the new Mets inglorious record was a stellar eight-inning, three-hit performance against the Dodgers.
However, make no mistake about it, what we're seeing right now is Santana Lite.
During the mid-2000s, when Santana won two Cy Young Award trophies in a three-year span, he was the best left-handed pitcher in the American League. In his second Cy Young season, he captured the Triple Crown of pitching categories with 19 wins, a 2.77 ERA and 245 strikeouts. Between 2004 and 2006, Santana led the league in strikeouts, ERA+, WHIP, had the lowest hits-per-nine-innings rate and the highest K/9 rate.
That is complete dominance. Very few pitchers in MLB history can claim that type of dominance over a three-year stretch.
Now, some six years later and two years removed from a delicate shoulder surgery, Santana just may be shut down for the season.
The Mets' brass will get together and discuss that point, presumably very soon. Santana insists that everything is fine physically.
"You know, my season has been a roller coaster," Santana said (via ESPN). "A lot of ups and downs. Good days. Bad days. But I'm very positive about everything, because I'm coming back from a major surgery, and I've been able to be out there every five games. ... Right now my shoulder is fine. I don't have any issues with it. It's just that it has been a long season for me."
Pitching coach Dan Warthen talked about making a decision that's right for Santana in the long term.
"We'll have to talk about that, and we'll have to talk to Johan and see how the body feels, how the arm feels, how he feels mentally," Warthen said. "I'm not going to discount anything. I'm not going to say one way or the other. We'll all sit down and have a powwow, I would imagine as soon as we get home and see Sandy [Alderson] and make the discussion and then talk to Johan and see how the back is and everything else—see how sore he is."
Now, there is the question of next season, and what the Mets could do with Santana in the final year of his contract.
Enter the Los Angeles Dodgers.
According to Martino, he spoke with several experts, including executives of other clubs, who suggested that the Dodgers' new ownership may have more of a willingness to assume salaries.
However, Lee isn't damaged goods. Lee and Santana are the same age, both southpaws and both former Cy Young Award winners, but Lee isn't bouncing back from a difficult shoulder surgery.
All eyes will clearly be on the Mets as manager Terry Collins, pitching coach Warthen and Santana sit down with general manager Sandy Alderson to discuss Santana's immediate future.
If the Mets decide to shut Santana down for the rest of the season, his trade value is negligible at best. If Santana manages to talk Alderson and company into letting him work through his issues and finish out the season, the Dodgers and other teams will have the chance to see if Santana can indeed bounce back and make a possible trade a more palatable option.
And that's just the physical part of the story. Now, there's the money.
Santana will be entering the final season of his eight-year, $136 million contract, owed $25.5 million for next season with a $5.5 buyout of his 2014 option year. Getting any team to take on $31 million, even the Dodgers, is a dicey proposition.
Martino talked about the need for the Mets to do either one of two things—either take on at least $20 million of Santana's salary to watch him pitch elsewhere, or assume a big contract from another team in the process.
In the case of the Dodgers, third baseman Juan Uribe could certainly be included in a deal—he's owed $8 million next season. But it really makes no sense for the Mets to even think about that, not with David Wright and Ruben Tejada in the mix on the left side of the infield.
Martino talked to one AL executive who said that a trade of Santana would almost have to be salary-driven.
“(He has) very limited trade value ... not ‘untradeable,’ but would have to have another big contract involved going to the Mets. Plus (the) Mets would probably have to kick in some more because not many (players are) making $31 million for one year. Trade would have to (be) mostly salary-driven on both sides.”
While the idea of Santana heading to Los Angeles may sound enticing, it's by no means practical.
Yes, Santana could be of great help to reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw. Yes, if Santana is indeed healthy, he gives the Dodgers two very nasty left-handers. And yes, the Dodgers could take on Santana's salary, especially for just one season.
It doesn't mean they will, or that they should.
The final six weeks of the season will surely decide Santana's fate. If he is indeed shut down, he's likely not going anywhere next season, except maybe at the non-waiver trade deadline. If he can fix his issues by pitching through the remainder of the season, then some discussion could be in the works.
As the AL executive said above, Santana isn't untradeable—but compromise from both sides will be required in order for any deal to go through.
The Dodgers are in the middle of a tight race in the NL West right now. They surely aren't going to invest a whole lot of time right now into any discussion concerning Santana. But they will be watching what happens 3,000 miles east of them over the next few days.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.
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