Did the Mets Blow Their Opportunity to Trade Johan Santana?

Sam R. Quinn@SamQuinn_Senior Analyst IIIAugust 21, 2012

July 24, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets injured starting pitcher Johan Santana warms up with his team before a game against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

Sandy Alderson and the New York Mets have a huge problem on their hands that almost nobody is talking about.

The situation is somewhat akin to a family declining to talk about a terminally ill grandparent as it attempts to forget what is undoubtedly imminent. There is nothing the family can do but wait until time is up. Nothing can be done to reverse the course.

In Flushing, an issue that is eerily similar needs to be discussed. It is the issue of how productive Johan Santana can be moving forward.

When the New York Mets traded for two-time Cy Young-winner Johan Santana in February of 2008, he was expected to help heal the wounds caused by the epic collapse of 2007. He certainly did his best to do so, as he posted a paltry 2.85 ERA over his first three seasons while posting a record of 40-25.

Through the first half of his six-year, $137.5-million contract (a record contract for a pitcher at the time), Santana earned his money. Despite his modest amount of wins because of a lack of run support, Santana gave the Mets a chance to win every fifth day.

Then things turned ugly.

Santana was shut down at the end of the 2010 season and went under the knife to repair a torn anterior capsule in his pitching shoulder—an injury that typically destroys a pitcher's career.

The road to recovery was long and grueling for Santana, the Mets and fans. He scratched and clawed his way back, and he was ready to take the bump in a major league game to start the 2012 season.

Then things turned around, albeit for a few months.

Before the All-Star break, Santana compiled an 3.25 ERA. That mark was less impressive than what he had done during his first three years with the team, but then again, nobody expected a 33-year-old pitcher coming off major shoulder surgery to return to his previously dominant form.

His velocity wasn't what it used to be, but it didn't look like that would be a huge problem for the crafty changeup-heavy veteran—and for the most part, it wasn't.

The Venezuela native threw the first no-hitter in the history of the franchise, an accomplishment that will forever entrench him in the hearts of all Mets faithful until the end of baseball.

Unfortunately, baseball is more than just ice cream, rainbows and sentimental feelings.

To put it bluntly, Santana is not pitching like a big league pitcher now. He hasn't looked right since the All-Star break, and he has a vomit-inducing 16.33 ERA in four starts. A trip to the disabled list didn't help his cause either, but something has gone very awry.

One week into the season, I wrote an article in which I vehemently discounted the prospect of the Mets trading Santana before the deadline if his value was restored.

I pulled out every stat, quote and possibility I could think of to state my case, but now I realize why I have not yet become a general manager of an MLB team because I was terribly wrong.

Santana has given up at least six earned runs in each of his last five starts, which makes my job of putting forth an argument a lot easier. He can't get anybody out and has given up 43 hits in his last 19 innings.

Nobody should envy the position that Alderson finds himself in.

This was simply a no-win situation for the general manager. If he traded Santana before the All-Star break, fans would have been up in arms about the pathetic fire sale when the team was still in contention.

Instead, he was forced to wait and missed out on an opportunity to trade the ace. He was indeed pitching like an ace before things fell by the wayside, and he regressed into a fourth starter at best. 

Now, the Mets have a 33-year-old starting pitcher on their roster who can't get anyone out and is occupying upwards of $23 million of the dwindling payroll.

There is absolutely no way that Alderson is capable of pulling the wool over another general manager's eyes to swing a Santana trade that would remotely benefit the Mets.

So the Mets are stuck with him. Stuck with his contract, stuck with his dead weight and stuck with a pitcher who is in the midst of one of the most rapid demises that a Met has ever gone through.

The Mets missed their opportunity to ship Santana elsewhere for a solid crop of young players that could have substantially contributed to the team's future success.

It is impossible to lay the blame on anybody for this, as Alderson was firmly sandwiched between a rock and a hard place, and Santana isn't at fault for his once-golden left arm betraying him.

With just one year remaining on his contract after the season is through, all signs point to the Mets being stuck with Santana. It is impossible to tell whether he will be able to turn it around and defy Father Time and the laws of physics, but all signs point to that feat being all but unattainable.

This is nothing new to Mets fans though.

Many stars have come to Queens and left. Some have overstayed their welcome, and some have departed too soon. It is hard to pinpoint which kind of star Santana is, as it would be a shame for him to leave because of the emotional attachment that many fans feel for him.

Once again, Mets fans, it seems like the waiting game is in store.


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