Sandy Alderson Must Not Make Same Mistake He Made 16 Years Ago

Vinny MessanaCorrespondent IFebruary 25, 2013

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 18:  Mark McGwire #25 of the Oakland Athletics bats during the game against the Kansas City Royals at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on June 18, 1995 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

One of the big story lines entering 2013 will be the situation between Johan Santana and the New York Mets.

Santana is entering the final season of his six-year deal worth $137.5 million, which he signed in February of 2008. It is hard to make a compelling argument that he has earned that contract; then again, it is hard for anybody to justify such a hefty amount.

Assuming the Mets are not in serious playoff contention, they can use Santana in the same fashion as Carlos Beltran in 2011.

Sandy Alderson made the right move—and was fortunate to have Beltran's health and production—by maximizing the value of an aging star player.

The Mets received Zack Wheeler in the deal, who has become one of the game's elite prospects over that period of time.

Sandy Alderson's track record is not without a blemish, however, and he must make sure he does not have a relapse of a situation during his tenure with the Oakland Athletics.

In 1997, the A's were in the midst of another dreadful season in which they went on to win 65 games.

Alderson, somewhat fed up with the team's inability to draw fans, decided to trade his best trade chip at the deadline rather than waiting for the offseason and receiving draft compensation.

Against the advice of his assistant Billy Beane, Alderson dealt 33-year-old Mark McGwire to the St. Louis Cardinals for T.J. Mathews, Blake Stein and Eric Ludwick.

To say the Cardinals got the better part of the trade would certainly be an understatement.

McGwire went on to hit 220 home runs in his five-year career with the Cardinals, including two top-five NL MVP finishes.

The only player that the A's received that performed above league average was Mathews, who amassed a 24-15 record, albeit with a 4.78 ERA.

The situation is certainly similar with Santana entering the final year of his contract, also at 33 years old.

It would appear that he has very little left in the tank considering all of the injuries he has endured just since 2009. At the same time, McGwire did not appear to be in peak health at the time of the trade.

Hindsight is 20/20, obviously, and Alderson would not have made that trade if he knew McGwire would embark on an unprecedented stretch in which he shattered Roger Maris' single-season home run record of 61.

If Santana does not get off to a quick start and prove he is healthy, then it is unlikely that a team would be interested in him.

In the event that he pitches similar to his pre-All-Star break statistics, which featured a sub-3.00 ERA along with around nine K/9, then he could yield a significant prospect in return.

The Mets are extremely thin in the outfield, and ideally they can get a prospect such as Trayce Thompson from the Chicago White Sox in return.

Santana has not pitched close to a full season since 2010, which means the Mets could conceivably trade him and he could land on the disabled list shortly after. 

Again, this is a situation to monitor. Santana is a true ace when healthy, and the Mets have a serious trade chip.

Then again, Alderson had one in McGwire.