Johan Santana, ace of the New York Mets, is a two-time Cy Young Award winner.
Let's pretend you are Sandy Alderson. You just became the new General Manager of the New York Mets. The Mets—a team on the brink of disarray and implosion. The owners of the team, Fred and Jeff Wilpon are knee-deep in the Bernie Madoff scam. The team has been a major disappointment to fans for the past four seasons, due to a number of factors.
Your task, as intimidating as it might seem, is to get this team back to the playoffs and make it a winning franchise again. You've hired a new manager (Terry Collins) to lead this squad. You have made a flurry of minor deals during the offseason to fill holes, focusing on value more than quality.
So what's next? There's the impending contract status of shortstop Jose Reyes, whose current deal expires at the end of the 2011 season. And then there is Johan Santana, the team's ace who is currently recovering from surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left (pitching) shoulder.
Santana has begun playing catch, and is scheduled to throw off of a mound around May 1, outlining a possible late June/early July return.
Santana, 32, is locked up until 2013 (with a club option for 2014). He will earn $72 million from now until 2013. So the question is, do you try and trade the two-time Cy Young Award winner, or see if he can still salvage this organization and lead the team back to glory?
The answer may depend on where the Mets are in the standings once the trade deadline starts to loom. If 2011 is shaping up to be another down year for the Queens team, here's a look at some potential teams that could look to move in on the ace left-hander.
(Note: Santana's contract gives him a full no-trade clause).
The Texas Rangers lost ace Cliff Lee to free agency. Could Santana be his replacement?
On July 9, 2010, the Texas Rangers acquired Cliff Lee from the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners, who were expecting big things in 2010, were going nowhere fast. In an attempt to gain valuable pieces for the future, they shipped Lee to Texas for a slew of prospects, including blue-chipper Justin Smoak.
Lee has since signed a mega deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, leaving the Rangers without a legitimate ace in their starting rotation. After getting a taste of the World Series last year, you can bet General Manager Jon Daniels and the Rangers want to go back for seconds.
Déjà vu all over again? Johan Santana could be the Rangers' 2011 version of Lee. Both pitchers are roughly the same age and have similar resumes.
And it's feasible that the Rangers might have the financial flexibility to make things happen. Their estimated payroll for 2011 is around $95 million (according to baseballreference.com). And if they are able to trade Michael Young, as rumored, then they should definitely have some funds.
To that end, the Mets have been rumored as one team that could benefit from acquiring Young. His versatility and offensive prowess is something the Mets certainly covet. This could be a salary exchange, but one that could work for both parties.
On a side note, if the Mets were in a position to trade away their ace pitcher, they may also be looking to trade away center fielder Carlos Beltran. The Rangers, who lost Vladimir Guerrero to free agency, could be looking to bring in a designated hitter for the stretch run. Beltran is in the final year of a seven-year contract and only played 145 games between 2009 and 2010 due to a series of injuries.
Johan Santana could anchor a rotation in Los Angeles for a playoff run.
If the season started today, the Los Angeles Dodgers rotation would consist of Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda and some combination of Jon Garland and Vincente Padilla. How appetizing would it be for General Manager Ned Colletti to add Johan Santana to that bunch?
The Dodgers had a very disappointing 2010. They finished fourth in the division and had their worst winning percentage since '05. You can be sure Colletti and new manager Don Mattingly want nothing more but to get back into the playoff picture.
The team's payroll is just over the $100 million mark, but a number of contracts are due to expire at the end of the 2011 season, so the finances could be in place. They could also offer up some of the expiring contracts (such as Jonathan Broxton or Matt Kemp) in a possible deal with the Mets.
Either way, the Dodgers are expecting to get back to winning, and who better to help in that endeavor than Santana, a two-time Cy Young award winner.
The Yankees lost out on acquiring Johan Santana prior to the 2008 season.
It's hard to sleep on the New York Yankees when discussing a potential blockbuster trade. After all, they did acquire Alex Rodriguez in one of the biggest trades in the last 20 years. Not to mention, they were one of the teams trying to reel in Johan Santana in 2008—the season the Minnesota Twins traded him to the Mets.
So if Santana's name does surface in trade rumors, you have to assume that Brian Cashman and the Yankees will be right there in the front of the line (even more so if they feel C.C. Sabathia is leaning towards using his opt-out clause at the end of the season).
Additionally, the rotation behind Sabathia is anything but a sure thing. Phil Hughes has talent, but he's been prone to some rough patches in his young career. A.J. Burnett has had a rough go of it in 2010, and if he suffers through a similar 2011, it could be a tough season in the Bronx. After this trio, there is the inexperienced Ivan Nova, and some combination of comeback attempts from Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, Sergio Mitre and Mark Prior.
The Bombers sure have enough to offer back in return. Their farm system always manages to be one of the deepest in baseball—just about as deep as their wallet. But would the Mets actually consider trading one of their crown jewels to their crosstown rivals? Stranger things have happened.
The Detroit Tigers have a solid team going into 2011. Johan Santana could put them over the top.
Just because the Detroit Tigers already have Justin Verlander as their ace, don't underestimate Dave Dombrowski and the rest of the Tigers. The appeal of having Johan Santana to compliment Verlander has to be so great that the Tigers could be willing to stretch their wallets a little more and bring in the lefty.
Santana would be a welcome addition to a staff that, other than Verlander, can be a bit rocky at times. Max Scherzer, Phil Coke and Rick Porcello have minimal experience, though plenty of upside. They also brought in Brad Penny to shore up the back end of the rotation, but he's coming off a 2010 season where he only appeared in nine games for the St. Louis Cardinals and has had a history of injury problems throughout his career.
The Tigers have a deep farm system to offer in exchange for Santana (and possibly Beltran as well in efforts to boost their offense). Andrew Oliver sure would be a nice return for the Mets.
Could Johan Santana return to where it all began?
Though he wasn't drafted by the Minnesota Twins, Johan Santana certainly made his mark on the Twin Cities. During his seven seasons there, Santana won 93 games, two Cy Young Awards and was near the top in just about every pitching category.
Then, before the 2008 season, the Twins dealt him to the Mets in a mega deal in which they acquired a number of prospects, including Carlos Gomez and Philip Humber.
The Mets gave him a big six-year contract, worth over $130 million. While he has enjoyed individual success, the team has failed to reach the playoffs since his arrival. Santana probably wouldn't need much encouraging to waive his no-trade clause to return to the place where it all started and where he had enormous success.
You would have to think the Twins would love to have him back. Their rotation is currently anchored by Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano. Both had impressive 2010 campaigns, but both have also had their share of injuries and inconsistencies. Santana would add some certain stability to that staff.
The Washington Nationals are starting to make some noise in the National League East.
Historically, one would not expect the Washington Nationals to come anywhere close to a potential trade for someone like Johan Santana. But the 2011 Nationals are not the same as the 2009 Nationals who lost 103 games. This season looks to be the beginning of something new for the Nationals: winning.
They signed Jayson Werth to a massive seven-year, $126 million contract, adding a legitimate bat with pop to their lineup. Along with fellow newcomer Adam LaRoche and franchise player Ryan Zimmerman, they have a very fearsome middle of the order.
But their rotation still has holes in it. Phenom Stephen Strasburg underwent Tommy John surgery last summer and will miss most, if not all, of the 2011 season. And other than Livan Hernandez and Jason Marquis (each of whom can be very hit-or-miss), the Nationals rotation boasts very little experience and/or success.
One would have to imagine that the Nationals would at the very least look to kick the tires on a potential deal for Johan Santana, especially with their organization looking to become competitive for years to come.
Whether Santana would waive his no-trade clause to go to the Nation's Capital, or if the Mets would deal him to a division rival, are two issues that would have to be addressed if/when the time comes.
Since 1993, the last time the Toronto Blue Jays won their division, they have finished higher than third just once (second place in 2006). Hard to figure why, when they play in the same division as the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays.
After they lost Roy Halladay to free agency after the 2009 season, the Jays have lacked a legitimate ace. For 2011, they could be one superstar pitcher away from erasing the last 15-plus seasons of futility and reaching the top. Johan Santana could be that pitcher. He could be their next Halladay.
The Jays have a number of pieces that can be moved in a deal for Santana. They have a ton of prospects and major-league ready talent, and a rather flexible checkbook. General Manager Alex Anthopoulos has shown a propensity for wheeling and dealing lately. In the span of four days, he traded Vernon Wells for Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli, and then spun Napoli for Frank Francisco.
How out-of-this-world would it be for the Blue Jays to swoop in and add Johan Santana to their bag of tricks as they battle the Yankees and Red Sox in 2011? It could happen.
The St. Louis Cardinals could be on the verge of losing their franchise player, Albert Pujols.
February 16 has come and gone, and Albert Pujols' current contract with the St. Louis Cardinals is still set to expire at the end of the 2011 season. Pujols had set the February 16th deadline as the final day he would discuss a contract extension until season's end. So this leaves the Cards with a few hands to play.
They could play the season out with Pujols and use their five days of exclusivity once the season is over to re-open negotiations. This could wind up with either a new contract for Pujols to remain in St. Louis, or it could result in Pujols latching on with another team in the offseason, leaving the Cardinals with nothing but a compensation draft pick.
Another possibility, which may seem from out of left field, is for the Cardinals to deal their slugger mid-season, in hopes of getting some sort of talent for him. Queens could be a possible destination for the superstar first baseman. After all, the Mets have been one of the teams rumored early to be in on Pujols as a free agent pick-up.
If the Cardinals were willing to give Pujols somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million annually for nine years (as was reported by multiple sources), then why not take on the contract of a Johan Santana. What a blockbuster trade that would be—Santana for Pujols.
And it may not be as far fetched as it sounds. Rumors swirled last season of a Pujols for Ryan Howard swap, before the Phillies locked up their star first baseman. It may be more of a fantasy move than one of reality, but just imagine the headlines.
Billy Beane is known for not making big deadline deals. 2011 could be an exception.
For more than a decade now, Billy Beane has prided himself on creating winning ball clubs with low payrolls. The general manager of the Oakland Athletics has taken what has been coined as a "Moneyball" approach to the game, and for a period of time, it was working.
In 2006, the A's had the fifth best record in baseball, despite having the sixth lowest payroll in baseball.
But lately, that philosophy has started to become more and more ineffective. That 2006 season was the last time the A's have made the playoffs. In fact, last season was the first time since 2006 that they finished with a record that wasn't under .500.
Beane spent the offseason turning this team into a possible contender. He signed Brian Fuentes to shore up the bullpen, traded for Josh Willingham and signed Hideki Matsui to add some pop in their lineup. Perhaps now it's time for Beane to add some stability to an otherwise young, yet talented, rotation.
If Beane and the A's are willing to spend the money, Johan Santana could be a nice fit. He would provide an excellent mentor for the likes of Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez, while giving the team a legitimate number one starter.
They've got the funds—their expected 2011 payroll currently sits at just under $80 million—and they've got a farm system chocked full of talent. The A's could be somewhat of a dark horse in the potential Santana sweepstakes, but don't necessarily count them out.
The Cincinnati Reds are looking to get pack to the postseason in 2011. Johan Santana could lead the way.
The Cincinnati Reds ended their 15 year postseason drought in 2010 by winning a very weak NL Central. After getting swept by the Phillies in the NLDS last year, you can be sure that the Reds are looking to get make a return trip to the playoffs and possibly advance this time.
While their rotation includes a bunch of quality arms, adding the likes of Johan Santana would put them over the top and make them the team to beat in the NL Central. Their payroll right now sits at around $75 million, which should give them enough funds to take on at least some of Santana's contract.
Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto and Bronson Arroyo is as solid a threesome as it gets, but Homer Bailey, Travis Wood and Mike Leake are still very young and have shown some growing pains in their brief careers. They could use some more seasoning in the minor leagues, or perhaps one could be used in a package to land Santana.
Either way, adding Santana to the fold would certainly give the St. Louis Cardinals something to think about and should be more than enough to get the Reds back into the playoffs, and maybe even farther than in 2010.