Johan Santana Trade: A Strict AL-to-NL Exchange?

Scott OttersenCorrespondent IJanuary 30, 2008

Let me say this right off the bat:

I'm a Yankees fan.

And yes, I wanted Johan Santana to be a Yankee.  

No, I wouldn't want the Yankees to trade away Melky Cabrera, Philip Hughes, and Ian Kennedy to get him.  I would have been just fine with Cabrera and Kennedy for Santana, but for some reason I did not want to let Hughes go.

I am a firm believer that it is okay to trade prospects for a proven major leaguer, because you never do know how those prospects are going to pan out.  Of course it is also true that you never know how that major leaguer is going to respond to his new team.  But with someone like Johan Santana, you just knew he would turn out all right.

With that said, I was disappointed to see that the Yankees did not get him in a trade yesterday, but was absolutely thrilled that the Boston Red Sox did not receive him  either.

But after further review of the trade, something seemed to be missing.  Actual talent.

They traded away one of the premier pitchers in the League today for four prospects.  And, out of those four prospects, not one of them has proven himself worthy of Major League status.

Carlos Gomez is a speedy outfielder and can play any of the three outfield positions.  But he hasn’t shown any signs of being able to perform as the kind of hitter to hold down a starting job as a Major League outfielder.  

Gomez played in 58 games last season, got 125 at-bats, and finished up with a .232 average.  He had little pop in his bat, hitting only two homeruns, and driving in 12.  He did steal 12 bases, which is a high number considering he was on base so rarely.  And speed is a commodity in the game, but it won't matter if that player is not on base enough to utilize it.

Philip Humber has now gone through Tommy John surgery, and there is no telling how he will come back from that.  He has pitched in just five Major League games, which doesn’t provide enough material on which to base a sound judgment, but he didn’t exactly blown people away in the minors (11-9 record, with an ERA over 4).

Kevin Mulvey is not exactly your next Johan Santana, either.  He went 12-10 in double A last year, with a decent ERA of 3.20—but double A is the place you would expect your highly regarded pitchers to have a 16-5 type of record.  The ERA is decent, which means that the talent is there, but he is still a few years away from really proving himself.

And Deolis Guerra is only 18 years old, so there is no telling how me may or may not develop as a Major Leaguer.  Who knows what he could become?  He had a rough go of it last season in single A, with a 2-6 record, and a 4.01 ERA, but he is still young.

The Minnesota pitching staff has demonstrated excellence in turning good talent into great pitchers, so these three could thrive as a dynamic trio in the years to come.  But if I were the Minnesota Twins, I would have preferred to go for the other two offers on the board.

The Red Sox were willing to give up Jacoby Ellsbury and/or Jon Lester in a trade for Santana.  Both of these players have proven they can play at the Major League level.

The Yankees were willing to give up Melky Cabrera and Philip Hughes for Santana, and these players have also proven Major League skill.

None of the players the Twins received for Santana have proven anything yet, and none of them seem to be on the verge of proving themselves in the near future.

Is it because the Twins were just too afraid to keep Santana in the AL?

Did they give the Mets a discount, because they did not want to bolster Yankee or Red Sox dominance?

It would seem so.  A two-time CY Young Winner traded for four unproven prospects, when two other teams are offering you proven players, along with prospects?!  And, that's not mentioning the fact that the Twins did not take Fernando Martinez, who is regarded as the Mets’ top prospect, or Mike Pelfrey, who is regarded as the Mets best young pitcher.

Unless there was something going on behind the scenes that we do not know about, this trade would appear to be an AL to NL trade to prevent the two top AL opponents from becoming any better.

But five years from now, if the four unproven prospects progress as star players, this exchange will be seen as a good deal.  Not all good trades affect a team immediately, and we know that.  The future does count for something, although the “What have you done for me NOW?” mentality of today's society would prioritize differently.

The Twins once traded AJ Pierzynski to San Fransisco, receiving Francisco Liriano and Joe Nathan in return.  At the time, both Liriano and Nathan were just prospects, but we all know the skilled pitchers they’ve become.

Maybe they'll get lucky and one of these four players will turn into an All-Star/MVP.  But, for right now, it would seem that the Twins pulled a fast one on the rest of the league.

Let’s all just be happy they didn't trade him to the Red Sox.