The Mets won the war for Johan Santana yesterday, when they struck a deal with the Minnesota Twins sending four unproven prospects their way.
Sounds like Minnesota got reamed, huh?
They did. But baseball is designed for teams like the Minnesota Twins to get reamed.
The system is set up for the rich to get richer. Unfortunately, if you're not The Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Angels, Dodgers, White Sox, Cubs or Mariners, you're screwed.
In a system where there is no salary cap and revenue is sparingly shared, everyone else is at the mercy of the almighty dollar.
In the case of Santana, the Twins were counting on baseball's two superpowers—the Yankees and Red Sox—to force each other into a bidding war in which one would finally win out.
But it didn't happen.
The Yankees, under Hank Steinbrenner, have instituted a no-bullshit policy (ask Scott Boras) in which he forbids Brian Cashman to be gouged by the rest of baseball. They put a non-negotiable, time-sensitive offer on the table to Minnesota, which was rejected. Boston could not allow Santana to become a Yankee, so they countered with an offer of their own. Their offer was also rejected by Minnesota.
The Twins were basically done at that point, they just didn't know it. They were forced to turn to their next option, the Mets.
Mets' GM Omar Minaya knew that Minnesota had to trade Santana. He also knew that the Yankees and Red Sox were out, despite the Twins insisting they were not. Omar danced with them for awhile but he knew the Twins had only one option in where to send Santana.
The Mets were the only one left with a bank account large enough to pay Johan Santana.
Yesterday, Santana demanded closure from the Twins. He wanted to go on vacation with a clear sense of where his baseball future was headed. The Twins turned to the Yankees, who reminded them that the ship has sailed on their deal. The Red Sox, seeing the Yankees were not coming back into the Santana Stakes, did the same.
In the end neither one was serious about obtaining Santana. Neither team wanted to part with prized prospects AND shake their respective payroll structures.
Minaya contacted the Twins to remind them he was still interested, and oh, by the way we've altered our deal to this.
The Twins had to pull the trigger on whatever deal Omar offered or risk being stuck with practically nothing.
The Mets, fueled by a revenue boom from recently-raised ticket prices, their burgeoning TV network (SNY), their new stadium and naming rights deal (Citigroup will pay the Mets $400 million over the next 20 years), could sign Santana in minutes.
Regardless of the contents of the trade, no other existing team was going to match the Mets' offer to Santana. The rest of baseball could only sit and watch.
To the winner go the spoils.