Twins Have Little To Show for Johan Santana Trade

Duane WinnCorrespondent IApril 25, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 18:  Johan Santana #57 of the New York Mets pitches against the Milwaukee Brewers on April 18, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets won the game 1-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

A dagger digs deeper into the hearts of the Minnesota Twins faithful each time Johan Santana authors another quality start for the New York Mets.

Santana, whom the Twins were forced to deal in February 2008 for four prospects, is off to a fast and furious start this season.

On Friday, the former American League Cy Young winner limited the Washington Nationals to one run over six innings while striking out 10. Thus far, Santana is sporting a 0.70 ERA with a gaudy strikeout-to-walk ratio of six to one.

The numbers Santana is posting in April come on the heels of an impressive 2008 campaign for the Mets, in which he fashioned a 16-7 mark with a 2.53 ERA and his fifth consecutive season of 200 or more strikeouts.

He finished third in the race for the National League Cy Young award, but he would have likely garnered greater consideration if the Mets had complied with an additional offensive outburst or two to help him pad his victory total.

Meanwhile, the players whom the Twins got in exchange are, for the most part, laboring mightily for their place in the sun.

Carlos Gomez

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Gomez quickly established himself as an elite defender in his first full year in the Major Leagues in 2008. He also displayed the type of warp speed on the base paths that can reduce the opposition to a mass of jittery nerves.

Gomez hit .258 for the Twins in 577 at-bats. He whacked 38 extra-base hits and drove in 59 runs. But his Achilles heel, namely his inability to consistently get on base enough to utilize his speed, betrayed him as the season wore on. He finished the 2008 season with 25 walks and 142 strikeouts.

Gomez put together a respectable September and October, in which he hit .288, but he seems to be taking a stride backward in the Twins' first 17 games of the season.

He's hitting only .211, and he's still not making any progress in becoming a more disciplined hitter. In 38 at-bats, Gomez has walked twice and struck out 10 times.

At the age of 23, Gomez has time to develop, but the window of opportunity is closing steadily. Gomez at the moment seems to be the odd man out in an outfield rotation that also features Denard Span, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, and Delmon Young.

Of this group, Gomez has the fewest at-bats in 2009. This can only hinder his development, and he's already looking like a player whose best and brightest purpose may be as a platoon player.

Verdict: Is his career a go-go or no-no? It's hard to tell.

Gomez is hardly displaying the profile of an offensive superstar. It's likely he'll never hit for a high average, but his defensive prowess is highly prized and this means that he'll likely have a place on a Major League roster for the foreseeable future.

There's also a chance that he may blossom later in his career. However, it's looking more and more like Gomez is falling short of the promise that the Twins envisioned for him.

Philip Humber

Humber was designated for assignment to Triple-A Rochester earlier this month after clearing waivers. Working in long relief for the Twins, Humber failed miserably. He amassed a 12.46 ERA over 4.3 innings, allowing 11 hits and walking four while striking out four.

Humber, a first-round draft pick of the New York Mets in 2004, has a lifetime Major League ERA of 6.48 in 25 innings with an alarmingly high WHIP of 1.68.

This is hardly an adequate sampling on which to base an opinion. But at age 26, time could be running out on the former Rice University star.

Verdict: The fact of the matter is that the Twins, by risking the loss of Humber on waivers, indicated that they view him as a disappointment.

The fact that no Major League team picked him up is evidence that Humber is no longer considered a prospect, a project, or much of anything else.

Humber clearly has "inventory" written all over him and he faces a long road back to the Twins.

Kevin Mulvey

Mulvey's first few appearances for Triple-A Rochester in 2009 have been less than stellar. In 13.2 innings for the Red Wings, Mulvey has compiled a 4.61 ERA with a 1.61 WHIP.

Yet, Mulvey, a second-round draft choice of the New York Mets in 2006, hasn't done much wrong in his short career. He's been sound at every minor league level, compiling a 3.36 ERA in 321 innings with a 1.236 WHIP.

However, his stint for the Red Wings last year does provide cause for concern. He surrendered 16 home runs in just 148 innings.

Prior to this, Mulvey had only given up 10 homers in 163 innings. Was this a sign that Mulvey may be overmatched at the Triple-A level?

Verdict: Mulvey is just 23, he knows how to pitch, and he represents the Twins' first or second option if trouble befalls their current starting rotation. It's a sure bet that he will get the opportunity to show off his stuff for the Twins in some capacity in 2009.

Deolis Guerra

Guerra is only 20 years old, and he's already amassed nearly 325 innings in the minor leagues. Yet he's shown far less than Kevin Slowey and Francisco Liriano at the same stages of their careers.

That means Guerra will likely spend at least the next two years in the minor leagues—unless he enjoys a breakout season for the Ft. Myers Miracle in 2009.

Guerra is off to a fast start for the Miracle. He has a 2.55 ERA in three starts. Even more encouraging is that he's beginning to show modest signs of breaking himself of the habit of walking as many batters as he strikes out.

Verdict: Guerra may get a call-up to the Twins this season if the Minnesota falls out of the playoff race or runs away with a division title.

Overall Assessment

The Mets clearly signed a pitcher in Santana who is at the pinnacle of his career. The fact that the Mets didn't make the playoffs wasn't Santana's fault. Rather, it was a faulty bullpen which sealed their fate.

Santana's presence in the Twins' starting rotation would have guaranteed them a division title. It's a moot point because Santana had no intention of staying with the Twins for another year.

The Twins rolled the dice to obtain four prospects which would help them in the long term. The jury is still out as to whether the gambit will be successful. Only Gomez thus far has made a contribution at the Major League level.

In retrospect, the Twins may have been better off in accepting Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox in partial recompense for Santana. Even a combination of Coco Crisp, Jon Lester, and a minor league prospect or two could have made an immediate impact.

As it stands now, the Twins are guilty of mortgaging their present for an uncertain, and unnecessarily risky, future return.

The prospects they obtained in exchange for Santana are taking a step backward (Humber), running in place (Gomez), biding their time (Mulvey), or showing modest improvement (Guerra).

That's hardly sufficient remuneration to show in an enterprise which requires a fast forward button.


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