Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Suck It, Steinbrenner: Santana Goes to Queens

It appears Johan Santana will be pitching in the National League for the foreseeable future. Minnesota will trade their ace to the New York Mets for minor league outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitchers Deolis Guerra, Philip Humber, and Kevin Mulvey. The Mets have until Friday at 5pm to complete a contract extension with Santana or the trade is void.

I'm not sure who benefits the most here: the Mets or the teams involved in an arms race with the Yanks and the Sox. Cleveland is just one of many AL contenders who no longer have to worry about Santana standing in their way in the playoffs for the next six years. Was anyone else sweating the idea of the best pitcher in baseball getting run support from New York or Boston instead of the anemic Twins?

The dangerous part is that Santana's AL East suitors are built to win now and probably would have guaranteed themselves another championship in acquiring the crown jewel of Minnesota. I may be overestimating the robustness of New York and Boston's farm systems, since each team must have hit their talent threshold for this deal not to go down earlier. I'm fairly confident both teams could have taken a substantial loss in prospects and still be playoff-ready for the next several years anyway.

The funny part is few media outlets were even discussing the Mets as a major player. Minaya was able to swoop in after everyone else had given up and vault his team to the top of the heap in the National League. Keith Law points out that besides giving the Mets a legit ace again (Pedro's health is still unclear), it takes the pressure off John Maine and Oliver Perez and allows them to move down to a more appropriate spot in the rotation. Law breaks down the prospects the Mets shipped out and doesn't come away too impressed. At first glance, I'd agree that the Mets had the lesser trade package in terms of the amount of "raw" talent and lack of major league-ready prospects involved.

Judging by the way the deal went down, I'd guess Minnesota may have ended up with a lesser package than originally advertised if they stuck with the Yanks or the Sox (maybe negotiations went south after their initial snub) and decided to cut their losses by sending Santana to Queens. Tribe fans owe Omar Minaya for removing one less obstacle for Cleveland next season, both in the Central and the playoff field.

In regards to a potential Sabathia trade, the lack of blockbuster prospects in the Santana trade is troubling. I honestly thought the Twins would walk away with a Phil Hughes-Ian Kennedy type deal, but ended up with AA baller Carlos Gomez and company. Judging by Shapiro's recent comments though, a Sabathia trade seems to be a remote possibility now:
I don't see us ever closing the door, there's no reason to do it. Even if he files for free agency, I still think we'll be an active player.
I had been an early advocate of trading Sabathia if the Front Office was certain a deal couldn't get done, but I suppose Shap's stance is somewhat encouraging. Either the contract negotiations are making positive strides or that's Shapiro Speak for "we need C.C. to win in 2008, so stop asking."

The fun part comes when Santana's new contract leaks out. Hopefully Sabathia doesn't get any ideas from his fellow lefty or that negotiating table is going to get a lot longer overnight.


I kinda dropped the ball on the Betancourt extension, but I think it may end up as the Tribe's most significant move of the offseason. Raffy signed a two year extension with a club option for 2010. According to the Indians' website, "Betancourt will make $5.4 million over the two guaranteed years in the deal, and the option is worth another $5 million. Without revealing the details, Shapiro said the contract includes bonuses, should Betancourt ever take over as the Indians' closer."

Not that Betancourt was going anywhere soon, but he has as much potential to be the team's closer as anyone once Borowski's contract runs out after this season. Bullpen performance is hard to project (see 2006), but Cleveland has the depth to handle the late innings in a pinch, with Betancourt, Kobayashi, Lewis, and Perez under team control until 2010.

With all the crazy contracts being thrown at mediocre relievers these days, locking up Betancourt for $5 mil a year is the definition of a bargain. The three-year option setup also leaves the club with minimum risk, given the volatile nature of relief pitching (/knocks on wood). Overall an excellent contract for the Tribe.

No comments: