The rumors have been flying fast and furious on the Johan Santana front for the past week or so. Unfortunately, none of them have really been news, so I haven't felt a need to chime in. I think now is a good time to take a look at the situation, from the long view.
First, there was the following rumor that the Twins would be willing to take Ian Kennedy out of a deal
for Santana, reported by Murray Chass. This is either a recent development, or old news. If you recall, the scuttlebutt at the Winter Meetings was that the Yanks walked away from a deal
which did not include Kennedy, they left the offer of Hughes, Melky, Jeff Marquez and Mitch Hilligoss on the table.
Then, the Mets apparently became a viable player in the Santana Sweepstakes
, even without offering Jose Reyes in the deal. The Mets would offer a package of 4 prospects with outfielder Carlos Gomez as the most prominent piece to the puzzle. The Sox seem to be standing firm with their offer of Lester/Ellsbury and a couple of other prospects.
Now, the Twins are taking a two-fold approach to the situation. On the one hand, they're saying their number one option is to extend Santana
, which seems highly unlikely to me after the low-ball offer earlier in the offseason. Option #2 is to wait until Spring Training
to move him.
From my point of view, it looks like the Twins are getting desperate. They saw what the A's got for Dan Haren from the D-Backs, and while some may think it was a bounty, there was no real tested major league talent in the package. It was 6 prospects of varying pedigree. Haren is not the pitcher that Santana is, there's no question about that, but he's also under contract for 3 years. He was not a one-year rental or a $140M extension waiting to happen. The Twins asking price was so high it made the Yankees and the Red Sox balk, it made the Yanks balk to the point where they reconsidered their best offer and took it off the table.
Rumors have been circulating about the asking price coming down, probably rumors leaked by the team to get the interest back up. It hasn't worked. Now they're saying they may extend him or wait until Spring Training to deal him. They want the bidding war to start up again. They want the Yanks to try to fend off the Sox and vice versa. It just isn't happening. I think they overplayed their hand and if they do move him, it's going to be for much less than the offers they received from the Yanks earlier this month.
I've seen a couple of articles calling the Twins' rookie GM Bill Smith savvy for the way he's handled these negotiations. Honestly, I think a more seasoned GM would've pulled the trigger when the frenzy was at its highest. Now the Yanks are content to withdraw, the Sox are content to leave their "best offer" out there and see if Minnesota bites and the Mets are licking their chops at the prospect of landing Santana for a group of prospects who really don't figure into their 2008 plans.
Phil Hughes is by far the best prospect mentioned so far in any Santana rumors and I believe there was a point where the Twins could have had him. Smith let that ship sail and his greed will come back to haunt the Twins if/when he settles for a lesser offer down the road. Of course, the Yanks could always go back to the negotiating table, and Phil Hughes could still be moved. It's a game of Russian Roullette at this point for everyone involved, and honestly, no one knows what's going to happen. As Jon Sterling would say, "That's baseball."