Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Santana Deal

So the Twins finally pulled the trigger. Like most deals the Twins make, fans listening to the talk shows will be outraged at the failure to get more. When Frank Viola was traded, David West was supposed to be the center of the trade. But the real quality players were Rick Aguilera and Kevin Tapani. When Knoblauch was dealt, there were fans who couldn't believe the Twins failed to get the Yankees "top prospect", Rick Ledee. Rick Ledee? And there was outrage that A. J. Pierzynski only netted a reliever and a couple prospects (Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser respectively).

We won't know for a few years whether this deal worked out for the Twins. None of the players they get are likely to be better than Santana while they play for the Twins. Whereas arguably each of those other deals actually brought back players as good or better than the player who was given up. But the reality is the Twins can't afford the risk of signing Santana to a huge contract for six years. The Mets can.

So who are these guys and why should we be excited:

Carlos Gomez - An extremely speedy outfielder who was playing in the major leagues last year at age 20. Sometimes those players fail. But usually a guy who can hold his own as a major leaguer at that age will get better and better. He has been described as a five tool player who is already an above average center fielder defensively and will develop some power. A little like a young Torii Hunter, though probably not quite in that league defensively. The Twins now have three young outfielders who are candidates for center field Gomez, Pridie and Span. Its likely at least one of them will develop into an above average major league center fielder. Gomez is probably the most likely contender to do that this year.

Philip Humber - Humber was a number one draft pick (third overall) in the 2004 draft. Last year was his first full season since coming back from Tommy John surgery. Its hard to know what the Twins got here. The news reports about the trade talk about him as a back of the rotation starter, but the scouting reports and his draft position would indicate he is a lot more than that if healthy. I look for him to take a spot in the rotation out of spring training. I think he has the best shot at having an immediate impact.

Kevin Mulvey - Mulvey was the Mets first choice in the 2006 draft. He was the 62nd player taken, in the second round. He is the typical college draftee at that position. His upside is a solid back of the rotation starter who will give you a lot of innings. That assumes that he has major league command of his pitches. He is probably pretty similar to Kevin Slowey, albeit a year behind him in development.

Deolis Guerra - This is clearly the guy with the highest upside. A 6'5" pitcher with great stuff but a long way from the major leagues. Lets hope it is fun to watch him develop. It could just as easily be painful to watch him fail.

This deal looks like it lacks a "can't miss" player. But then even the "can't miss" guys sometimes do, so having several chances is probably more important. Gomez, Humber and Guerra all look like players who have the possibility to develop into core players of a championship team. But, whatever you make of this trade, it looks like the Twins would have been a better team with Santana. This is taking what the market has to offer rather than rolling the dice on winning this year.

Now the question is what can they get for Joe Nathan. Because without Santana, Hunter and Silva this team is going to have to get some real breakthroughs to be competitive. Nathan is not going to make much difference.

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