Hold those pinstripes. Despite what the AP might have you believe, the Yankees aren’t the only team engaged in discussions regarding Twins ace Johan Santana. According to ESPN Radio’s Andrew Marchand, the Mets, somewhat more quietly, have made their own overtures to Minnesota GM Bill Smith. Citing a major league executive with knowledge of the discussions, Marchand reports that the Mets should not be counted out, despite that teams such as the Yankees and Red Sox would be able to put together a more enticing package of prospects.
There are two factors working in the Mets’ favor here. First off, Omar and the Mets are desperate. After a late season collapse and a quiet beginning to the offseason, the GM seems determined to add a big starter to the top of the team’s rotation – at any cost. The Yankees and Sox, meanwhile, are significantly less enthused about gutting their suddenly rich farm systems. Via MetsBlog.com:
…during a recent appearance on ESPN Radio yesterday, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney said that the Red Sox and Yankees seem to be ‘leaning towards the idea’ that it makes ‘no sense’ for them to trade, say, Phil Hughes or Clay Buchholz, in exchange for Twins LHP Johan Santana, who will require ‘at least six years and $150 million’ on his next contract, which will also cost roughly $3 million per season to insure.
Yet according to George King and Joel Sherman in today’s Post, the Yanks would need to surrender at least Hughes in order to land the Twins left-hander. According to the report, Minnesota’s asking price goes “well beyond just the Phil Hughes/ Melky Cabrera level that had been generally anticipated.” While it’s evident Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman has the pieces to pull off a deal, his unwillingness to surrender his top prospects clearly opens the door for Minaya and the Mets.
Minaya’s pool of top prospects is headlined by outfielders Lastings Milledge, Fernando Martinez, and Carlos Gomez. The team’s pitching prospects – Mike Pelfrey, Phil Humber, and Kevin Mulvey – are significantly weaker. However Milledge is a major-league-ready talent, Gomez is a highly regarded center fielder, and Martinez is a power bat who is said to be the gem of the lot. With the loss of Torii Hunter to free agency, and the likely loss of Justin Morneau in the not-too-distant future, the Mets outfield prospects are not unappealing to the Twins, and with guys like Hughes and Buchholz allegedly off the market, the Amazin’s pitching prospects begin to gleam a bit brighter as well.
Ultimately, the race for Santana will come down to who is willing to surrender the most talent, not who has the most talent to give. At the very least, the Mets aggressiveness in trade talks will ensure that no one acquires the dominating pitcher on the cheap. If the Yankees want an ace to match against Josh Beckett, they will have to surrender Phil Hughes. If the Sox want to keep Santana out of the Bronx, they will have to surrender Clay Buchholz.
Meanwhile, should one or both of the New York teams come away from these discussions empty handed, there appears to be plenty of leftovers available on what is quickly becoming a hot trade market for pitchers in a weak free agent class. According to Newsday’s David Lennon, the Mets continue to discuss both Dan Haren and Joe Blanton with Oakland, whose General Manager Billy Beane appears to be one of the few franchises that still covets Lastings Milledge and Aaron Heilman. Blanton, in particular, is appealing to the Mets due to the loss of innings-eater Tom Glavine to Atlanta. In 34 starts last season, Blanton pitched 230 innings. Acquiring the hefty righty would certainly cost far less than Haren, and could even leave Minaya with enough chips left over to make a move on Baltimore’s Eric Bedard, who also appears to be available for the right price. According to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Mets made a strong push for Bedard at the general managers’ meetings, but the Orioles are hoping they can sign their ace to an extension this offseason.