Heat of the moment
Right now we're in that happy pre-consummation zone on the prospective deal between the Mets and the Twins for
There are a few cautions here, like why it's a terrible idea to give a player a no-trade clause if you might not have to. Smith wound up having to pull the trigger on some deal, any deal, lest he end up getting screwed by Santana's deadline for being dealt. Given a choice between making his player "happy" or choosing to keep his powder dry, Smith seems to be electing to end the drama. That's unfortunate, not just because of the limitations of the four Mets farmhands coming over in the deal. If Smith had decided to keep waiting, Santana could always change his mind and want out by July after another tough loss, and the packages of prospects that might be offered in a deal in the more pressurized atmosphere of late July could be better than what the Mets are offering. And given that the Twins are considered to possess as fine a collection of scouts as any other team's, settling for the draft picks wouldn't really represent a total loss for this organization. If the Twins had let Santana slip away as a free agent, those picks might have been better bets to provide the Twins something of value than the players received in this deal.
We're already hearing spin-doctoring from the many voices in the press, making a quick -- and lazy --- comparison to the
The Knoblauch deal shared one element with the Viola trade: a highly-regarded blue-chip power lefty,
Which brings us to the Santana deal, which may provide the Twins with something to build on, or it might be a brick thrown up by Smith out of increasing desperation to get Santana dealt. I'm not impressed with the Mets prospects in this trade.
Then there's the pitching, and that's... not quite as exciting as anything the Twins got in the Viola or Knoblauch trades, certainly.
There's also the more general question of what the Twins are doing trading for other people's pitching prospects when they already have one of the best assemblages of young pitching around. The pitchers added aren't really any better than what's already in Minnesota's system, so while Smith seems to believe there's always room for more, his getting three more pitching prospects is sort of like buying three more apples to eat next month when you already own an orchard. And not especially high-end, organic, worm-proof $3-a-pound apples, either. Pitching talent comes with a built-in spoilage rate; adding more might seem to be wisdom, but given the modest merits of the guys added, it might also just make sure that Rochester's stocked with people somebody else drafted. It would have been nice to add position-playing prospects, but I'm less inclined to bang on the Twins in this regard, given that their lineup is already mostly stocked with young talent. Adding Gomez doesn't really help or hurt, it just presents an indictment of their fascination with
Is it fair to bang on the Twins for getting so little for what they might define as "just one year of Johan Santana"? Well, for the Mets it's going to be worth a lot more than that, since they're effectively acquiring the right to exclusively negotiate a multi-year extension with the game's best starting pitcher without that pesky free-market doing anything more than providing a point of reference. They won't miss the prospects, and it's a credit to the organization that they managed to prop up the value of the quartet effectively enough to swing a deal that you'd think the Mets would be entirely out-gunned on, certainly compared to what the Yankees, Red Sox, Mariners or Dodgers would be able to use to acquire a quality starting pitcher. While there have been a lot of overly optimistic propositions about what the Yankees or Red Sox put on the table, just about any of their more realistic packages involved one prospect better than anyone the Mets offered, and perhaps had to offer.
What's even more impressive, however, is that this was the sort of move that the National League has been short on this winter. Where most of the wide field of contenders in the senior circuit have settled for modest deals that fix one discrete problem or another, no one has really propelled themselves ahead of the pack with a bold stroke. The American League has seen the Tigers playing for high stakes to try and run with the Indians, Yankees and Red Sox; the National League has the Astros' kamikaze run, or the Dodgers spending big to sort of address last winter's
Instead this is the first deal in the NL where you could argue that a team is not just gunning for the division and not just establishing an easy favorite to win the pennant, as the Mets now have a shot at having a team that can go toe-to-toe with the AL's titans. It is exactly the sort of move that Minaya needed to make after last year's fold-up, and the sort of late-winter genius created by contingency -- six weeks ago no one expected the Yankees and Red Sox to just walk away, and unless the Dodgers or Mariners had decided to play for high stakes and deal out of their storehouse of top talent, no one else really had the sort of stuff to overawe any other bidder. With those four out of the running Minaya had an opening, and in their last-minute desperation the Twins proved too willing to agree to anything.