Jon Heyman
Thursday December 27th, 2007

The winter meetings came and went with Johan Santana still a Minnesota Twin, but eventually, he will be traded. It might not be this week or even this month, though they would probably prefer to trade him before the season starts. But he will go somewhere, and it should be for something special, not just a package of decent prospects, which is what the Twins have been offered thus far by the Red Sox, Yankees and Mets, the three leading suitors for the two-time Cy Young winner.

In the meantime the Twins haven't been -- and won't be -- pressured by fake deadlines, underwhelming deals or anything else. And I can't blame them.

"They're doing the smart thing. If they're not getting what they want, they should wait," one AL executive said. "There's plenty of time. Things happen."

The Twins are holding the most valuable commodity in baseball -- a true ace -- and they should get what he's worth. If anyone should be setting a deadline, it's them. The trade won't happen until they receive the "yes" to exactly what they're looking for, which begins with at least two players who can succeed at the major-league level.

The Twins' aren't being unreasonable. They aren't even insisting that pitching lead the package. They just want what's fair.

The Red Sox, still the perceived leader to land Santana, offered two multi-player packages. The first is believed to consist of left-handed starter Jon Lester, outfielder Coco Crisp, shortstop prospect Jed Lowrie and pitching prospect Justin Masterson. The second led with Jacoby Ellsbury in place of Lester and presumably included a pitching prospect instead of Crisp. But Boston declined to include both Ellsbury with Lester in the same deal.

The Yankees were talking about a package of right-handed starter Phil Hughes, center-fielder Melky Cabrera and pitching prospect Jeff Marquez when their self-imposed deadline hit last week and talks broke down when New York wouldn't surrender prospects Ian Kennedy, Alan Horne or Austin Jackson with Hughes.

And the Mets offered different packages of prospects that included either outfielder Carlos Gomez or outfield prospect Fernando Martinez but not both, declining to include the one extra prospect the Twins requested to clinch the deal according to people familiar with those talks.

Santana's trade value is limited to perhaps only those three big-market teams because they are the only ones that truly seem comfortable with giving a pitcher a six-year extension worth between $20 and 25 million annually, which Santana will command when his current contract expires after next season. But eventually one of these teams is going to realize that acquiring an ace in the prime of his career is worth the cost in dollars and players.

Red Sox brass may be satisfied to see him go anywhere but the Yankees. The members of the Boston front office have proven to be creative thinkers and may figure out how to work out a deal. The Red Sox also know that if they get Santana, in the words of one competing executive, "the Yankees are playing for the wild card the next three years."

Some Mets people actually thought they had the best offer at the winter meetings, even though Minnesota originally didn't see a way for the Mets to contend for him. Eventually, Mets GM Omar Minaya or his bosses may conclude that the deal is worth making not only to improve their on-field product, but also to change their 2008 spring storyline from their epic collapse to the '07 season.

As for the Yankees, GM Brian Cashman has always seemed uneasy about surrendering the coveted Hughes, and used Andy Pettitte's return to persuade new boss Hank Steinbrenner not to overbid for Santana. But Steinbrenner the junior has already overruled Cashman this offseason in giving catcher Jorge Posada a fourth year, closer Mariano Rivera a third year and Alex Rodriguez a record contract after swearing he was out of the A-Rod Sweepstakes.

So if the Twins are waiting for Hank the Yank to change his mind again and get back into the Santana Sweepstakes in a big way, you can't blame them. A lot of baseball folks think he probably will.

In the wake of the blockbuster that sent Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to Detroit for five prospects and a backup catcher, some executives from other teams complained the Marlins wanted more from them than what they got from Detroit.

From the Angels, they wanted Ervin Santana, Nick Adenhart, Howie Kendrick and Jeff Mathis. From the Dodgers, they supposedly wanted either Matt Kemp or James Loney plus Clayton Kershaw plus two others.

It's hard to question the Marlins when it comes to scouting for other teams' prospects (that's their specialty). Everyone acknowledges that outfielder Cameron Maybin and pitcher Andrew Miller, the top two players heading to Florida, have a chance to be stars. One competing executive even opined that he expects Maybin to be a superstar along the lines of Cabrera, and that five years from now the winter meetings scenario will be repeated where Florida needs to unload Maybin because he becomes too expensive.

But another National League scout had a more sober assessment, saying, "Maybin can run. And he can throw. He's got a lot going for him. But I'm not sure he's ever going to hit enough. He has an awful time with anything that bends .... [And] Miller's got a funky arm action and can't throw enough strikes."

• The Tigers were right to ignore baseball's ridiculously arbitrary slotting system, whereby teams use a player's draft position as the guideline for what his signing bonus should be. By ignoring it, Detroit was able to sign the better prospects and put them in a position to make this trade. The Yankees also have wisely ignored MLB's bonus recommendations. And now the Mets' Minaya told Baseball America and Newsday they may have to rethink their resolve to stick to the system. Being what Minaya called "good citizens," has cost them big time.

• The Yankees and Giants could possibly make a deal involving Hideki Matsui, one that involves either pitchers Noah Lowry or Jonathan Sanchez. But would anyone really expect Matsui to waive his no-trade clause to leave the team of his dreams?

• In the proposed deal for Oakland's Danny Haren, according to the East Valley (Ariz.) Tribune, Arizona would send to the A's prospects Carlos Gonzalez, Emilio Bonifacio and Brett Anderson. If that's the case, I have to assume Oakland's playing for the future (disclaimer: Of course I thought that when they traded Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson, and they proved me wrong).

• Upon hearing that Eric Gagne got a guaranteed $10 million (plus incentives), my reaction was: I wonder how much he could have gotten if he wasn't the worst pitcher in the majors over the last three months of the 2007 season.

• No inside info, and the Padres have reportedly offered at least $30 million for three years, but I am still betting on Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome going to the Cubs.

• One scout says he loves 20-year-old lefty Glenn Gibson (a 2006 draftee, no less), whom Tampa got from Washington for troubled outfielder Elijah Dukes. The scout likens Gibson (son of former big leaguer Paul), to a "young Tom Glavine."

• The Orioles would like to trade Melvin Mora and Ramon Hernandez in addition to Miguel Tejada.

• The Astros may be living down to my lowly expectations for them, first trading Brad Lidge for very little, then following that by signing Kaz Matsui for way too much.

• Let me get this straight: Texas and San Diego (and probably others) would both take Milton Bradley (Bradley eventually agreed to a $5 million contract with the Rangers) but not Barry Bonds?

• I am counting on the Mitchell Report to be the Document of the Year.

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