November 09, 2007

If Johan Santana hits the trade market, as appears likely now, it will inspire a feeding frenzy, likely starting with both New York teams but not nearly ending there.

The Yankees will "go hard after Santana,'' according to an industry source familiar with their thinking, and they appear well-equipped to make a deal, considering their stash of superior young pitching talent, beginning with Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. While the Yankees are reluctant to trade any of those pitchers for a position player such as Miguel Cabrera, they understand that they'd have to include at least one of them for a realistic shot at Santana.

The Twins recently made a contract proposal to baseball's best pitcher, according to a league source, but people around the game see little likelihood of a quick deal and instead expect Santana to become available via trade within weeks.

The Dodgers, Angels and Red Sox also have the type of young players to make a deal for Santana, and several other mostly big-market teams can be expected to be interested. The Mets also would be interested, but the stock of their best young pitching prospects has not kept up with that of the Yankees' vaunted trio. Plus the Yankees may prefer not to enter the season with three inexperienced starters in the rotation, anyway.

The Twins are well-known for their superior scouting, so they can be expected to fare as well as possible in a deal, even though Santana has only a year to go before he can become a free agent. Minnesota would require top-tier talent in return.

The Twins are still hoping to re-sign Santana, who's in the last year of a $40 million, four-year contract. But no one else in baseball thinks that's a realistic possibility. Sports Illustrated reported early in the season that the Twins offered Santana an extension for two years plus an option for about $18 million per year, an offer that seemed extremely low for a pitcher of his stature, even at the time. The Twins' offers for free agents Torii Hunter ($45 million for three years) and Carlos Silva ($20 million for three years) also seem light in this thin market, and they are expected to lose both of those players as well.

The top contracts for a pitcher on a multiyear deal are Barry Zito's $126 million, seven-year deal and Carlos Zambrano's $91.5 million, five-year deal. Santana is expected to receive $150 million or more when he becomes a free agent next year.

Phillies GM Pat Gillick predicted on Thursday in USA Today that Santana "will be moved for sure.'' Although, Gillick didn't explain how he came to that conclusion. It isn't believed the Twins have begun taking trade offers yet.

In response to Gillick's quote, a Twins official pointed out that "that isn't his player,'' and there's no way Gillick or anyone else could know that. Twins GM Bill Smith declined comment on Gillick's remark.

Santana's agent, Peter Greenberg, is out of the country and could not immediately be reached for comment.

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