Johan Santana Trade Major Coup in National League
by David A. Lane of Predictem.com
Amidst a Tsunami of trade rumors, after months and months of speculation, and while being shopped from team to team, Minnesota Twins Ace Starting Pitcher Johan Santana (93-44 with a 3.22 ERA in eight seasons) has enjoyed being on the center stage for almost the entire duration of the Major League Baseball off season wondering which team amongst the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets would emerge as the favorite bidder for his services. His contract is set to expire after this 2008 baseball season and management was shopping him – he and his agent just had to appreciate the teams interest in working a trade for him. The bottom line…. Whichever team he chose would have definitely landed the biggest fish in the off season as well as handing out a record high contract at his position.
The deal, complicated by a no trade clause stipulation in Santanas contract, meant not only a shift in baseballs balance of power but that interested parties would have to clear hurdles presented to it by both the team and the player. His contract for this season with the Twins had been a mere $13.25 million and as part of this trade, he asked for and received renegotiation on that figure by using the clause as leverage. The Twins, who knew they werent going to be able to afford to re-sign him after this season, couldnt allow him to just become a free agent and receive nothing back in return.
After each team put its best foot forward, the Mets ended up winning the rights to his services paying an astonishing $137.5 million over six years with an option that could very well take the deal up to $150 million in seven years. Either way, it makes him the highest paid pitcher in baseball trumping the previous high set by Barry Zito which was $126 million for seven years, and making him the fifth highest paid player overall.
As an interesting side note, the 2004 and 2006 American League CyYoung award winning pitcher noted that being able to step into the batters box and hit was his biggest reason for choosing the Mets as he’s a great athlete and is likely now the best hitting pitcher in the National League.
After the monumental meltdown that ended New Yorks run last season, they’d surely have been considered contenders in their division anyhow, even had they not made any moves. However, put Santana with a pitching staff thats comprised of a healthy Pedro Martinez (a three time Cy Young winner himself), John Maine (a 15 game winner last season) and Oliver Perez (himself a 15 game winner last season) this team most definitely becomes the favorite to win the National League pennant. Keep in mind that the Mets team already consists of a troika of All Stars in third baseman David Wright, shortstop Jose Reyes and outfielder Carlos Beltran.
In the past, the National League wasnt a place where it was necessarily hard to have success. The smallest handful of signings in the off season could still have a big impact because teams seemed to be much thinner than their American League counterparts The NL is starting to show some “umph” now though.
Teams with youth such as the Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks and Philadelphia Phillies have emerged and are a force to be dealt with without adding any parts. Theres no telling how good theyll be against American League talent at this point, but in my opinion the gap, which once looked pretty wide between the two, is now closing in on becoming equal. Add the trade of All Star starting pitcher Dan Haren to Arizona as an example of how the N.L. is becoming stronger.
Among the contenders in the National League will be those same Diamondbacks who will be sporting a very stellar pitching staff of Haren (15-9 with a 3.07 ERA and 192 Ks), Brandon Webb (18-10 with a 3.01 ERA and 194 Ks),and eventual hall of fame pitcher Randy Johnson, with a team many thought werent even ready for the type of success that they have already enjoyed. Last seasons foray into the second round of the playoffs was totally unexpected and could definitely be a sign of great things yet to come, especially if “the big unit” can get back to his old form and avoid injury.
The Colorado Rockies are serious competitors and will be there in the end as well with their team really gelling at the right time last season. The team excelled in learning how to win in the clutch which can have lasting effects and is surely the sort of thing Willie Randolphs Mets needs to learn. This season, neither the manager nor the team can afford to allow another late season swoon to recur.
That being said, winning their own division wont be easy by any means. Overcoming the Atlanta Braves who just re-signed slugger Mark Teixeira (.306avg, 30hr, 105rbi) and managed to bring back future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine who will be reacquainted with the Braves and pitcher John Smoltz never is an easy task. Combine that with the up-and-coming Philadelphia Phillies team with sluggers Ryan Howard (.268 avg., 47hrs, 136 rbis) and Chase Utley (.332 avg, 22 hr, and 103 rbis in 132 games) amongst others and the NL East should be a dogfight all season.
Regardless of all the trade rumors and speculation, the Mets practically “had” to sign Johan Santana. Not only are they moving into a new stadium in 2009 (Citi Field) but also were in need of the marquis attraction for their own network SportsNet New York (SNY). The trade, which sent four prospects to the Twins, was needed to heighten spirits after last seasons debacle, boost ratings, raise advertising revenues for SNY and to give the fans a reason to get behind the team again.
In the end, General Manager Omar Minaya will look like a genius for doing all that could be done to make this trade work. The move does however give the Mets even greater expectations heading into this season. Luckily for them, not only have they found a pitcher who actually wanted to hit but they just might have also found a way to meet those lofty expectations as well.