Tuesday, January 29, 2008

My Thoughts on the Johan Santana trade

It has been reported in a number of media outlets that Johan Santana has been traded by the Twins to the Mets for CF Carlos Gomez and SP Deolis Guerra, Phillip Humber, and Kevin Mulvey. Baseball America and John Sickel has them as the Mets 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 7th top prospects (though the two have Guerra and Gomez positions swapped). This is a huge steal for the Mets, but it could pay off for the Twins in the long-run, given additional growth by Gomez and Guerra (both I see as the major pieces of this trade for the Twins) similar to that which they showed before.

Carlos Gomez

Some in the Mets org thought that Carlos Gomez was Jose Reyes in CF, so perhaps that is what they sold the Twins on with him. Gomez is only 21 and so he still has a lot of growing to do, so I think he's the real wildcard with potential in the deal, if he can become another Reyes.

Some think he might be rushed, but I don't agree. After a slow start in the majors in May, which is understandable for a 21 year old in his first taste of the majors, he then had a pretty good June, playing almost full time, hitting .299/.351/.403/.754; league average was .768 according to Baseball-Reference.com. Then he got injured soon after that then didn't come back until the September call-ups and just played utility role then, which he didn't handle well (unsurprisingly since, as I noted, he's 21 and still adjusting to being a pro, being in the U.S., and all that, let alone handle that role that even baseball vets have a problem with, playing part-time). But he had that good June once he settled down, before getting injured.

If he fulfills the potential some internal Mets scouts had for him, that would be a very good return on Santana (plus the other prospects). I would also note that his walk rate improved greatly in 2007 vs. his career: nearly 10% of his PA vs. 5-6% previously. And he's been able to have a K% of around 18% in the minors, which is OK, but not good. But with the improvement in BB%, that is a huge improvement, so I think that there were some good signs of development that he exhibited in 2007.

Deolis Guerra

I have read that Deolis Guerra has had a number of injuries already at such a young age - he'll be 19 for the upcoming season. Sounds oddly (and sadly...) like a former Giants prospect traded to the Twins: Francisco Liriano (I wouldn't have trade him just for the name value: Francisco Liriano, pitching for San Francisco!).

Not that great strikeout rate in 2007, but that's partly because of the learning curve for him and his youth. In Baseball America's 2007 Prospect book, it was noted that he started off slow then caught on. Digging into his splits, in 2007, he didn't do well at the beginning again, but then got injured.

However, then he did well the rest of the season: 6.90 K/9, 2.76 BB/9, 2.50 K/BB. And he was only 18 years old pitching in a league where the average hitter's age was 22.9 years old. I think that's pretty impressive, so he's one in this trade who can come back to haunt the Mets, much like Liriano did the Giants.

While the injuries are a big worry, they did figure out how to keep Liriano healthy throughout the minors before he blew out his arm in the majors (and he was injured seemingly every year he was with the Giants too, I expected him to blow up way sooner than he did). I give them a lot of credit for that. Hopefully for them, it was more skill than luck.

The Fillers: Mulvey and Humber

The other two are OK prospects but don't appear to be that strong a prospect, despite Mulvey and Humber being Baseball America's and John Sickel's #4 and #7 Top Mets prospects for 2008.

Mulvey is nice but his K/9 is too low for my tastes, he's at best a middle of rotation guy.

Humber's stats suffered from a poor strand rate in 2007. However, his K/9 took a dive so he looks like he's not going to be that good a starter.

Met's Steal Santana

I think it's still a huge steal for the Mets right now, the Twins basically traded for high potential players. But there's still a mountain of development for Gomez and Guerra to go through in order for the trade to work out for the Twins and reach those high potentials.

But the Giants fans thought that too, and this is structured much like that one, except the upside is more evident with these players than it was with the Giants players (only fitting because of Santana's stature in the game).

But at least they got something for him now, instead of letting him go into free agency next off-season and getting, what, probably a high 1st round pick (20-something pick overall) and a supplemental 1st round pick? That's not nearly enough value for how good Santana is, and is a way worse return than the players the Mets traded for him now.

However, as I had read elsewhere, why they didn't wait until mid-season, I'm not sure, because there's sure to be a big money team desperate for a Santana by then, willing to back up their prospect farm and unload them for him then. I guess perhaps they didn't want to risk him getting injured, but then that seems too conservative, then why not trade him sooner, like last off-season and get a haul like the A's did for Haren? Maybe Santana told them that he wouldn't negotiate with any team for an extension if he's traded mid-season, as he has full no-trade clause in his contract, that would basically force the Twins to trade for him now.

2 comments:

  1. Two things seem pretty clear. 1) Bill Smith overplayed his hand. 2) The Red Sox were mostly trying to keep Santana away from the Yankees, and perhaps vice versa. Once Steinbrenner announced they were pulling their offer, the Red Sox interest notably cooled. Smith should have jumped on the Hughes/Cabrera + whatever offer a long time ago. They lost both Santana and Garza this offseason, in addition to Silva. Hughes was the single most important return they could have gotten from Santana and they were stupid not to jump on it. Everything else would have been gravy. An offseason where they locked up Morneau and Mauer while picking up Delmon Young and Philip Hughes would have been a huge success and set them up for some long term success and continuity.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great points Roger! Makes a lot of sense to me what you wrote. Hughes would have been a much better prize for trading Santana than what the Mets delivered, particularly if they are committed to winning this year and in the short-term (given that they gave those long contracts to players recently).

    Along those lines, maybe they already have had talks with another team(s) to trade Nathan to them (they have Neshek ready to take over) and get a front-line type prospect starting pitcher that way, though teams like that don't come to mind.

    Though I suppose if Boston is still looking to move Papelbon to the rotation, they could trade Lester for Nathan and move Papelbon into the #5 starter spot that Lester looked like he was slotted for, though Buchholz lurks; I expect Wakefield to be the one to go, though, when the Red Sox finally go with Buchholz in the rotation.

    Thanks for sharing your great thoughts.

    ReplyDelete

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