Twins Overplayed Their Hand
Hindsight is always 20/20 and it’s easy to look back a couple of months are reassess decisions that were made with the best of intentions, but the Twins are now probably regretting not accepting the deals that were on the table from the Red Sox and Yankees rather than what they ended up with from the Mets. (This, of course, is pending the Mets signing Santana to a long term contract extension. With most other teams, this would be a mere formality, but the Mets have a habit of screwing things up at the last moment. I think the percentages are Ivory Soap pure—-99 44/100—-that the deal will get done.)
The conventional wisdom has always been that the Mets didn’t have the ammunition in their organization to get a deal done, and the reality is that the Mets didn’t have the ammunition to get a deal done until the Red Sox held the line on their lukewarm offer and the Yankees pulled out completely. Credit for this goes to Mets GM Omar Minaya for never taking no for an answer and having the confidence to make his offer and stick to it without giving up what he considered too much for a pitcher upon whom he also had to lavish a huge contract. The Mets gave up far less (in my view) than what the Red Sox and Yankees offered when the negotiations were at their apex in December. This was an accident of circumstance more than anything else. The Twins had few other options and decided to take the Mets quantity over whatever else was on the table for them.
If Santana had indeed informed the Twins that he would invoke his no-trade clause once he reported to spring training with them, they had no choice but to take this deal. In retrospect, they not only should have traded Santana in December, they probably should have traded him before the 2007 season entirely. The minor league prospects the Twins are receiving had better be the real deal for this to end up as a win for them because having seen enough of Carlos Gomez and Philip Humber to make a judgment on them, I think they’re iffy prospects at best. I’ve gone on about Gomez’s lack of plate discipline and how raw he is; and how Humber wasn’t all that impressive (unless former Brewers pitcher Jeff D’Amico impressed you, because that’s who Humber looks like). As for Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra, who knows? Even if both become stalwarts of the Twins future, the Mets had to make this deal.
The planets have aligned for the Mets after sitting by and watching year-after-year as other teams make the big splash with superstar talent coming their way. The Red Sox never really wanted Santana unless they could give up the bare minimum for him and even then it seemed like they were just trying to get the Yankees to give up two of their pitching prospects rather than one. The Yankees would already have Santana had George Steinbrenner still been in charge of the operation, so the Boss’s retirement was also a fortunate happenstance for the Mets. That Minaya was able to keep top outfield prospect Fernando Martinez out of the deal is even more impressive. (The kid had better be good if he was a deal-breaker.) Santana was a luxury for the Yankees and Red Sox; for the Mets he was a necessity that always appeared to be just out of reach; but Minaya continued to believe that eventually, if everything fell right, he’d be in position to swoop in and make this move, and he did. For a team to make one move and go from a likely 85-86 wins to a favorite in their division and World Series contender is a gigantic leap and Santana makes all of that possible.