Santana deal may reshape races
Trade should be felt outside Minnesota and New York
Earlier this offseason, White Sox general manager Kenny Williams joked he would throw in a player from the White Sox if it meant Minnesota would deal two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana out of the American League Central.
On Tuesday, Williams was very close to getting his wish and it won't cost him a thing.
The Twins have worked out the players involved in a conditional trade that would send Santana to the Mets for outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitchers Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra -- provided the Mets can satisfy Santana, who can veto the trade if the Mets don't make him happy with the extension the left-hander is seeking.
While several baseball officials contacted on Tuesday declined to offer opinions on the deal, preferring to wait until it is officially announced, others were already making it clear that his trade would be felt beyond the borders of Minnesota and New York. The realization that the two sides were within a Santana signature of significantly impacting two division races was clear.
"I heard he went to the National League, right?" said Williams. "OK, great. That's it.
"Good riddance," added Williams with a laugh.
Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia was working out with several Major Leaguers at the Athletes Performance Institute in Tempe, Ariz., when word started to leak out about the deal to the Mets.
"I was working out, and I said to a bunch of the guys I was working out with, 'I'm glad that guy is out of the American League' and everyone started laughing except for the guys that are in the National League," Pedroia said. "That's definitely my first thought. That's great, get him out of the American League. Obviously he's one of the best in the game."
For a while, it looked like Santana might be headed for Boston. The Red Sox made a pitch for him, as did the Yankees. Nothing panned out on either front, but at least both AL East archrivals can take solace that the other didn't land the lefty.
"I think everybody is going to be happy all the way across. I think the Yankees are happy with what they have, with their young pitching and we are as well," Boston outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury said. "I think the Mets will be very happy with Johan."
Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin was already thinking how the deal might impact his team.
"It might have been better for him to stay in the American League, but look at how many players have already switched leagues this year," Melvin said. "And it might end up being a good thing because if he had stayed in Minnesota, we would have faced him anyway because Minnesota is our rival in Interleague. Now the Cubs will maybe have to face him once or twice, and the Cardinals and the Astros and the Reds. Maybe it's better for us. We had to face him anyway. Now they have to face him."
Santana is 93-44 with a 3.22 ERA during his eight-year career. A free agent to be after the 2008 season, the 29-year-old is reportedly seeking a multiyear deal of six years or more in exchange for waiving his no-trade clause. His extension is expected to top $100 million.
That's a hefty sum for a guy who plays every fifth day, but Santana is a special talent and his arrival in New York would enhance the Mets' chances of reclaiming the NL East title that they won in 2006 before Philadelphia captured it last season.
"This certainly evens the balance within the division," said former Mets and current Braves left-hander Tom Glavine. "I don't think this makes [the Mets] the class of the division. I think it puts them in a position where their rotation is much better and that was their biggest need.
"Within the division, I think you have three teams that can now not only win the division, but also the World Series. I think all three teams did a nice job of filling their biggest needs."
Coincidentally, Glavine had breakfast with teammate John Smoltz on Tuesday morning and the two were discussing what Santana would mean to the Mets.
"Unfortunately from our standpoint, just a few hours later the trade came true," Glavine said. "But still I can't look at any of these three teams and say they are the clear-cut favorites in the division. I think it will be a battle to the end like it was last year. It wasn't like you looked at the Mets and thought they wouldn't contend. They have too good of a team. But when you looked at the team, there was obvious concern about their rotation. When you looked their needs, you said they needed a young, front-line starter and they certainly addressed that in a big way."
Philadelphia outfielder Shane Victorino concedes the trade makes the Mets better, but won't go any farther than that.
"Did they become the team to beat because they got one pitcher? No, I'm not going to say that," Victorino said. "It's one significant move, but we made four moves [this offseason] to make our team better. We added in a third baseman, we got a right fielder, moved me to center, got [closer] Brad Lidge. Our moves made our team better. They acquired a great pitcher, but we're a better team, too."
Glavine doesn't agree with those who believe the deal is lopsided in New York's favor.
"I think Carlos Gomez has a chance to be a fantastic player," he said. "You hear a lot about five-tool guys and he's definitely a legit five-tool guy. Humber, the same way, has a great arm and great potential. Long-term, this could be a very good trade for the Twins."
Santana essentially would displace Pedro Martinez as the Mets' No. 1 starting pitcher. John Maine, Oliver Perez and either Mike Pelfrey or Orlando Hernandez would likely follow Santana and Martinez in the rotation.
"Adding arguably the best pitcher in the game is going to make you better," Braves catcher Brian McCann said. "I think this makes the Mets a lot better."
The trade should also make what was already shaping up as a compelling division battle even more riveting.
"It's going to be a dog fight," McCann said. "Obviously our division is up for grabs and I think it's going to stay close until the end. The Phillies upgraded. The Mets upgraded and we believe we've upgraded. Nobody is going to run away with this thing."
Marlins left fielder Josh Willingham faced Santana in Interleague Play last year, going 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout against the lefty.
"He's just a good pitcher. He's awesome," Willingham said. "He's got good stuff. That's about it."
Willingham said he doesn't know what Santana's arrival would mean for the NL East race.
"But it gives the Mets a front-line starter who is really good," Willingham said. "As far as the division goes, I don't know. But it's going to make their team a lot better."
Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.