Thursday, November 29, 2007

Trades

Obviously there's been some big news for the Twins organization in the past couple days. Trading Matt Garza, our 2005 first-round draft pick, to the Rays for Delmon Young was a big step. I'm inclined to think it was in the right direction.

The Twins have a surplus of young arms and they gave up one of their best, which obviously hurts. But the player they got back is an even more precious quantity; at least for the Twins, given the scarcity of offensive talent in their farm system. The trade balances them, and gives them an immediate every-day outfielder who will hit in the middle of the lineup. Quite possibly next to Joe Mauer, which is noteworthy because both Mauer and Young were the first picks in their respective drafts (2001 and 2003). Looking back over the list of first picks, I don't think I see any in recent history who ever played on the same team, much less batted next to each other.

Making the trade even better for the Twins is the chance that Young will develop into a true star. He's coming off a terrific rookie season, and he stands to improve a lot throughout the next couple years. This is a player who helps the Twins in 2008 and beyond.

Also part of the trade was a swap of shortstops, the Twins giving up Jason Bartlett for Brendan Harris. This part of the trade hurts a little. The two players are similar offensively, but Bartlett is by far the superior defender. However, it sounds as if Harris may not be the starting shortstop for the Twins, and might instead play at 3B or 2B. At second base Harris would be a terrific asset. His offensive numbers would be above average for the position, and his defense would be less critical. This of course leaves a tremendous and gaping hole at SS for the Twins, and so help me they fill it with Punto... ::shaking fist::

Finally we swapped prospects, giving up one of the top bullpen prospects in baseball - Eduardo Morlan - for Jason Pridie, a center fielder that the Twins have been coveting for some time. I know thou shalt not, but since we ended up getting the guy in the end, I think the Lord will overlook it this time. Some Twins fans are disappointed that we gave up such a solid prospect, but I think this may be a bit of overreacting. Yes, Morlan will probably be an excellent late-inning reliever somewhere, perhaps even a top-flite closer. But relief pitchers are often overvalued, especially since they frequently break down earlier in their careers and because their effectiveness can turn so much on how they are used by their coaches. Why do you think the same teams consistently turn out excellent relief pitchers (Twins, Angels) while others routinely destroy them (Rangers)? Morlan is easily replaceable, especially in a system such as Minnesota's, and another strong CF prospect is something the Twins have been sorely craving. All in all, an excellent trade.

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This of course brings us to trade issue #2: Johan Santana.

It sounds inevitable that he will be traded, quite possibly within the next weeks. It makes me so very, very sad. My wife too. She's probably even more upset than I am. We're both going to miss him when he goes. He's just so good at sitting bitches down. There is simply no better pitcher in baseball; and there hasn't been for a long time. Every single time Johan takes the hill you know you have a chance at watching history, and that at very least you'll be looking at an amazing piece of art. Santana doesn't just pitch: he paints and sings and makes the world a wonderful, magical, beautiful place, and all with just a little white ball. And (I'm not afraid to admit it) he's just so darn cute!

Oh, I will miss having Santana on the Twins. He's a favorite player for so many, and watching him these past years I've known every time how lucky we were. But when the season ended I wasn't prepared to say goodbye to him like I was for Hunter, and this trade talk is all so sudden and unwanted. It makes me sad to think that he might not be on the roster come Spring Training, that he might not start for us on opening day. It makes me sad.

And yes, I'm so very afraid of the Twins having to try to hit against Johan. The thought of him beating the Twins is almost too much to bear. Sure, maybe Mauer could handle him, after catching him all those years, but after that? Morneau struggles against lefties, Cuddy would be overmatched, Hunter's no longer around to knock one out of the park when the game is already decided (because Santana does give up the occasional longball), and can you even imagine Punto flailing away against Johan? Yikes! That scares me. And makes me sad.

But worst of all is the thought that losing Santana means that he probably will not go into the Hall of Fame as a Twin. And more than anything else, that thought makes me sad.

Santana is, without question, the best pitcher of his generation. If he can keep it up for just 3 or 4 more years (and he's only 29) he's probably in the realm of greatest pitchers of all time. He has had points in his career that have matched Koufax's best years. All of his numbers are impeccable, and he eats up a ton of innings every year. He's had 4 straight seasons of at least 235 K's, and he'll likely be among career leaders in several categories if he continues on this pace for a few more years. To top it all off, he's doing this in one of the least pitcher-friendly eras in baseball history, in the more difficult American league. Can you even imagine if he were pitching in the deadball era? Quite simply, Santana will be remembered as one of the greatest pitchers of all time. Having him forever associated with the Twins, well, that would forever be a highlight to any Minnesota sports fan.

Which is why losing him now hurts so much. He has a big chunk of his career left, barring major injury. His next team will likely keep him for at least six or seven years, matching the time he spent with the Twins. If they sign him beyond that too, then that will likely be the team he will go into the Hall representing. In addition, though he might look back fondly on his years as a Twin, it is with his other teams that he will be chasing milestones and setting more records. Obviously he didn't win a Series with the Twinkies, and if he's able to do that somewhere else then that too cements the other team as his Hall of Fame choice.

Usually I'd be very excited about the prospects and players we could get back for Santana. It's truly a unique opportunity, and there's certainly much to be gained by trading Johan. But there's more than just the player to be lost.

And so there we have the painful reality. If the Twins trade Santana they'll be trading away not only a tremendous pitcher, they'll also be trading away a plaque in the Hall of Fame; they'll be trading away history.

In baseball that matters.

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And I guess that's why I want them to trade him to the Yankees if anyone. Because if Santana isn't going to be a Twin in the Hall, then danggit he should be a Yankee. Because then at least he's with Ruth and Gehrig and so on. Which is where he belongs: among the greats.

When I see you
Thousand eyes turnin blue

3 comments:

Jeff said...

Sucks about Santana... I remember when the O's lost Mussina - to a team in our division, no less. That was painful, especially since if he goes to the Hall he'll be going as a Yankee (despite the fact that he was probably better in Baltimore).

Now there's talk of Bedard leaving after this year, and Tejada's as good as gone (though he isn't an original Oriole).

I don't like the Twins' losing Santana or the O's losing Tejada for one reason - this is probably the best chance the rest of the AL will have in a while to sneak past the Yankees into the wild card spot. Boston and Cleveland will be tough to beat, but beyond that the AL's pretty wide open - now is not the time to get rid of someone who can throw the team on his back for a few crucial games.

Kendrick Novak said...

I told you early that Santana would be gone, and KG for that matter. If you were in Minnesota these trades would not be so unexpected and you would see that even last year they were ready to go. That's what happens when you aren't willing to part your money, you lose your team and your fan base.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Fortunately I don't think the Twins are in any real danger of losing their fan base (unlike the Wolves. Do they still exist?). And at least they'll get back some primo talent for Santana; it's not like it was losing Hunter for nothing.