Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dissecting the Bill Smith era: The Santana trade

Johan Santana won two Cy Young awards
while with the Twins (2004 and 2006). He now
gets $25 million a year from the Mets and did
not pitch in 2011.
When: Feb. 2, 2008
What: LHS Johan Santana to the New York Mets for CF Carlos Gomez and RHPs Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra.
Value: Santana has earned 49 win shares and 14.4 WAR since the trade. Gomez has 30 WS, 4.1 WAR; Humber 13 WS and 3.4 WAR; Mulvey 0 and -0.5. Guerra has not reached the majors.
Twins motivation: Avoiding Santana's walk year; secondary motivations, trimming payroll, adding an outfielder.

Underlying the decision to trade Johan Santana during the 2007-08 offseason was the minor circus that accompanied Torii Hunter during his 2007 walk year. It seemed to team management that every road trip brought the same story: Where will Hunter play next? And Hunter was only too willing to fuel the speculation.

Correctly or not, Ron Gardenhire and Co. felt that was a factor in the team's decline in 2007. When, in the immediate wake of that disappointing season, Santana indicated that he was not likely to re-sign with the Twins, the brass felt it best to trade him immediately.

The Twins say
Deolis Guerra was
effective after being
moved to the bullpen
last season in
Double A.
It's an arguable decision. The Twins could have kept Santana for 2008, offered him arbitration and pocketed a pair of draft picks when he left. On the other hand, the media circus that accompanied the winter meetings that offseason, when there was a fresh rumor every few hours, suggests that the issue of Santana's future would have dominated the 2008 season.

Just going off the results, however, hanging on to Santana for 2008 might have worked better for Minnesota. Gomez never fully earned Gardenhire's confidence and ultimately lost his starting spot in the outfield to Denard Span. Humber washed out with the Twins and then Kansas City before emerging last season as a respectable starter for the White Sox. Mulvey's career appears to have stalled. Only Guerra remains in the Twins system, and he looks less like a useful piece each year.

Theoretically, the four players the Twins got in the Santana trade were more than the equivalent of a (low) first round pick and a sandwich pic. It simply didn't turn out that way.

Gomez and Mulvey were more valuable to the Twins in terms of what they got in future trades than for what they did in Minnesota.

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