Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Santana Trade

I'm sure most of you know by now that the Twins have nearly completed the long-awaited trade of Johan Santana; it is only pending Johan's agreement to a new contract. The team is sending Santana to the Mets for outfielder Carlos Gomez, as well as pitchers Philip Humber, Deolis Guerra and Kevin Mulvey. The trade is surprising, not because the Mets will end up with Santana, but because it cost them so little.

Throughout the winter we have heard that Bill Smith, the Twins GM, would hold out for a monster package. There were rumors about Philip Hughes and Ian Kennedy from the Yankees, and Jon Lester and Jacob Ellsbury from the Red Sox. In the end, the Mets took a package that didn't include a prospect of the level of Hughes or Lester (or, arguably, Ellsbury).

Gomez and Guerra are most likely the two "prizes" of the trade; Gomez is one of the fastest players in the game, and reportedly a very good defender. On ESPN radio last night, Keith Law of ESPN said that Gomez graded out at a 70-80 on the scouts' scale for speed (scale going 20-80). That said, he's a slap hitter who hasn't shown a whole lot of offensive potential beyond making contact and running. Guerra is 18 (he'll turn 19 at the beginning of the season), and is all projection at this point. The other two prospects were among the highest rated in the Mets system, but weren't the premium types one would expect to get for Santana.

So, the question becomes, what happened? Did Smith wait too long, when he should have taken a deal from the Yankees or Mets? Did he misjudge the market? This was a big moment for the Twins, trading one of the best pitchers of the generation. It's still early, but (assuming this trade goes through), it looks like Twins fans should be disappointed.

As for Mets fans, this is a great deal. As Nate Silver points out on Baseball Prospectus, Johan is going from a pretty good pitcher's park to a great one; the difference won't be as large as some people believe. That said, Nate puts Johan's PECOTA projection at the following: 32 games, 16-8 record, 225 innings, 184 hits, 60 walks, 239 strikeouts, 2.94 ERA, SuperVORP (an adjustment of VORP, or value over replacement player; SuperVORP takes into account league difficulty, quality of defense behind the pitcher, etc.) of 56.8, and WARP of 7.5. Now that's one good season.

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