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Mets hope to have a shot at Santana

Twins talk to others while negotiating with Red Sox

Posted: Wednesday December 5, 2007 1:19PM; Updated: Thursday December 6, 2007 1:19AM
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Johan Santana is going to want an extension in the range of six years and $150 million.
Johan Santana is going to want an extension in the range of six years and $150 million.
John Biever/SI
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By Jon Heyman, SI.com

NASHVILLE, Tenn -- With the Red Sox still trying to match names with the Twins, other teams -- including the Mets -- are trying to jump into the Johan Santana sweepstakes, SI.com has learned.

It isn't known how good the Mets' chances are to outbid the Red Sox for Santana. But the Twins appear to at least be thinking about entertaining new overtures.

The Red Sox are offering multiplayer packages of players starting with either pitcher Jon Lester or outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, but it is possible that the Twins, which hoped for a package that included both Lester and Ellsbury, still aren't completely satisfied with Boston's proposals and may review proposals from new teams before finalizing any deal.

It appeared only a day ago that the Red Sox were the clear leader in the clubhouse. And they may still get Santana, but it doesn't appear to be a certainty anymore.

A source close to the Twins said they were awaiting bids from different teams late Tuesday night. Minnesota has continued to talk to Boston into Wednesday morning, but there's a sense they may not be overwhelmed yet by Boston's multiple offers.

Meanwhile, the Mets have been aggressive in trying to get back into the mix, and while a Twins person suggested days ago that he saw the Mets as an extreme long shot unless Jose Reyes was included, it appears that they may at least consider listening to Mets proposals that don't include Reyes if things don't progress with Boston.

Mets manager Willie Randolph said at the media luncheon that he felt the Mets were always in the mix for Santana, despite a general perception that it had been a two-team race between the Red Sox and Yankees. Mets general manager Omar Minaya declined to talk about specific players, but Minaya also did say, "Since 24 hours ago, we've had some positive dialogue. At least I feel we're still in play.'' Minaya conceded, though, there was at least one team that was still deciding whether they had a match with the Mets.

Mets people have made Reyes and third baseman David Wright untouchable, but they will at least consider dealing any of their other young players.

"I've been on record that Jose Reyes is one of our core players. And we're not going to trade one of core players,'' Minaya said, while asserting that their prospects are talented and coveted by teams. "Do we have the players? Yes, we have the players,'' Minaya said. "If you're going to get an elite player, you're going to have to give two or three good prospects. Do we have two or three? Yes, I believe we do.''

The Mets have two excellent outfield prospects, Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez, and a handful of pitching prospects, led by Kevin Mulvey and Mike Pelfrey, and are trying to form a package to entice Minnesota while the Twins continue to negotiate with Boston.

While the Mets do possess talented prospects, the matchup with the Twins may be difficult since the Twins would like a proven major-league ready starting pitcher and shortstop back in the trade, two things they Mets can't give them.

The Angels say they aren't involved and rumors that the Dodgers may jump in couldn't be confirmed. However, it is clear the Mets are still trying for Santana.

It's also possible the Twins will keep Santana, who will make $13.25 million next season and is reportedly seeking a six-year, $150 million contract.

The Twins originally sought two of three top young players from Boston (Ellsbury, Lester and pitcher Clay Buchholz) and two of three from the Yankees (Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy). However, neither the Yankees or Mets have agreed to that request.

Yankees owner Hank Steinbrenner set a Monday deadline to do a deal, then told New York papers on Tuesday that he was sticking to his deadline and was indeed out. The Yankees have changed their minds before about negotiations, as was the case with Alex Rodriguez, but it appears they were uneasy about including Hughes in the first place and are hesitant to push the payroll into the $220 million range.

The Red Sox have played things coolly, and appeared to be leading the chase since the Yankees bowed out, especially after they exchanged medical reports with the Twins on Santana and Lester. However, many here have painted their offer as lukewarm for a pitcher of Santana's stature, and perhaps not as good as the Yankees' offer, which was for Hughes, outfielder Melky Cabrera and a mid-level prospect.

In any case, the Mets see an opening now. It may be a small opening, but it is one they will not pass up.

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