Extra MustardSI On CampusFantasyPhoto GalleriesSwimsuitVideoFanNationSI KidsTNT

Balance of power hinges on Santana

Posted: Thursday November 29, 2007 11:39AM; Updated: Thursday November 29, 2007 6:13PM
Free E-mail AlertsE-mail ThisPrint ThisSave ThisMost PopularRSS Aggregators
Phil Hughes
If the Yankees really want Johan Santana, they might have to give up promising rookie Philip Hughes.
Chuck Solomon/SI

New Minnesota Twins GM Bill Smith, whose blood pressure has to be rising through the Homerdome roof by now, may hold the key to the 2008 World Series when he decides where to ship superstar Johan Santana, probably by the end of next week's winter meetings.

This isn't poor Smith's fault, of course. He is just the latest exec entrusted to protect the multibillion-dollar fortune of miserly owner Carl Pohlad, who is 92 years old and appears to be putting his team on a new 10-year plan after recently getting a near-$400 million subsidy from the taxpayers of Hennepin County for the new stadium he's sought for years.

By they time the Twins move in to their new park, they may look like an expansion team -- they already are looking like Tampa Bay Rays North. They've lost Torii Hunter to free agency and are reportedly shopping star closer Joe Nathan in what's starting to look like a one-team dispersal draft.

Whoever gets Santana, though, will be this winter's major winner.

If it's the Red Sox, they become the most overwhelming favorites in a decade.

If it's the Yankees, they move ahead of the Sox.

If it's someone else, it'll be a surprise at this point.

The Santana Sweepstakes, which is starting to take shape, could easily come down to a competition among the most bitter of baseball rivals.

Or someone else -- as Hunter said about his Angels signing -- could "shock the world'' and steal baseball's best pitcher. It probably won't be the Mets, whose pitching prospects don't interest Minnesota and would need to lose all perspective and relent on Jose Reyes (that's not happening, according to Mets people) or need an improbable two-step process and a lot of luck to beat the AL East's bitter rivals to the knockout punch.

The Angels and Dodgers do have what it takes to make the deal. But the Angels have at least one eye (and maybe both) on Florida's Miguel Cabrera, and the Dodgers are starting to suggest that their big winter move was Joe Torre -- unless it was for new P.R. honcho Dr. Charles Steinberg. (Makes sense for the Dodgers, if you do squat, you better spin it well.)

Here's how the Santana Sweepstakes currently shake out ...

1. Yankees. They have the money to pay Santana and the prospects to get a deal done, even if they don't include untouchable sensation Joba Chamberlain. The Twins likely will try to pry Phil Hughes from the Yankees, who hope a combination of Ian Kennedy, Melky Cabrera and other prospects will suffice. The Yankees are suddenly well-stocked in the minors, with pitchers Alan Horne, Daniel McCutchen and Kevin Whelan and outfielders Jose Tabata, Austin Jackson and Brett Gardner. Odds to land Santana: 2-to-1.

2. Red Sox. The Twins are pressuring Boston to include center field prodigy Jacoby Ellsbury along with World Series-clinching pitcher Jon Lester in a four-player package. However, with Boston refusing to budge on no-hit wonder Clay Buchholz, the Red Sox may have a hard time convincing the Twins to do a deal without Ellsbury. Boston also has decent second-tier guys, such as outfielder Brandon Moss, pitchers Michael Bowden and Justin Masterson and shortstop Jed Lowrie. They can't have the desperation of the Yankees, who are playing catch-up, though. Odds to land Santana: 5-to-2.

3. Angels. They possess the prospects and the wherewithal needed. But they appear to be more focused on a hitter -- namely Cabrera -- at present. Odds to land Santana: 10-to-1.

4. Dodgers. They certainly have what it takes. But they are suggesting publicly -- first in the Boston Globe, then the L.A. Times -- that they want to keep their top prospects and may do nothing more. Odds to land Santana: 15-to-1.

5. Mets. With the Twins trading young pitcher Matt Garza and adding young outfielder Delmon Young from Tampa in a six-player trade on Wednesday, there's now even more need for pitching and less need for outfield help, which is what the Mets have in surplus. New York has no starting pitchers to trade, and it has rebuffed the idea of moving either David Wright or Jose Reyes (good for them), so this looks like a non-starter. Odds to land Santana: 20-to-1.

6. Field. The Mariners have the need and the cash. But does Santana want to go from relative obscurity in Minneapolis to complete obscurity in Seattle? Good luck identifying other teams ready to pay $25 million a year to a pitcher. Odds: 25-to-1.

7. Santana stays. While it's hard to fathom the Twins suddenly enhancing their $80 million offer by 50 percent or letting Santana play out the year, there's still an outside chance that they could decide to keep him until the All-Star break -- very outside. Odds: 7-to-1.

1 of 2