Meet the Mets (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday January 23, 2008 12:22PM; Updated: Wednesday January 23, 2008 1:57PM
Some Mets officials have an impression that they could probably have Santana if they simply added Martinez to the mix, but one person familiar with the Mets thinking said he'd be surprised if the Mets agreed to do that, which would leave their minor-league system practically barren. Which explains why there still isn't a deal.
In any case, it is understandable that the Twins are taking their time. They know what they can get from the Red Sox, who don't appear to have set a deadline, and probably remain hopeful that Hank Steinbrenner overrules both his brother and Cashman and adds top young pitcher Ian Kennedy to the mix. "Kennedy's as good as Hughes,'' opines one scout, "They shouldn't do that.'' Still, some are surprised at the restraint being showed by the Yankees, considering the threat of Santana going to the rival Red Sox. "If Boston gets Santana, they lock up the division the next three or four years,'' one competing executive says.
Minnesota's first-year general manager Bill Smith is probably one of those surprised that the Yankees and Red Sox are showing a willingness to live without Santana, a two-time Cy Young winner who's healthy and will turn 29 next month. Smith is apparently having a hard time extracting fair value for Santana for a variety of reasons, most notably Santana's status as a player who's only one year from free agency, his ability to veto any trade and his expected price tag, which severely limits the field to all but the biggest markets (he is believed to be seeking a six-year deal for close to $25 million annually).
However, time may start to work against Smith. Other execs could see Santana's agents, Peter and Ed Greenberg of New York, telling the Twins that their client will invoke his no-trade clause once the season starts since he'd be less than a year away from the riches of free agency and would want to concentrate on his craft.
One other hurdle with the Mets could be the length of the contract. While the Red Sox and Yankees may be more amenable to a six-year deal for a superstar such as Santana, one person familiar with the Mets' thinking said he believed the team would stick to its policy of not going beyond five years for any player. Santana's rejection of the Twins' four-year, $80-million contract offer is what led to his being put on the trading block in the first place. However, the Mets apparently believe the right "structure'' (i.e. a deal for close to his asking price) could convince him to come east. If they can agree to compensation with Minnesota, most believe they'll work things out, since the Greenberg brothers also represent Reyes and maintain an excellent relationship with the Mets.
Minnesota's Smith has a lot of heat on him now in the frigid Twin Cities. A consistently affable fellow, Smith was asked on Tuesday for a summary of where things stand. "Santana's still a Twin," he said. Then he politely declined to elaborate.
Around the Majors
It appears the Astros will have no recourse in their ill-conceived idea to trade for Miguel Tejada one day before the release of the Mitchell Report. On the plus side, if an Astros official ever claims to have been in the dark about the issue of steroids -- unlike with many other top baseball execs -- he should be believed. This trade proved that they actually do know nothing.
Ryan Howard is a superstar, there's no question of that. But his request for a $10 million salary as a first-year arbitration-eligible player seems like a stretch. I have sympathy for Howard after the Phillies renewed him at $900,000 for 2007. However, Miguel Cabrera received only $7.4 million as a first-time arbitration-eligible player with more experience (he was a three-year player and Howard a two-plus), and Cabrera had to win his case to get that. The Phillies have bid $7 million.
Another player who went for the downs was Robinson Cano, whose request for $4.55 million was more than power hitters Justin Morneau and Matt Holliday ($4.4 million) got in their first year of eligibility. The Yankees bid $3.2 million.
Holliday's $23 million, two-year contract with Colorado makes sense for both sides. It gives Holliday a $4 million raise into his walk year (from $9.5 million to $13.5 million) and prevents something even bigger in case he matches his monster 2007 season. In any case Colorado remains a long shot to keep him beyond 2009.
Octavio Dotel, who barely pitched after being traded to the Braves at the deadline, never seemed worth big money to me. But that definitely appears to be the case now that the White Sox gave him $11 million over two years.
Jose Canseco's first choice as a co-writer for his new book, Vindicated, former Sports Illustrated editor Don Yaeger, bowed out, supposedly due to a lack of meat. Perhaps Canseco shot his wad in the best-selling Juiced. And are we supposed to feel better about Canseco's "info'' now that he has instead enlisted as his writer the very fellow who penned O.J. Simpson's gross and ill-fated tome If I Did It?
2 of 2