The deal with the deal
Don't blame Twins yet; updating Bedard, Clemens
Posted: Thursday January 31, 2008 1:47PM; Updated: Thursday January 31, 2008 4:53PM
The Twins are taking more hits now than Johan Santana gave up in his short but illustrious tenure in Minnesota.
"I think they blew it,'' one competing executive says, succinctly expressing the sentiments of many following the long-awaited trade of Santana.
Perhaps. The deal that sent the Great Santana away to the Mets for four young players who fit into one of two categories -- "unproven'' or "untested'' -- is easy to pan from a Twins perspective. Maybe too easy.
A lot of folks around baseball are saying that the Twins overplayed their hand. But I'm not entirely convinced that's right.
A lot of folks are saying that the Twins are dunces. But I'm pretty sure that's dead wrong.
The Twins' record on making trades for prospects should give them some rope. Practically no team has made more stars-for-prospects trades than Minnesota over the years, and while that's not necessarily a good thing, the Twins are definitely practiced at it.
The Twins' trades almost always look better when critiqued years later. They did well in the Chuck Knoblauch trade after the 1997 season, getting future All-Stars Cristian Guzman and Eric Milton from the Yankees. They won the Frank Viola trade, grabbing two very good young pitchers from the Mets in 1989 -- Kevin Tapani and Rick Aguilera -- who became key components of their 1991 world championship team. They absolutely killed in the A.J. Pierzynski trade in November 2003, stealing pitchers Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser from the Giants.
Truly, no one knows enough about the four players they got for Santana to fairly judge the trade: Carlos Gomez, Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra. Even those who claim to can't really be sure. The knock on the young Mets quartet is that they are all uncertainties. But that doesn't mean they will always remain that way.
"They got an athletic outfielder (Gomez) who's going to be an everyday guy, two starters who are maybe a No. 3 (Mulvey) and a No. 4 (Humber) and another pitcher who could become something really, really good (Guerra,'' one scout from an American League team says. "It's going to take three years. But he's legit.
"If these guys don't become players, what are people like me doing? Down the road, the Twins might be better off. I don't believe the Twins got a bunch of crap. They don't make trades for crap."
Gomez is an especially interesting case. Some see him as a "penthouse or outhouse guy,'' who could go either way: star or bench player. One scout from a National League team says he sees great tools but he also sees another Ruben Rivera, a former five-tool prospect who never came close to panning out. Ouch. "I don't like Gomez,'' that scout says. "He has a lot of tools but no baseball sense, no feel for the game. He runs fast, but I think he'll over-run the ball most times. He throws well but he'll throw to the wrong base half the time.''
My American League scout disagrees. "I think he's an everyday guy. Before he got hurt, he showed he can do some things.''
Carl Pohlad, The Twins' multibillionaire cheapskate owner, is probably happy to see the two-time Cy Young winner going to the Mets since he won't be coming to town twice a year to remind his fans how cheap he is, and some will speculate that that the real reason why Santana's going to the Mets. But say this for the Twins' new GM Bill Smith. He wasn't afraid to make a deal without immediate impact. He was willing to play for 2009, or even 2010. And if you can't keep Santana, that's not such a bad idea. Without Santana, the Twins aren't contenders. No sense fooling themselves.
Some are saying that the Yankees and Red Sox retreated so far by the Tuesday deadline that the Mets were the only viable choice the Twins had left. One executive from a National League team told me he believes the Mets were just being good sports to sign off on Guerra on deadline day. (Word is, the Mets held back Guerra until the Twins showed they were really serious about trading with them.) "Stand up guys,'' was how that competing executive said he views the Mets.
Some are saying now that the Twins left themselves little choice. Some are talking now about how Jacoby Ellsbury was pulled off the table by the Red Sox on Tuesday. And how perhaps even Jon Lester was, too. But I am not sure that's true. And even they were pulled back at the very last minute, if the Twins truly liked either Boston deal, they could have grabbed either one -- Lester or Ellsbury, though not both -- for six long weeks. For whatever reason, the Twins simply did not love either of the two Red Sox's bids, no matter how solid they seemed to others.