Trade Retrospective – Johan Santana to the Mets


On February 2nd, 2008, the Minnesota Twins finally decided on an offer for Cy Young winner Johan Santana, and sent the ace to the New York Mets for OF Carlos Gomez and pitchers Deolis Guerra, Philip Humber , and Kevin Mulvey.

The Background

The Twins were entering the 2008 season knowing full well that their top starting pitcher, Johan Santana, would be eligible for free agency after the season, and was extremely unlikely to sign with the team again. It was practically common knowledge by the end of the previous season that the Twins would be listening to offers for Santana, and looking back at some of them, are probably wishing that they had taken other ones instead. From an ESPN.COM article prior to the trade:

The Twins have continued to ask for Ellsbury, so the Red Sox have flipped Ellsbury back into their offer, sources say, while removing Lester, and upgraded slightly the rest of their proposed package slightly — perhaps to include right-handed pitcher Justin Masterson. Presumably, any offer with Ellsbury would not include Crisp.

As time progressed, many of the other offers began to back off from teams like the Yankees and Red Sox, and the Twins were practically left with only the Mets as an option.

The Mets were once again looking for an ace starting pitcher, as Pedro Martinez had aged quite faster than even they had anticipated. If they were to be competitive in the NL East, they would need a top-of-the-rotation starter to help lead them.

The Moving Pieces

In Minnesota, the Twins slotted Carlos Gomez into the starting CF role and gave him the tough job of having to fill the shoes of the team’s favorite player, Torii Hunter, who had signed with the Angels in the offseason. Kevin Mulvey and Philip Humber were both sent to AAA Rochester to be in their starting rotation, and Deolis Guerra was sent to the Twins’ High-A affiliate in Fort Myers.

In New York, the Mets put Johan Santana at the head of their starting rotation, and immediately signed him to a 6 year, $137.5 million contract extension.

What Happened Next

The Twins actually performed very well without their former ace, finishing with an 88-75 record and losing to the White Sox in the play-in game for the AL Central division title. Nick Blackburn started the 163rd game against the White Sox, and actually pitched extremely well, throwing 6 1/3 innings and only allowing a 7th inning homerun to Jim Thome.

The Mets were very happy with the performance of their new starting pitcher, as he went 16-7 with a 2.53 ERA. Unfortunately, the Mets fell just short of their goals for the season, as they went 89-73, finishing 3 games back of NL East winner (and eventual World Series Champ) Philadelphia Phillies, and 1 game back of the Wild Card winning Milwaukee Brewers.

The Net Moves

Twins – First Level

  • Carlos Gomez actually only spent 2 seasons with the Twins, and was a bit of a disappointment. He hit .248/.293/.352 with 10 HR, 87 RBI, and 47 SB in his time there. He was traded after the 2009 season to the Brewers for SS J.J. Hardy.
  • Philip Humber never really panned out as a prospect for the Twins. He posted a 6.10 ERA in 13 appearances with the Twins over 2 seasons, and became a free agent after the 2009 season. He signed with the Royals, and was not eligible for any compensation.
  • Kevin Mulvey did not make his major league debut until 2009 with the Twins, making just 2 appearances totalling 1 1/3 innings and 4 earned runs (ERA of 27.00). He was sent to the Diamondbacks to complete the trade which brought Jon Rauch to the Twin Cities.
  • Deolis Guerra remains with the organization, and is still very young (just 21 at this point). He has split the 2010 season between AA and AAA, but has not really had any success at either level so far, posting a 2-10 record this season with a 5.66 ERA and a 72/38 strikeout to walk rate in 111 innings.

Mets – First Level

  • Johan Santana has been a very good pitcher for the Mets, but has had his moments of lessened quality. Overall, he has posted a 37-22 record with a 2.90 ERA and 457 strikeouts in 555 2/3 innings pitched. Unfortunately, the Mets have not made the playoffs in either of the two completed seasons, and are extremely unlikely to do so this season either.

Twins – Second Level

  • J.J. Hardy has been the starting shortstop for the Twins in 2010, but has missed a lot of time due to injuries. In 62 games, he has hit 4 homeruns and driven in 21 runs while hitting .258.
  • Jon Rauch was called upon to be the closer at the start of 2010 for the Twins once it was clear that Joe Nathan would need TJ surgery. In his 1+ seasons with the Twins, Rauch has posted a 7-2 record, 21 saves, and a 2.62 ERA. Unfortunately for him, he had stretch of poor outings, which led the Twins to acquire Matt Capps at the trade deadline, and relegate Rauch to the 8th inning role.

Overall Reactions

It’s still a bit early to claim that this trade has definitely had a winner, but it looks like it’s going to be the Mets. Santana has been very good and exactly what they were hoping for, and none of the players that the Twins got in return have panned out the way that they had hoped. When you start looking at some of the other offers that were out there (Ellsbury from Boston, Hughes from the Yankees), hindsight really doesn’t look kindly upon the Twins. It still remains to be seen how this will turn out, as the Mets have to be judged on the entirety of the contract extension that they gave to Santana, as it was one of the ways that he would approve the trade to begin with.

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