On Santana and Roster Moves
I am not going to engage in the act of guessing who the Twins could or will get from a Santana trade. I rarely try to engage in such speculation -- it's certainly fun to do (and for a very interesting take on possible trades, I suggest you head over to this post at Josh's Thoughts), but there is so little to go on that it really comes down to raw guesswork (as, admittedly, do many of my other predictions -- but at least when I predict a roster or the Hall of Fame or something like that, there are fewer moving parts).
Nonetheless, there are a few points that I thought it would be useful to address regarding a potential Santana trade that I feel a bit more comfortable talking about. Here goes:
1.) Joe Christensen and Buster Olney (ESPN Insider account required) both have stated that the difficulty of trading Johan Santana probably means that the Twins will not get the type of return that Twins fans are hoping for. In the sense that most fans are expecting the Twins to get a package including Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Melky Cabrera, and Robinson Cano in return for Santana in a Yankees deal, they're probably right. This does not, however, mean that a deal with the Yankees that was more realistic would not be worth making. It's becoming apparent that Santana is going to demand a huge amount of money if he becomes a free agent, and the Twins cannot and should not spend $125-150 million on a 6 or 7 year deal for Santana. It's simply not in the business model. Therefore, the Twins should be looking to maximize value in a trade -- and even if this means taking a less-than-perfect deal, the Twins should pull the trigger if the return is higher than what they'd get either at the deadline or by letting Santana walk. I think will happen, and I think Santana should be dealt.
2.) I'm not convinced that Christensen and Olney are correct in Santana's value to a team right now. The single best thing that could have happened for the Twins has already happened -- the Yankees have expressed interest. I realize that it's distasteful for Twins fans to imagine Santana bolstering the Bronx Bomber attack, but the Yankees are the perfect dance partner. This is a team that tends to bid against itself. Yes, the Yankees are better run now than when they were handing out huge deals to every aging player that caught George Steinbrenner's fancy -- but all you need to do to see that the Yankees will overspend to get what they want is to look at the A-Rod deal. All indications were that A-Rod simply wasn't going to get a contract anywhere close to what the Yankees offered. Nonetheless, New York offered A-Rod a virtually identical deal to what they had previously offered (less the value they lost from the Rangers when he opted out). I strongly suspect that they will do the same for Santana.
Another important part of this is that the Red Sox also seem to be interested. Even if the Sox aren't willing to overpay for Santana, the fact that they're at least interested will make the Yankees significantly more likely to pay up. So long as the Yankees remain interested, the price for every other interested party stays high -- and so long as the Yankees remain interested, the Red Sox will continue to express interest, hoping to get the Yankees to overpay. Therefore, I think it is very possible that despite the admittedly high hurdles to making a trade for Santana that brings a solid return, a good deal can nonetheless be struck.
3.) I suspect that the roster massaging today means something, but I don't think it means a Santana deal is imminent. I think the Twins are probably working on trades involving multiple players and multiple teams, and fully expect something to happen in the next few days or next week at the Winter Meetings. Messing with the roster could be a prelude to a trade, but is not necessarily so.
4.) Last thing -- any Yankee deal will probably involve more pitching than position players. This seems to be a drawback to a trade with the Yankees, because the Twins need help in the field, not on the mound. However, acquiring more top-level pitching talent would give the Twins the flexibility to turn around and make more deals to fill their other holes. I don't care who the Yankees give up -- if they're offering the best overall deal, I would take it. You certainly have to think a legitimate 3B could be pried away from someone by offering a couple of solid arms, and it would be easier to offer some of those arms (like, let's say, Matt Garza) if you have a player like Phil Hughes coming in to replace him. By no means would this be a deal-breaker for me.
Finally, a few brief comments on Ricky Barrett and Errol Simonitsch. According to La Velle, both players have cleared waivers and so are still in the Twins system -- albeit eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. Simonitsch pitched just 46 innings last year after coming back from an injury, and was so-so with the Ft. Myers Miracle. His 2006 season with New Britain was a disappointment -- he had a 4.48 ERA in 148.2 innings. Simply put, the injury (and the pre-injury regression) make it something less than a surprise that he was removed today.
As for Barrett, he's had a bit more success, pitching for the last 2 1/2 years in Rochester. Last year, however, Barrett pitched just 30.2 innings and posted a 4.11 ERA. As with Simonitsch, this decision wasn't particularly surprising or upsetting -- Barrett may turn into a Major League pitcher someday, but for now he was needlessly taking up a valuable roster spot.