Minnesota Twins fans may remember where they were when the news came down the Twins had traded Cy Young Award winning pitcher Johan Santana to the New York Mets for essentially a bag of baseballs and a few spare arms. Of all of the players acquired in the trade for Santana, only Carlos Gomez has any chance of developing into anything of merit in his career. Otherwise, the rest of the pieces acquired are afterthoughts in this league.
When Santana was traded, the entire Twins’ culture within their pitching staff changed. Gone were the days when the Twins could believe that every time a particular pitcher took the ball—Santana—the team was going to win. Gone were the days when the Twins had a pitcher whose dominance and leadership wore off and made the staff better as a whole. Finally, gone were the days when the Twins actually possessed a pitcher who could win them tough ballgames in the playoffs. Everything had changed for the Twins and the future began to look cloudy.
Luckily for everyone, the Twins may have a chance to rectify all mistakes that were made with that dreadful trade this upcoming off-season. Santana is entering the final year of his contract with the Mets and is slated to earn $25.5 million this season. There is a team option for him next season at $25 million, but there also is a buyout for $5 million after this season. With the team in rebuilding mode and a situation similar to the one that developed with Carlos Beltran when he was entering the final year of his contract with the club, the Mets could opt to trade or let Santana walk after the season to rid themselves of his massive salary and injury concerns.
I am not trying to say that the Twins should entertain the idea of trading for Santana because that would make no sense for this team’s vision and rebuilding plan, but if the Mets do let Santana become a free-agent, I believe the Twins would be in the market for Santana. If you look at the payroll of the Twins next season and consider that Justin Morneau—and possibly Josh Willingham—will be off the books or restructured, the team is going to have a lot of money to work with.
Santana spent the best years of his career in Minnesota and may want to return to the club during the twilight of his career or on a “get right” contract that improves his value for one last payday, which could also come via the Twins.
Santana could likely—depending on how he performs this season—command between $10-15 million a season next off-season, which would be in the Twins’ price range if they believe they are near contention or would like to be reunited with Santana. If the Mets see a great season out of Santana and he wants to remain in New York, Santana could opt to resign with the team for a lesser amount than he is currently paid.
It would be a fitting end to a tumultuous history with Santana and the Twins if they were to be reunited. If the Twins’ young players, especially their young pitcher, can develop quick enough, the team could be in a position to be ready to contend in two years. Signing Santana to a three-year deal at $10-15 million a season could be a wise investment for the organization. He is 33 years old and when healthy, he can be one of the most dominant pitchers in all of baseball. I believe he still can be a dominant pitcher for another three to four years;,but the one thing that could derail his ability to perform would be injuries, which he has had trouble avoiding lately.
The Twins may need to open up their checkbook if they are going to sign Santana if he becomes a free-agent after this season, but it would be a worthwhile investment moving forward. Not only would he have a calming effect on the team and pitching staff, he would also be a dominant pitcher at the top of their rotation. Gone were all of the things that Santana brought to the table when he was traded in 2008, but all could be returned by bringing him back for one last run with the Twins.