On Sunday, much was made of Torii Hunter playing in what was likely his last home game at the Metrodome. Yesterday, Johan Santana made his final start of the 2007 season against the Tigers. While not overly likely, it is very possible that the start was Santana's last in a Twins uniform.
Numerous rumors have popped up recently regarding the possibility of Santana being dealt this offseason. He is on the verge of entering the final year of his contract with the Twins, and will likely command upwards of $20 million per season in his next deal. While losing the best pitcher in the game would be a blow for the Twins, the cheap young talent that would certainly come back in a trade might set the team up for success over the next several years, and in the end a trade could turn out to be beneficial in the long run.
The potential deal that seems to have the most weight to it right now is a rumored one with the Dodgers that would bring back outfielder Matt Kemp and starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw. I'd prefer any deal with the Dodgers to include stud third base prospect Andy LaRoche, but a package of Kemp and Kershaw would certainly be enticing. Kemp is an athletic young outfielder who has hit .338/.373/.530 as a 22-year-old in the majors this year and could replace Torii Hunter in center. Meanwhile, the 19-year-old lefty Kershaw is considered by many to be the best pitching prospect in the game.
It's difficult to weigh the positives and negatives of such a deal. The Twins would be getting an immediate inexpensive answer in center field, as well as a dominating lefty who could potentially replace Santana as the team's ace somewhere down the line; yet, they'd be losing a historically great pitcher and the possibility of a devastating Santana/Liriano one-two punch at the top of the rotation next season.
Santana's outing yesterday was cut short by a long rain delay, and he ended up pitching just three unimpressive innings. It seems like a fitting end to what has been Santana's worst season as a full-time starter (although, in fairness, still a great season by any standards). The thought of that nondescript three-inning performance being Santana's last as a Twin seems surreal, but it's probably something that's worth keeping in mind as we head into the offseason.