The annual Winter Meetings are in full swing, and Santana is the hot topic. Numerous details about the Twins' talks with the Yankees and Red Sox have been popping up courtesy of various news outlets: Santana will not accept a trade during the 2008 season, Santana will not accept a trade to any team other than New York or Boston, the Yankees have imposed a 24-hour deadline at which point they will withdraw their offer (that deadline passed last night), so on and so forth. All these publicized details from what are supposed to be private trade discussions make me feel like getting back into my The Departed state of mind from last Friday and paraphrasing Sergeant Dignam: these negotiations have more leaks than the Iraqi navy.
Most of the details that have been leaked have been pretty weakly attributed ("a Twins official"; "a person familiar with the player's thinking"; etc.), so I'm not inclined to take a whole lot of these rumors too seriously. Yet, Yankees head honcho Hank Steinbrenner didn't feel the need to mask his identity when he came out and made the following comments to the New York Times:
Joe Christensen labeled Steinbrenner's comments "blatant tampering," which was also my first thought when I read them, at least given my understanding of how the league's tampering policies work. I'll be disappointed if Steinbrenner is not disciplined for his comments.
“I don’t want to continue this dog-and-pony show, playing us against the Red Sox,” Steinbrenner said. “I’m not going to participate in that. This is our best offer. Minnesota knows it’s our best offer. Everybody knows it is.
“We need to get this done. If we don’t, I certainly won’t be upset about keeping Hughes and Cabrera. I definitely won’t. I don’t think Minnesota wants to be stuck negotiating with just one team.”
. . .“How can I go any higher?” Steinbrenner said. “What do they want — Hughes, Kennedy and Cabrera? I can’t do that kind of thing. It’s crazy. It’s suicidal. In the past 20 or 30 years, teams have always asked more from the Yankees than they have of anybody else, and that’s going to stop. I’ve made the best offer Minnesota is going to get, and the fact is, it’s an offer we can go away happy and they can go away happy.”
There's a reason people dislike the Yankees, and this is a big part of it. They try to impose their will and intimidate all the smaller market clubs. What exactly gives Steinbrenner and the Yankees the leverage to impose a deadline (on Dec. 3, no less)? They are the buyers in this situation, not the sellers. The Twins have no obligation to trade Santana, as much as Steinbrenner seems to be acting like they do. If he wants to withdraw his deal -- which is far from overwhelming -- then so be it. After the way the Alex Rodriguez situation played out just over a month ago, I don't think anyone is buying into this deadline business anyway.
This period of uncertainty is excruciating for Twins fans, and doubtlessly even more so for the beat writers who have to try to keep tabs on all the rumors flying around. That said, it seems that for the time being it is in Bill Smith's best interest to remain firm and be patient. The decisions he makes here will be crucially important to the future of the franchise. He can't afford to let himself get played by the Big Bad Empire.