Monday, February 04, 2008

The Blame Game

Having passed his physical and reached agreement on a contract that will make him the richest pitcher in baseball, Johan Santana is now officially a member of the New York Mets. In return, the Twins have received a package of prospects that is almost unanimously being labeled as underwhelming. This development has Twins fans desperately seeking a deserving party upon which to pin blame in a situation that seemingly has not been handled very well. I've seen numerous articles leveling scathing criticism against everyone from Carl Pohlad to Bill Smith to Santana himself. My thinking on the subject is that while several people probably could have acted in a way that would have led to better results, no one was completely out of line here. The Twins were put in an unfortunate situation and the result is that they've lost their franchise player for a relative pittance. It's a shame, but I don't think anyone is specifically at fault.

First, let's talk about Santana. Fans seemed to have turned on him for the way he acted during this debacle, claiming that he abused his leverage and backed the Twins into a corner with his self-imposed deadline. We may never know how Santana truly felt or what he actually said behind closed doors, but reading between the lines I think it's fair to say that he didn't particularly want to pitch in Minnesota. It seems clear that Santana's preference was to move into a larger market to showcase himself, and ideally I think he wanted to move to the National League where the lineups are weaker and where he'll be able to bat. This made the Mets a natural fit.

As a fan of the Twins and a proud resident of Minnesota, the thought that Santana was anxious to move elsewhere is somewhat hurtful. But is it really a reason to hold resentment against him? If his preference is to pitch in New York, then he's well within his rights to try and arrange it. Some have accused him of being disloyal for trying to force his way out from a team that helped him become the pitcher he is today, but he did provide the Twins with five years of phenomenal performance, and he was never an open distraction in the clubhouse or unfriendly toward fans. If he wanted to move on, I think we owe it to him to respect his wishes. He was patient throughout the entire offseason, and I don't really see how he is out of line for wanting a resolution now that we're weeks away from Spring Training.

Now, on to Pohlad. In the wake of this trade, the wealthy Twins owner has been painted by numerous scribes as a greedy monster who coaxed a stadium out of the fans only to pocket his earnings and let the team's stars walk when they become expensive. I am far from a Pohlad defender, but I find this criticism to be unfair, at least when applied to the Santana situation.

For the reasons I mentioned above, I'm skeptical that Santana would have signed an extension with the Twins even if they had made an offer that rivaled the contract the Mets gave him. But even if he would have, would it really have been wise for the Twins to hand him such a contract? Signing pitchers to long-term deals is always a risky venture, and committing over $130 million to a guy who will soon enter his 30s could be suicide for a middle-market team like the Twins. Perhaps Santana is worth $25 million as long as he is the best pitcher in baseball, but will he remain the best pitcher in baseball as he ages into his mid-30s? Maybe, but that is far from guaranteed. I think that the Twins' decision not to extend Santana has less to do with a lack of financial resources and more to do with intelligent baseball management. And, in fairness, the team did just sign Justin Morneau to a six-year mega-deal, so it's not as if Pohlad has slammed the wallet shut.

Finally, many have focused their criticism on the general manager Smith for failing to get a package that includes even one true top prospect for Santana. I've frequently seen it written that Smith "overplayed his hand," when negotiating with the Yankees and Red Sox, only to eventually have them pull their offers. Yet, I can nearly guarantee that had Smith accepted one of those team's offers back in December (assuming the reported offers were legitimately on the table), there would be droves of fans and analysts criticizing Smith for acting too quickly and lacking the patience to create a bidding war which could force a better package out of one of the teams. Smith took a risk by playing the waiting game, and in the end it didn't pay off, but I hardly think one can hold it against him.

I'm more than a little disappointed by the package received for Santana, but I can't say I'm angry at any particular person about it. There's just nowhere to justifiably point a finger. The Twins made a competitive offer, Santana wanted to move on, and so Smith made the best deal he could. As I said when analyzing the trade last Wednesday, I'm not entirely sure that trading Santana for this package will ultimately be more beneficial to the team than keeping him for another year and collecting draft picks as free agent compensation, but I have to trust that the Twins see something in these Mets prospects.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

i might be the only one, but i think johan has already pitched his best. his numbers have declined the past couple years and he just wasn't the same pitcher at the end of the season last year. he may be more successful in the nl, but i think a lot of the hitters in the al were picking up on him. if he continues to pitch the way he did after the all star break last year, this will end up being a great deal for us. that's probably not likely, but sometimes people in the organization can see things like this coming. if we had committed that much money to johan and he didn't work out, that is 6 years of coming up short. even though we won't have a chance next year of maybe even 2009, the future looks better for us now. plus we will have more money to sign free agents. let's just hope that smith is better than ryan was at that. i think he has already shown that though.

the frenchman said...

I agree that there is really no one to blame. My main feeling is just disapointment with the way baseball is structured so that it makes it next to impossible for a team like the twins to keep the talent they develop and that the fans become connected to.

Josh's Thoughts said...

Terry Ryan and Jim Pohlad are others to consider when pointing the finger. But I agree, not just one person is responsible for this.

Nice job, Nick.

Andrew Madison said...

No, Pohlad deserves all the criticism he gets. OK, don't overpay people like Milton, Pierzynski, etc. But Santana could be going to the hall of fame one day, lefthanded flamethrowers with pinpoint control are exceptionally hard to find, and because most of all he helped the team win. Yes, he might get hurt, but when you have a throughbred, that's a risk worth taking. And so what about the financial risk. Are we trying to win a world series or what? Pohlad is worth 3 bill, he can afford Santana. He's just cheap and I hate him for it.

Unless Santana directly said, "I hate it here in MN, and I won't re-sign no matter what" you don't trade that guy. Pay him. He deserves it, based on what he's already done. And if Santana felt that way, I will hold it against him. He's entitled to his feelings, go ahead and make your money, but keep those feelings that hurt fans who supported you from day 1 in MLB to yorself. Don't ever say it publicly.

Nick N. said...

But Santana could be going to the hall of fame one day, lefthanded flamethrowers with pinpoint control are exceptionally hard to find, and because most of all he helped the team win. Yes, he might get hurt, but when you have a throughbred, that's a risk worth taking.

Yes, Santana is great and has pitched like a Hall of Famer up until this point in his career, but does that really preclude him from declining or getting figured out by the league? As much as we want to dismiss the ghastly home run rate and second-half fizzle last season, there's a very real possibility that both are a sign of things to come.

The risk of giving a pitcher that type of monetary commitment over that many years is just gargantuan. As much as Pohlad COULD afford to spend as much as large-market team, it's unrealistic and probably unfair to expect him to. The Twins are a middle-market team with a reasonable payroll, and working a contract like the one Santana got from the Mets into that payroll would leave very little room for building around Johan.

Unless Santana directly said, "I hate it here in MN, and I won't re-sign no matter what" you don't trade that guy.

I think there all the evidence pretty much point to that being basically what Santana said.

And if Santana felt that way, I will hold it against him. He's entitled to his feelings, go ahead and make your money, but keep those feelings that hurt fans who supported you from day 1 in MLB to yorself. Don't ever say it publicly.

He never did say it publicly. If he wanted out of Minnesota, I don't know how he could have possibly handled the situation in a manner that would have been more civil toward Twins fans. He never came out and gave any quotes to media indicating that he dislikes pitching here, it's just a fair assumption to draw based on how the situation played out.

Beau said...

Pohlad didn't make 3 billion by making bad business decisions, and there's plenty of evidence to suggest that signing Santana to a $130 million dollar contract is a bad business decision. Yes, he could afford to give the team a $300 million dollar payroll, but that wouldn't guarantee anything.

If we're going to hate Pohlad there are much worse things in his closet to point at than having one of his colleagues offer his employee a higher raise than he was offering.

Anonymous said...

I blame Selig more than anyone else.

Andrew Madison said...

You're right, Santana never said he wanted out of MN publicly. He has handled the situation like a pro and with as much class as he could. I didn't mean to imply that Santana has said publicly he wanted out, but that if he ever felt that way he should keep it quiet. So far he has. He should keep it that way. Seeing him leave, for reasons that might not be all about money, just hurts on a personal level, that's all.

But I'll say this. In my opinion Santana is the closest thing to a sure bet as a pitcher that there is out there. He is unreplaceable. I mean, 11 years ago, Randy Johnson had arm problems, he was older than Santana is now, but he went on to some dominating seasons. Why? Beacuse he was that good, that's why. Taking the risk on Johnson then would have been worth it. Clemens would have been a risk at one time too, but he went on to win over 350 games.

Santana is a huge risk, maybe one this franchise couldn't afford to lose, but I'll always argue it would have been worth taking because the rewards would be so great. The Twins will recover from losing him, but he didn't have to go. Even if it was the more prudent finanacial decision, can't we for once go with our hearts and keep the guys who could be in the HOF? (In a few years this conversation will be about Mauer)

And Beau, you are right about hating Pohlad for other reasons than the Twins. He still doesn't have to be so cheap though.

S.Chancellor said...

I get so tired of hearing "the Twins can't afford to pay so-and-so" (Santana, Hunter, whoever). The Twins absolutely can afford to pay their players - they choose not to. Johan Santana is a NY Met because the Twins elected not to pay him market value. Ditto Hunter an Angel (and for that matter Ortiz a Red Sox. The Twins released him in Dec 02 rather than go to arbitration).

What is insulting is, the Twins never actually set a payroll. To wit, had they set the '08 payroll at 72 million, then why is the current payroll 52 million? They let Hunter and Santana walk (the latter for some Met refuse), but where was the BIG free agent signing(s) to offset those losses?

Finally, RE: blame. I just took Pohlad to the cleaners for the payroll, but Bill Smith is squarely at fault for the return on a HOF star pitcher. As a blogger noted recently, we got more for Matt Garza than for Santana. Smith struck out, and the entire baseball world knows it.

S.Chancellor said...

I get so tired of hearing "the Twins can't afford to pay so-and-so" (Santana, Hunter, whoever). The Twins absolutely can afford to pay their players - they choose not to. Johan Santana is a NY Met because the Twins elected not to pay him market value. Ditto Hunter an Angel (and for that matter Ortiz a Red Sox. The Twins released him in Dec 02 rather than go to arbitration).

What is insulting is, the Twins never actually set a payroll. To wit, had they set the '08 payroll at 72 million, then why is the current payroll 52 million? They let Hunter and Santana walk (the latter for some Met refuse), but where was the BIG free agent signing - to offset those losses?

Finally, RE: blame. I just took Pohlad to the cleaners for the payroll, but Bill Smith is squarely to blame for the return on a HOF star pitcher. As a blogger noted recently, we got more for Matt Garza than for Santana. Smith struck out, and the entire baseball world knows it.

Nick N. said...

What is insulting is, the Twins never actually set a payroll. To wit, had they set the '08 payroll at 72 million, then why is the current payroll 52 million? They let Hunter and Santana walk (the latter for some Met refuse), but where was the BIG free agent signing(s) to offset those losses?

Who would you suggest they sign as a free agent? There's no sense in spending money just for the sake of spending it.

Finally, RE: blame. I just took Pohlad to the cleaners for the payroll, but Bill Smith is squarely at fault for the return on a HOF star pitcher. As a blogger noted recently, we got more for Matt Garza than for Santana. Smith struck out, and the entire baseball world knows it.

That's because Garza is cost-controlled for the next four years. The Twins had a lot more leverage in trying to trade Garza because he was desirable to pretty much every team in the league rather than three. As disappointed as I am with the package, I fail to see how Smith "struck out" on his return for Santana -- he has no control over what other teams are offering.

I honestly don't believe Hughes was ever truly on the table. I think Hank was coming out and saying it in the press in order to force Epstein to raise his offer. Hank was the only member of that organization that openly stated that he would be willing to give up Hughes, whereas it was published in numerous places that several other high-ranking members of the organization (including the GM Cashman and Hank's brother Hal) did not want to give up Hughes. Plus, it stands to reason that if the Yankees were truly willing to give up Hughes at one point, they would have jumped when the Twins reportedly lowered their offer to Kennedy and Cabrera. For whatever reason, I don't believe the Yankees were ever truly serious about acquiring Santana. I think it's foolish on their part, but I think it's a fair assumption given the way things played out. Meanwhile, if the Yankees were never serious, the Red Sox were probably never serious either since it seems their only prerogative was to keep Johan out of the Bronx.

What is Smith supposed to do when he's pressed into a corner by Santana and his agent and has only one team to negotiate with?

Anonymous said...

Good piece Nick. Of course we all know the whole thing was Seth's fault.

S.Chancellor said...

What is Smith supposed to do when he's pressed into a corner by Santana and his agent and has only one team to negotiate with?


Bring him to Spring Training. See if the agent has a different tune at the trade deadline, and see if there are other, better offers. Worst case, you get one more year of Santana - and a chance to compete - and 2 first-round picks.

Guerra is essentially a draft choice as it is. Smith choked. He pressured himself into trading Santana without even getting the Mets top propsect.

The Twins don't spend. Even the Morneau deal did not impress. He is contractually obliged to Minnesota through 2010 anyway, and in arbitration would probably gotten 10 million next year and 14 million in '10. So unless they were going to trade him before his free agency, they were already going to pay him in excess of 30 millon for the next three years. So what the Twins did was buy out three years of free agency for about 48 million by my estimate. And that is a bargain: on the open market in three years (assuming he keeps hitting) he would get 5 or 6 years for more than 100 million dollars. While I am glad he is locked up, I do not in any way look at it as a change in fiscal policy. It was what they should have done long ago with Hunter and Santana. Had they done that, we would have a team capable of winning 90+ games again, rather than an irrelevant squad that will win, oh, 68-72 games and challenge KC for the cellar.

Nick N. said...

Bring him to Spring Training. See if the agent has a different tune at the trade deadline, and see if there are other, better offers. Worst case, you get one more year of Santana - and a chance to compete - and 2 first-round picks.

Guerra is essentially a draft choice as it is. Smith choked. He pressured himself into trading Santana without even getting the Mets top propsect.


Santana gave them a deadline and said he would stick to the no-trade clause if a resolution wasn't reached by last Tuesday. There's no way of knowing whether or not he would have stood by it throughout the season, but Smith didn't really have the luxury of trying to call his bluff. He couldn't afford to go into the season with a pissed off ace who was going to be a distraction, and I'm sure Smith was being pressured from up top to make a move because it would look very bad from a PR standpoint if the Twins kept Santana, missed the playoffs, and then lost him at the end of the season for draft picks.

Here's the thing about Guerra vs. draft pick. You could argue that the Twins would be able to draft a similarly talented pitcher with one of the picks from the Santana trade, but the timeline for his arrival to the majors would be WAY pushed back. Guerra, at 18, already has a full season of experience at High-A ball. If he continues to develop and moves along at a good rate, it's reasonable to think he could be vying for a spot in the Twins' rotation in 2010. Meanwhile, the pitcher draft in 2009 with a Santana pick would have only HALF A SEASON of professional experience at that point. In the Mets trade, the Twins also got three other players who are all major-league ready or very close, which is extremely important when you look at the complete lack of impact prospects in the Twins' high minors. If the Twins kept Santana and took the draft picks, their rebuilding effort would be pushed back several years, whereas trading him for advanced minor-leaguers keeps potential success on the immediate horizon. The more I think about it, the more I start to think that keeping Santana would have made 2008 way too much of an all-or-nothing year... because they really would have been starting from scratch in 2009.

While I am glad he is locked up, I do not in any way look at it as a change in fiscal policy. It was what they should have done long ago with Hunter and Santana. Had they done that, we would have a team capable of winning 90+ games again, rather than an irrelevant squad that will win, oh, 68-72 games and challenge KC for the cellar.

The Twins never claimed they were going to change their fiscal policy. They have consistently stated that the team budget will be 50 percent of incoming revenue, or slightly above. We can complain about it until the cows come home and talk about how rich Pohlad is, but it's not going to change so we need to live with it.

Keeping those payroll constraints in mind, re-signing Hunter and Santana just wouldn't have been feasible if this team plans on competing over the next five years. Would it have made the squad more competitive next year? Sure, but you've got to keep the future in mind and as the back-loaded contracts start escalating the team runs out of money to pay to anyone else and you end up with a handful of stars and a bunch of scrubs. As we saw last year, that just doesn't work.

SoCalTwinsfan said...

I still have a hard time understanding why the Yankees weren't more interested in Johan. I think Cashman is going to lose his job over this.

I just don't see the Yankees being able to compete with the Red Sox, especially when Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte predictably break down. The Red Sox went and threw a bunch of prospects at the Marlins for Josh Beckett and look how that worked out.

The only thing I can see is that maybe the Yankees are just going to throw a lot of money at C.C. Sabathia next year. They'll still have their prospects and have Sabathia and Wang to top the rotation. I just never thought the Yankees would ever look that far ahead.

Nick N. said...

The only thing I can see is that maybe the Yankees are just going to throw a lot of money at C.C. Sabathia next year. They'll still have their prospects and have Sabathia and Wang to top the rotation. I just never thought the Yankees would ever look that far ahead.

Hadn't thought about that. That's actually a pretty good theory. I can't envision the Yanks doing much this year though.

TT said...

Santana gave them a deadline and said he would stick to the no-trade clause if a resolution wasn't reached by last Tuesday.

Not if you believe the reports out of both Santana and the Twins. Both sides apparently claim there was never an ultimatum.

they really would have been starting from scratch in 2009.

How is that? The only player from this trade that fills a hole in the Twins system going forward is Gomez. And they already had Pridie and Span as potential center fielders.

Its funny how everyone talked about the Twins surplus of pitching prospects last summer. Now trading away Garza and Morlan depleted the Twins pitching prospects to the point that they needed to trade outside the organization for three guys.

Nick N. said...

Not if you believe the reports out of both Santana and the Twins. Both sides apparently claim there was never an ultimatum.

I suppose that would be the kosher thing to say at this point. There were a lot of reliable sources reporting that a deadline was, in fact, in place.

Its funny how everyone talked about the Twins surplus of pitching prospects last summer. Now trading away Garza and Morlan depleted the Twins pitching prospects to the point that they needed to trade outside the organization for three guys.

Ironic, I wrote today's post without having read your comment here but it pretty much directly addresses your point. Give it a read and we can continue the conversation there if you'd like.

freefun0616 said...

酒店經紀人,
菲梵酒店經紀,
酒店經紀,
禮服酒店上班,
酒店小姐兼職,
便服酒店經紀,
酒店打工經紀,
制服酒店工作,
專業酒店經紀,
合法酒店經紀,
酒店暑假打工,
酒店寒假打工,
酒店經紀人,
菲梵酒店經紀,
酒店經紀,
禮服酒店上班,
酒店經紀人,
菲梵酒店經紀,
酒店經紀,
禮服酒店上班,
酒店小姐兼職,
便服酒店工作,
酒店打工經紀,
制服酒店經紀,
專業酒店經紀,
合法酒店經紀,
酒店暑假打工,
酒店寒假打工,
酒店經紀人,
菲梵酒店經紀,
酒店經紀,
禮服酒店上班,
酒店小姐兼職,
便服酒店工作,
酒店打工經紀,
制服酒店經紀,
酒店經紀,

,

be said...

酒店經紀,
酒店工作,
酒店上班,
酒店打工,
禮服酒店,
禮服公關,
酒店領檯,
華麗幻想,
夢世界,
酒店經紀,
酒店工作,
酒店上班,
酒店打工,
禮服酒店,
禮服公關,
酒店領檯,
華麗幻想,
夢世界,
酒店經紀,
酒店工作,
酒店上班,
酒店打工,
禮服酒店,
禮服公關,
酒店領檯,
華麗幻想,
夢世界,