Friday, February 1, 2008

Johan Santana's Leverage

There are unlimited angles from which we can view the blockbuster made between the Mets and Twins. Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus provides us with yet another.
All of this winter’s machinations have been driven by Santana’s desire to, in effect, opt out of the last year of his contract and advance his free agency by one year and 220 innings or so. His leverage is that no-trade clause, which represents his ability to leave the Twins with them receiving just two draft picks, most likely picks between 25 and 35 in the 2009 draft. Given that the Twins’ chances of making the postseason in 2008 even with Santana are in the 10-15% range, that the team will be moving into a new ballpark in 2010 and that it has a slew of young pitchers coming through the system, it makes sense for them to trade him for players who can be contributors to that 2010 team. Santana knows this, and has put the pressure on accordingly. Remember, he hasn’t invoked the clause, merely threatened to do so…by going into the season as a Twin, Santana runs the risk of the team being good enough in the first half to make trading him a non-starter, which would force him to make a full complement of starts before getting to his next contract. I can’t emphasize this enough: pitching in the major leagues is a health risk, and when you have 3000 pitches standing between you and $150 million, it’s in your best interests to do whatever you can to remove that hurdle.
Read the entire article here.

Now please, quit the Monday morning quarterbacking. Bill Smith did the best he could in an impossible situation where he had no leverage and one team realistically negotiating for Santana's services.

Update (02/03/08): Minneapolis Star Tribune writer La Velle E. Neal III affirms my entire analysis of these negotiations.

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