Yankees Boost Their Offer

According to this, Phil Hughes is now part of the package to land Santana.

Now, if I am the Twins, I turn to Boston and say ok, now you guys have to give us Buchholz or Ellsbury. If they do, I turn around and say to the Yankees, ok now you top that offer.

That’s the problem with this negotiation in my mind, the Twins control it all and the longer they draw it out, the better it is for them. So, if I am the Yankees, I set a deadline. You tell the Twins, this is our best offer and not only are we not improving it, we are pulling it by Monday.

I am pretty torn about this rumored offer. Someone once said the best way to judge a fair trade is if it hurts on both sides. This one would hurt, Hughes, Melky and something else. Part of me wonders if we all overvalue Hughes because for awhile there, he was our only prospect. Think about it, in early 2005 most people knew about Hughes and didn’t know about Cano and Wang. That’s the one thought that comforts me. Anything you read tells you about the wealth of arms in the system right now. Most experts say the Yankees are the deepest team when it comes to pitching depth. And, the Yankees are getting the guy who is generally considered the best in the business at the age of 28.

I think the problem is we have all learned these past few years to be wary of pitchers coming to town. Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown, Carl Pavano…..I am sure I am not the only one who thought Javier Vazquez coming in at the age of 27 off of a dominating 2003 would be amazing and look how that turned out. I think those collective experiences make us look at this trade with a wary eye instead of saying, we are getting an ace!

Who knows if it happens or doesn’t, but it certainly sounds as if the Yankees have upped the stakes tonight.

Huh?

Kudos to Jimmy over at MVN for being on this story early and here’s a link to a newspaper source, but it sounds like the Yankees are going to sign Mark Loretta.

Now Loretta is certainly an upgrade at the utility position over a Miguel Cairo, but I am confused over this move. Now maybe the Yankees are getting smart and are going to “only” carry 11 pitchers, but if they don’t, someone has to go. Figure a bench right now of Giambi, Betemit, Duncan and Molina allows 12 pitchers to be carried. Now, I have no complaints with carrying 11 pitchers, it just surprises me. If they did that, you would have great coverage at all positions with the addition of Loretta, but isn’t he very similar to Wilson Betemit?

You can also go to the darker implications of this move like Jimmy did. Is this a prelude to Cano being thrown into the Santana mix? I’m not sure, Loretta isn’t exactly a spring chicken and the Yankees don’t usually make that type of move without a replacement in mind. The 2009 free agent class isn’t bustling with an obvious candidate at second and I don’t think Alberto Gonzalez has shown that he will hit enough that you can count on him. But, I think that if they sign Loretta, it means there will be another shoe to drop. Let’s hope it’s not Cano.

I Want To Play Poker With Jorge

In case you missed it, Jorge Posada’s new contract was announced today. Among the quotes he offered were:

When asked about Johan Santana, “”We need a No. 1. I would love to have him.”

When asked about Andy Pettitte, “Right now, he’s leaning toward retirement. I’ve been talking to him. I try to call him every week. It’s tough. He’s got a tough decision to make.”

So, with two questions he further confirmed the Twins’ suspicions that the Yankees really need/want Santana and he gave an update on Pettitte that makes the Yankees look even more desperate. Couldn’t someone from the Yankees have prepped him ahead of time and gotten him to answer the questions like this?

When asked about Johan Santana, “He’s a wonderful pitcher and I would love to be his teammate, but we have to make a trade that makes sense for the whole club.”

When asked about Andy Pettitte, “I talk to him frequently and I don’t know what he is going do. Most of all, I think he needs some time to think about things before deciding.”

I know, Jorge was just being honest, but a little less candor may have helped things.

Red Sox First In Line for Santana?

Former major leaguer and current columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Charley “Shooter” Walters is reporting that the Red Sox have moved to the front of the line in the Johan Santana sweepstakes and the players involved aren’t who you think.

Walters source? “A little birdie.”

The deal is focusing on Jon Lester, Coco Crisp, Jed Lowry (sic) and Justin Masterson in return for Santana.

To be sure, that is a bunch of talent, but it isn’t Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz. Lowrie is at AAA, Masterson AA, Crisp the former starting CF in Boston and Lester is in Boston (like you didn’t know that). Minnesota would be getting a starting CF, a lefty starter with good upside in Lester, a SS with a good glove and some pop and a big sinkerballer in Masterson who projects to be a Derek Lowe type of arm.

Of course the next step would be signing Santana, who has a no-trade clause, and who is thought not to be interested in coming to Boston. Players have said that before and usually get some cash thrown at them to make Boston a more enjoyable place to play.

Johan Santana – I don’t like Boston.
Theo Epstein – Here’s $10 million more dollars.
JS – I love Boston.

It’s a common negotiating tact and one that shouldn’t be a stumbling block. Of course, I have no idea if Charley Walters is reliable. He apparently broke the recent Delmon Young/Matt Garza deal, so maybe there is something to this.

My take? I do this deal in a heartbeat. The part that brings me most concern is the size and length of contract Santana would want. Reports are 6 years, $150mm. I just posted yesterday that long-term pitcher deals can be disastrous (Carl Pavano, Mike Hampton, Denny Neagle) but occasionally are great (Pedro Martinez’s Red Sox deal, Randy Johnson’s original Arizona deal, Greg Maddux deal with Atlanta). So there is big time risk.

I also pointed out last week that the Red Sox currently have a relatively low payroll of around $121mm. If they added $25mm in Santana and subtracted Crisp at $5mm, it is a net result of adding $20mm or so to the payroll. Peter illustrated, however, that there is a higher cost to a Santana deal in that you have to factor in the luxury tax. In Peter’s piece, he mentioned that the Yankees have a higher cost because they’d need to replace Cabrera (if he were included) in CF and maybe a few other parts and their tax might be higher, but you get idea.

For Boston, this makes more sense as you have a min. cost CF in Ellsbury ready to step in, Santana replaces Lester in the rotation and Lowrie and Masterson are prospects. I can’t believe I am saying this, but I make this deal. Bring it on!

This Changes Things

Maybe I am reading the tea leaves incorrectly here, but I think this deal would greatly lessen the chances Minnesota trades Santana. Are they willing to subtract a second starter after trading away Garza?

And, consider the addition of Young on the Twins’ offense. Mauer-Young-Morneau in the middle of the lineup looks pretty good I think you have definitely made up for the loss of Hunter. With Liriano coming back, why wouldn’t the Twins at least try and compete in 2008?

I would also be remiss if I didn’t point out that Tampa suddenly getting wise about pitching is not a great development for the Yankees. If they add Garza to Shields and Kazmir, you suddenly have the potential for a very good 1-2-3 at the top of the rotation. Add Percival to the bullpen and all the young hitters and Tampa won’t be so easy to beat up on anymore.

ARod Signing, A Disaster?

ESPN’s Rob Neyer had a semi-thorough review of agent Scott Boras’s big deals over the past 10 years. Neyer’s conclusion? Buyer beware. Read this quickly as it is an ESPN Insider article that is being made available for free for some reason.

Basically Neyer took the top Boras client signing over the past 10 years and looked at the player’s 2 seasons prior and seasons since the signing. It is 7 bad, 3 good. And ARod qualifies as a good signing, except that Neyer points out that the Texas Rangers (the deal Neyer reviewed for this study) was good from a statistical standpoint for ARod, but not for the Rangers as a team as they remained bad. And for whatever reason, they felt it a good idea to trade ARod and assume $51mm of his contract. Does that suggest anything?

Have the Yankees courted 10 years of mediocre play? Obviously each contract is different as is each player. But I’ll stick with my guns and say that when you pay a player so much more than the next guy, it causes problems. The Red Sox signing of Manny Ramirez 7 years ago might be the only exception. Why? Because Manny is a unique personality. I think it is dumb luck actually as Manny does anything he can to avoid the spotlight and attention usually afforded very rich sports types. Maybe I’m kidding myself.

ARod is going to make at least $27mm a year for the next 10 years and has incentives that will pay him, based on personal accomplishments, another $30mm or so. Scott Boras gets top dollar for his clients (I don’t know how much he was involved in this deal, but he already made ARod a ton previously) and while it makes the player rich, it usually makes the team regret. Usually.

Buster Olney Says

I just heard an interview with Buster Olney on ESPN Radio in New York and it centered around Santana. Olney says that he sees no way Santana signs for less than 6 years/$25 million per. With his no-trade clause, he is going to demand that salary before he approves a deal anywhere. The Twins have apparently talked to the Yankees about a package of Hughes, Cabrera and (interestingly) Austin Jackson and the Red Sox about a package of Ellsbury, Buckholz and Lester.

Olney felt that between the price and the prospects, neither team would make a deal and the only team he could see pulling the trigger on this trade was the Mets. The problem is, the Mets don’t have the same level of prospects and Olney wasn’t sure Minnesota would take a lesser package centering around Milledge and Pelfry for Santana. His ultimate conclusion was that Santana wasn’t going anywhere.

The Real Cost Of Santana Could Equal $50 Million A Year

That’s right Yankees’ fans, Santana is going to cost a whole lot more than the $20-$25 million a year he is supposedly seeking.

First off you have to pay Santana and don’t forget to add luxury tax dollars to the deal so your $20-$25 million becomes $24-$30 million a season (Yanks get dinged at 40%)

Then, you need to replace Melky Cabrera in center since he is probably the one guy guaranteed to be in the package. Tori Hunter just got $18 million a year from the Angels. The Yankees are not going to go the Bubba Crosby route here and I don’t see Damon switching back to center, especially with health concerns surrounding Giambi and Matsui. So, I would expect them to turn around and sign either Rowand or Jones. That probably costs around $15-$18 ($18-$21.6 million in luxury tax money).

When I look at numbers like that, this trade makes absolutely no sense. Why not just wait until 2009 when he is a free agent? You would have kept your three top prospects, finally determined if Melky is the answer in center (this could be a downside too) and think about the payroll. After 2008, you can subtract the contracts of Giambi, Mussina, Abreu, Pavano, Farnsowrth and Pettitte if he returns. That’s between $64.5 million and $80.5 million depending on Andy. Sure, he could get traded and sign an extension before you get a chance to bid, but that would make the most sense to me.

Red Sox Winter Meeting Preview

The Winter Meetings start a week from today in Nashville, TN. After some fun filled joy at Opryland (is that still open?), expect the Red Sox front office folk to work on improving the 2008 squad.

Buster Olney had an interesting take on the Johan Santana sweepstakes. Let’s say the Twins are able to piece together a trade for Santana, well Santana has a full no-trade clause. Santana is due to be a free agent after the 2008 season. He can veto any deal thus gaining leverage. If he puts the kibosh on it, he can either demand a greater contract extension from the acquiring team, or simply wait until after the 2008 season to become a free agent and the skies the limit.

Word on the street is that Santana is asking for 6 years, $150mm. Wow. That’s more than any pitcher has ever earned (Roger Clemens beat that in 2007, but it was prorated). Great, you’ve just traded for a pitcher that is going to ask for $25mm a season. Oh yeah, and don’t forget, in order to get him, you had to give up 2 of your best prospects (maybe 3).

With all of that in mind, I say the Red Sox should act the part of interested trade partner, but unless Santana wants less money and the Twins less prospects, stick with what they have. I think Yankee fan, on Peter’s side, Mitchell had this figured out last week when he stated in the comments that Santana is going to be a free agent in 2008. I now agree.

So Theo Epstein, kick the tires, but don’t pull the trigger. While Jon Lester and Clay Buccholz are largely unproven over a 162 game season, I like their chances. Even if they both flop, you still have roughly $25mm not spent on Santana to deploy.

To lend further credence to my argument, Olney reported yesterday (via Peter Gammons) that the Twins are asking for Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera and Austin Jackson. That’s a starting pitcher with # 1 stuff potential, a starting centerfielder and a young centerfield prospect in Jackson. That’s expensive. But if it isn’t involving Joba and Kennedy, the Yankees might bite. Obviously NY can afford the contract, but they might not be willing to part with the talent. A comparable deal for Boston would be Buccholz, Ellsbury and a lesser prospect. Too expensive.

No word on where Coco Crisp will be traded if anywhere. There is a chance Boston will hang on to Crisp and trade him when the offer is right. This might make for a grumpy Crisp, but he did handle his playoff demotion well and I would expect he’d do the same if this scenario played out.

With 21 of 25 rosters spots filled, the Red Sox have committed $121,110,000 in payroll for 2008 (my calculation). The last 4 spots aren’t likely to be more than $1mm each (and could be less if filled by rookies). Additionally, if Crisp ($4.75mm) gets moved, it might even go down. This is a dramatic decrease from 2007’s $143,026,214 as taken from Cot’s Baseball Contracts. This means the Red Sox are either happy at this level (John Henry’s business has struggled and his new home was really expensive and shark fin soup is tough to get) or they have plans for additional talent acquisition. That is some serious cash to play with if the latter scenario plays out. Your thoughts? Do the Red Sox stand pat or go out and acquire (who cares how, trade, free agency, etc) a mega talent to bolster the roster? I say they stand pat.

The Details Emerge

Murray Chass of the Times has the details on the incentives that have held up the biggest contract in professional sports.

I have to say, I hate Curt Schilling, I think the guy is about the biggest ass in baseball, but you have to give the guy a ton of credit. When he went to Boston, he negotiated a bonus based on winning the World Series. Considering the losing streak that franchise was on at the time, that was a gutsy bet. And yes, he backed it up in spades.

Compare that to this, $6 million for each of five individual accomplishments. The problem is, you have to fault the Yankees too. As the story says, “He will get the marketing money in exchange for making certain appearances linked to his home run milestones over and above what players are required by their contracts to do.” That means that the Yankees are going to go to Steiner Sports and market the hell out of this. You can expect bases, bats, balls, lineup cards, jerseys, probably even the cup he wore, to be marketed by the team after each milestone home run. Fans will shell out big bucks and basically that money will be divided into two parts.

My question to Hankenstein is this- what is the ultimate goal here, money or championships? This contract has me confused and disgusted.