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!