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.

This And That

Hopefully you are still getting over your turkey hangover, but there are a couple of baseball related things we need to look at.

First and foremost, is the news that Santana is probably on the block. It’s going to be awfully hard for the Yankees to stay out of the bidding and if they can somehow get him without giving up two of the three young pitcher, I would strongly consider it. Would the Twins accept Kennedy, Cabrera, Horne and Whelan? I would find out.

Next, the market on relief pitching is going nuts. Cordero to the Reds for $46 million and 4 years, Linebrink t the White Sox for $19 and 4 years. That’s going to push prices up everywhere and the Yankees might be smart to stay out of it and use some of the young guys round out the pen. I don’t know what Vizcaino wants, but the price just went up.

Lastly, CJ Henry is back with the Yankees. This makes the Bobby Abreu trade that much better. Henry certainly looks like a bust, but apparently he needed contacts and when he got them in the last month of the season his bat responded. Putting him in Tampa next year and seeing what happens is a no-risk proposition.

Happy Thanksgiving

It’s well known that in 1621 after plates full of turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing the diners split into two groups, the Red Sox and the Yankees and played baseball.

Ok, maybe it didn’t happen that way, but we would like to wish all the Yankees and Red Sox fans out there a great holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Johan Santana a Yankee

That’s my prediction anyway.

Johan Santana might be available later this off-season should the Twin fail to sign him to a long term deal. The Twins are opening a new park in 2009, so they probably want a marque pitcher to go along with their marque catcher in Joe Mauer.

That being said, should he become available, the Red Sox are likely to make a pitch. The pros: Santana is the best lefty in baseball if not the best pitcher in baseball. He is only 28 and in his prime. A lefty in Yankees Stadium is always a good thing. The cons: He will cost a ton to acquire. Even if he is acquired, it will take a ton of cash to sign him ($20mm a year for 6 years).

The larger question for the Red Sox is that in order to get him, we as fans are going to have to say goodbye to 2 or 3 top prospects. Not the Michael Bowden’s or Aaron Bates’, but the Jacoby Ellsbury’s and/or Clay Buccholz’s.

The Red Sox have worked hard to build up a farm system. Winning the 2007 World Series proved that not only have they worked hard at it, they’ve also succeeded with Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester and Manny Delcarmen contributing (Youkilis I believe was a draft choice of the Dan Duquette regime). With that in mind, they can choose to use the talent or trade the talent (or a little of both). Using the talent means costs are contained given the current salary structure for young players. But talent doesn’t always translate into quality MLB performance, so trading unproven talent for proven talent generally yields better returns. Of course that isn’t always true, but with a skilled front office, you’d hope that trading for a Johan Santana would help your squad, right?

If I’m the Red Sox front office, I make a pitch.. You have to. Coco Crisp is in no matter what as the Twins need a CF should they lose Torii Hunter. Then I offer either Jonathan Lester OR Clay Buccholz, but not both. Lastly, I top off the offer with prospect that is further away like a Justin Masterson or Nick Hagadone. If that isn’t enough to get the job done, then see you later. That would mean a team like the Yankees would have to beat the Red Sox offer and it means they are giving up a Cano or Cabrera, Hughes OR Chamberlain and a Kennedy. Remember, they’d have to beat that offer, one would hope. I think Cano is a better talent than Crisp, so they have the edge there, but he doesn’t play CF, not yet anyway.

I do not like the idea of having to face Johan 3-4 times each season should the Yankees land him. I believe at the end of the day he winds up a Yankees. Why? They are far less inclined to rebuild (see the $400mm they’ve committed this off-season so far) and probably have more pitching talent to trade than do the Red Sox. Plus, the Yankees starting pitching wasn’t good last year and being able to plug in Santana for 225 IP would be a huge boost.

So there you have it and I’m not apologizing for the teaser title.

Three Added to the 40-man

The Yankees added Jeff Marquez, Steven White and Francisco Cervelli to their 40-man roster today. The moves were made because it is the deadline to add players to the 40-man which protects them from being eligible for the Rule 5 draft.

With these additions and the addition last week of Scott Patterson, the Yankees have 39 players on their 40-man roster. That does not include any of the free agents they have supposedly resigned, so the Yankees will have some work to do to get back under 40.

Of the four guys, Patterson could be in the bullpen out of camp, he dominated at AA, but he is 28. Marquez is an interesting guy, but I think he will be moved to the bullpen. White has to be considered in the second tier of Yankees prospects. He has shown a pattern of getting to a new level in the minors, struggling at that level and then doing well the following year. That does not bode well for him in 2008 in the majors, but we will see.

The most interesting name is Cervelli. His .287/.387/.397 line in Tampa doesn’t look very impressive until you note that the league OPS was a .713, putting Cervelli .081 points above it. He will have to prove he can keep hitting when he goes to Trenton this year, but at least there is someone who can be called up to give the Yankees a third catcher in September.

One name not on the list is Eric Duncan. It’s not a shock, because Duncan just hasn’t been good enough to merit inclusion, but it means they could technically lose him in the Rule 5. Then again, I don’t know if a team would be willing to keep him in the majors for an entire season.

This Makes Me Sick

Phil Pepe has had a great career writing in New York, but this piece is awful.

I don’t know if this was an assignment he couldn’t refuse, but between this quote:

“Now, because of Hank Steinbrenner’s patience, determination and the courage to stick to his guns, Posada is on board and Rodriguez and Rivera are expected to soon follow. Can Pettitte be far behind?”

and the not so subtle swipe at the disaster that is Jim Dolan:

“We have seen the damage that can be done when the son tries to outdo the father; just look at the mess on Eighth Avenue and 33rd. Street. That’s clearly not the case here.”

This just doesn’t seem like a Pepe product. This guy wrote “Billyball” and countless other great baseball books. Now he is doing this?

Hank, we get it, you are in charge. I suppose you never had a chance to be understated, not growing up with your father. But, try and learn that sometimes less is more. You don’t need to be the story all the time, you don’t have to always offer an opinion. Your Dad ruined far too many players and managers with his constant meddling, please, please learn from that.

Let’s Hedge Our Bets!

So far this offseason I have promoted an idea for a total rebuild of the Yankees and an idea for a spending spree, so there is logically one more place to go, the middle ground.

In the middle ground we will try and use the farm system, but also supplement it with some spending. I think it is probably the most likely approach the Yankees will take, but it requires two admissions. First, for everyone who thinks the offense will be fine next year consider the following. Everyone is a year older and with the exceptions of Cano and Cabrera that isn’t a good thing. Two, the Yankees do not have any hitting prospects that you can project as major league starters in the next two years.

The age is a very important factor because it is reasonable to assume that most of the regulars will not improve on their 2007 numbers and some of them will see declines. You can expect Cano to improve and maybe Melky (more on him later) but the net effect of all of this means the offense should be weaker than the one that scored 968 runs last year. How much weaker is the key question because you can create doomsday projections (Posada breaks major bone, Jeter jailed for failure to pay taxes) or you can just generally say “weaker” and realize what that means.

And what that means is barring the addition of another bat, the Yankees need to give up less runs in 2008 than they did in 2007 to offset the runs they won’t score. Luckily, that seems like a reasonable proposition right now because the Yankees have a lot of young pitchers and one would expect 30 starts from Phil Hughes in 2008 will be better than the 30 starts the Yankees got in 2007 from the combination of Igawa, Rasner, DeSalvo and Clippard.

But, the work isn’t done just by writing in Hughes, Joba and Kennedy into the 2008 rotation. You still don’t have Andy Pettitte and the Yankees need to account for that. Without Pettitte and his 215 innings, the Yankees have a big hole in their rotation. Considering the work that Kennedy, Hughes and Joba did in 2007, you probably should not expect the Yankees to let any of them pitch 180 innings, and I think 160 or so would be a good guess. That means they are either going to be skipped in the rotation or pulled out of games earlier. I favor the prior approach if the Yankees have Andy back because you can go to a quasi six-man rotation with Mike Mussina from time to time. If Pettitte doesn’t return, Mussina is your fifth starter and if that is the case, I think you go to free agency and add a starter. I don’t want to add a big contract, but someone who could give me some innings and isn’t going to look for a huge deal. I think Job Lieber would be a guy who makes sense.

And, you have to address the bullpen on some level. Rivera’s back (reportedly) which is good, but he is going to need some help. Farnsworth may be getting a new manager who might believe in him, but I don’t. The Yankees can bring Vizcaino back, but I view him as more of complementary piece. Edwar Ramirez seems to me to be a one-trick pony and that trick fails too much for me to trust him in big spots. I think Ohlendorf has potential, but he is untested. I put him in the 2008 pen, but I still want someone else in there to help get the ball to Mo. In addition, I want a lefty in the pen just not a Myers-type. Two guys who I would contact are Kerry Wood and Eddie Guardado. Both are coming back from injuries and both might not want to come to New York, but I am going to try and sign them to incentive-loaded deals.

Now that the pitching is squared away, let’s look at the hitting. I am willing to take a flier on a Duncan/Betemit platoon at first mainly because I don’t see any good free agents out there. I will say it one last time, Hideki Matsui should pick up a first baseman’s glove and learn the position. The Yankees can make noise about putting Giambi there, but he is almost guaranteed to break down if they try that. I can’t really think of a realistic trade target, so internal will be the way I go here.

And that brings me to Melky. I like Melky, I like watching Melky, but I am not sure if he is the solution in center going forward. Yes, he just turned 23, but his season numbers of .273/.327/.391 are a disappointment. Melky has shown flashes, but he regressed in 2007. I am not saying you run him out of town, but considering the free agents available who can play center right now, I wouldn’t hold up a trade over Melky either. (As and aside, Rowand would be my choice of the three)

For the bench I am willing to go with youth as well. It sounds like Molina is back and we know Duncan and Betemit will be there in some role and of course there is Giambi. Assuming the Yankees don’t try and go with 12 pitchers again (please) that leaves one spot and I give that to either Gardner or Gonzalez. Gonzalez probably makes more sense as an infielder, but Gardner would give you speed on the bench. Neither one is going to dazzle with the bat, but the Yankees have Giambi, Duncan and Betemit to pinch hit most days.

So, there you have it the moderate plan. Supplement the roster with some free agent signings, but nothing huge. Mix some more veterans in and some rookies and see how that goes.

Deal Framed for Lowell

While it isn’t official, ESPN is reporting Mike Lowell has agreed to the framework of a 3 year, $37.5mm deal ($12.5mm per). Peter Gammons said Lowell could have had a 4 year deal from 2 other teams, but wanted to stay with the Red Sox. For those who were questioning the things that were important to Lowell, now you know. And as I mentioned yesterday, this is great work by the Red Sox. They get back an important piece at their price.

With this signing, the Red Sox have taken care of a all of their big outstanding issues. 25-man Roster:

c – Varitek
1b – Youkilis
2b – Pedroia
3b – Lowell
ss – Lugo
lf – Manny
cf – Ellsbury
rf – Drew
dh – Ortiz
bench – Crisp
bench – Cora

sp – Beckett
sp – Matsuzaka
sp – Schilling
sp – Wakefield
sp – Lester
sp – Buccholz
rp – Papalbon
rp – Okajima
rp – Delcarmen
rp – Tavarez

That leaves 4 spots open, a back-up catcher, a bench outfielder, a utility guy (with OF and IF capability, ala Hinske) and 2 pitchers (or 1 pitcher and another bench guy). Usually at this point, there is a ton to figure out and many questions to answer, but 2007 is different. Peter and I discussed this today, the lack of talent in the free agent pool means most, if not all of the major decisions are done. All that is left for Boston is to trade Crisp, fill out the bench and settle on the rest of the bullpen. Those are relatively minor decisions when discussing the 2008 Red Sox.