Phillips DFA’ed

The Yankees have officially announced Jose Molina’s contract (2 years/$4 million) and to make room for him they designated Andy Phillips for assignment. Phillips didn’t have a role on this team in 2008, Duncan and Betemit have passed him, so it makes sense.

The Yankees still have Rivera and Rodriguez to announce which will require two more subtractions from the 40-man, unless of course they send Cabrera and Hughes to Minnesota, in which case it will only be one.

Yes!

Great news, Andy Pettitte is coming back in ’08.

Obviously, this solves a huge problem and if the Yankees get Santana, their rotation would be a real strength heading into the season.

But, even without Santana, the Yankees now have options. They can go to some form of six-man rotation to keep the kids from racking up too many innings or they can choose to mix and match as needed. Replacing Pettitte’s 215 innings would have been very difficult, thankfully the Yankees won’t have to.

Now they need to bolster the bullpen.

Some Good News??

Well, the Yankees obviously took my advice and set a deadline with the Twins.

Furthermore, Fox reports that Santana will only agree to a trade now, so Minnesota cannot drag this out indefinitely.

And, the Yankees apparently won’t give into the Twins request for Kennedy, Horne or Jackson as the third part of this trade, so I would guess he isn’t coming to New York.

Just prepare yourself for what that means. It means a risky rotation in 2008 and the potential for Boston to have Santana and Beckett at the top of theirs. I said it in a comment earlier this week, but I think the only way any of us walk away from this thinking we won is if Santana stays in Minnesota or goes to the NL.

My Turn to Feel Sick

ESPN is reporting that the Red Sox have agreed to include Jacoby Ellsbury in a trade for Johan Santana. As part of that concession, they have also told the Twins they will not include both Ellsbury and Jon Lester in any deal. It’s either/or.

As George Constanza once said “the dance continues.”

This decision to offer up Ellsbury makes my stomach turn a bit. Like Peter said, you don’t know what a prospect will turn out to be until years later, but I just don’t like this idea. I’m hoping Theo Epstein is playing poker here and is pulling the bluff of the century. No matter what their intentions, the Red Sox have to stay in this process. As the ESPN article points out, if one of the two teams, (Bos or NYY) pulls out of the running, the Twins will have effectively lost their leverage. In order that the Yankees don’t get Santana for a song, the Red Sox are obligated to stay in the running.

If the Red Sox are serious and the Twins accept their altered offer, get used to Coco Crisp in CF for the next 2 seasons. Not a horrible thought from a defense and base running standpoint, but not so great from an offensive production standpoint.

ESPN says they expect Santana will be dealt within the next 72 hours. If the Red Sox “lose” expect they to be a major player for Danny Haren.

The Last Time The Twins Traded An Ace

He was 29, left-handed and had already won 112 games in the bigs. He was coming off of a Cy Young award and was one of the best pitchers in the game.

The main part of the package for him was one of the brightest prospects in the game having gone 12-4 with a 1.80ERA the previous season at AAA with 143 K’s in 160 innings. He had made a nice start in the bigs the season before and entered the season with a decent chance to make the team out of camp. It didn’t happen to the howls from the fans, but he continued his dominance at AAA going 7-4 with a 2.37 and 69K’s in 87 innings. He had struggled in the majors after getting called up in July, but on that fateful trading deadline in 1989, there was no doubt that this guy would be a future star.

The Minnesota pitcher was Frank Viola of course who went to the Mets for five players Rick Aguilera, Kevin Tapani, Tim Drummond, Jack Savage and the aforementioned prospect, David West.

I was thinking about that deal today when I thought more about Hughes. I went back and read some news reports from the late 80’s to check my memory and I think it is fair to compare the hype for Hughes today with the hype for West then. He was going to be the next big thing, the guy who would sit atop the Mets rotation and provide a dominant lefty to go alongside Dwight Gooden. (how’s that for irony?)

But, the 1989 Mets were not patient. Injuries to Keith Hernandez and Dwight Gooden had them struggling along in late July and after their playoff loss in 88, they wanted to get back to October, so they pulled the trigger on their second blockbuster of the season. (In June they had sent Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell to Philadelphia for Juan Samuel)

Viola won 38 games for the Mets in almost 2 1/2 seasons before getting 3 years/$14 million from the Red Sox in free agency.

West ended up winning 31 games in his career and was out of baseball after pitching two innings for the 1998 Red Sox. The Twins definitely won the trade because Tapani became a big part of the rotation and Aguilera became one of the best closers in baseball.

I am not saying that history will repeat itself if the Yankees send Hughes to Minnesota for Santana, but I wanted to relate that tale for those of you preparing to climb out onto the ledge. If this trade happens, the way to judge it will be down the road when we see what happens with both teams. If the Yankees win the World Series because of Santana, will you really care what happens with Hughes? In 1989 it certainly looked like Viola would lead the Mets to the World Series and it didn’t happen. Likewise, it was thought West was the best part of the trade and he wasn’t. Our perceptions today could be very wrong, on both sides.

Timlin Back in the Fold

The Boston Globe reported today that the Red Sox have agreed to a 1 year, $3mm deal with reliever Mike Timlin.

Timlin will be 42 when camp breaks, but he has managed to remain productive in recent years. I say every year that this is Timlin’s last, but he keeps coming back. Somewhere back in 2006, I lost faith in Mike Timlin and really haven’t gotten it back completely. His World Series game 4 appearance did restore some of my faith (0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K) but just how long can Timlin keep this up?

His 2007 regular season stat line was fine, but I just get an uneasy feeling when he enters a game.

As Peter mentioned in his last post, the Yankees have reportedly decided to offer Philip Hughes (if nec) in any potential Johan Santana deal. That probably puts them as the best possible position to get Santana. I hope the Red Sox are not intent on offering up either Clay Buchholz or Jacoby Ellsbury.

I mentioned this in a comment on Peter’s post, but ESPN’s Buster Olney theorized on Friday that perhaps both the Red Sox and Yankees hope the other team “wins” the Santana sweepstakes as the cost is just so high.

Winter Meetings start on Monday!

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!