Sunday, June 14, 2009

Game 63: Soul Sacrifice

Before you even tune into the YES broadcast today, you know what the storyline will be shoved down your throat. Hey fans! The Yankees could have traded for Johan Santana!

Get ready for Michael Kay to frame the struggles of Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Melky Cabrera as clear reasons for why the Yankees should have jettisoned these pieces to acquire Johan Santana when they had the chance. It will be interesting to see whether anyone on the broadcast takes a deeper look into the divergent paths of the trade.

I think we can safely assume that if the Yanks had traded the package mentioned above, or at least something similar, to the Twins in exchange for Santana, they would have had to sign him to an almost identical extension that the Mets did. Santana had a no-trade clause and was ready to veto the deal if a contract with the Mets was not negotiated. He signed for $137M over 6 Years, an AAV of $22.8M. That essentially amounts to free agent money and in addition to that, the Mets parted with Carlos Gomez, Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guera.

Instead of trading for Johan, the Yankees opted to wait a season and sign CC Sabathia on the open market, for $161/7, an AAV of $23M and a first round draft pick. Would the Yanks have been in play of CC if they had already signed Johan? I think it's fairly safe to assume not. Locking over $45M into two starting pitchers would be a pretty disproportionate allocation of funds, even with a $200M+ payroll like the Yankees have.

I think Sabathia and Santana are pretty similar pitchers. Both are dominant lefties who register a lot of strike outs without allowing many walks and accumulate a lot of innings. Both have won AL Cy Youngs and we're traded just before reaching free agency. Santana is two years older, but they will both be 35 when their contracts expire. If you go by last year, Santana logged an ERA of 2.53, which is amazing, but CC finished at 2.70 after making 18 starts in the American League and throwing nearly 20 more innings. This year Santana is decidedly better, but has also started 7 games at pitcher-friendly Citi Field whereas CC has started 6 games at what is easily the best home run hitting park in the majors.

The difference really boils down to this: If the Yanks traded for Santana, they would have had him last year, a season in which they really could have used some stabilization at the front of the rotation. However, the Yankees finished six games out of the Wild Card. FanGraphs pegs his Wins Above Replacement last year at 4.8. If the Yanks still didn't make the playoffs, would it really have been worth sacrificing the arbitration eligible years of Hughes, Kennedy and Cabrera? If they had snuck in but lost in the first round, would it have?

The point is that even right now, in hindsight, it's not an obvious move to trade for Santana and Hughes still has years to find his way as a starting pitcher. Melky has been a valuable piece to the club this year, and has had several walk off or game winning hits this year. Kennedy is gone for the year after surgery to remove an aneurysm from his shoulder, but is by no means worthless to the club. And all three as still cheap, controllable (and possibly tradeable) parts moving forward. So when you hear the decision not to trade for Santana referred to as a "mistake", keep those things in mind.

Speaking of "mistakes", A.J. Burnett looks to rebound his last one in Boston today. Burnett has taken on the opposing team's ace three times this year, once against his former teammate, Roy Halladay and twice against Josh Beckett. Twice Burnett has been beaten quite handily and his other start against Beckett in April, he was spotted six runs which he ultimatley gave back, and then some. Here's to hoping that he can buck the trend against Santana, although that might take some drastic measures, with consequences that could echo into the afterlife:


  1. Let's go Mets! Let's Go Mets! Yankees can only win when the other team makes horrible errors! Let's go Mets!

  2. Too bad Pedro isn't still pitching! Would love to see him put one in Mt's ear!

  3. Jesus, 15 runs against Santana.

    Gonna be a long year for the Mets

  4. Hey, in his defense only 9 were charged to him...

    Kidding... it's just a bump in the road. Even with that terrible outing his ERA is still 3.29. And if you are going to have that as your ERA, you'd much rather be a 2.39 for the rest of the year and have one shitty start.

  5. Although I don't like the start for selfish fantasy reasons, 9 runs off of facking Santana? As Pastry Boy says:

    "You just cant predict baseball."

  6. Beckett performed well. He is having some season.