The Twins Worst Trades: Johan Santana
Image courtesy of © Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY SportsBill Smith was in a no-win situation. In late-2007, He became the fifth general manager in Twins history, and he was immediately tasked with trading away baseball’s best starting pitcher. Minnesota had tried to work out an extension with two-time Cy Young award winner, but those conversations had stalled. The Twins were still multiple years away from a new stadium and the increased revenues they hoped it would provide, so the club looked to deal away one of the best pitchers in team history.
During the offseason, there seemed to be three suitors for Santana’s services, the Yankees, Red Sox, and Mets. All three big market teams had the funds to meet Santana’s contract needs and they had the prospect capital to acquire a pitcher of his magnitude.
Twins fans hoped to acquire some of the top talent available from these organizations. Boston had big-name prospects like Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz. The Yankee’s system included Phil Hughes, Joba Chamerlain, Melky Cabrera, and Ian Kennedy. While some of the Mets top farm hands were Fernando Martinez, Carlos Gomez, Deolis Guerra, Kevin Mulvey, and Phil Humber.
Rumors swirled for most of the offseason with many of the names mentioned above. Eventually, Minnesota settled on a package of players that included Gomez, Guerra, Mulvey, and Humber. Twins fans were disappointed, but maybe that was inevitable. Gomez, Guerra, and Humber had all been top-100 prospects during their professional careers, but it still didn’t feel like enough for the game’s best pitcher in the middle of his prime.
The Mets were coming off a 2007 season where they collapsed at season’s end and they needed a boost to get them over the top in the NL East. Santana was a franchise altering player that could help them clear that bar. New York agreed to trade for Santana if they could sign him to an extension. He’d ink a six-year, $137.5 million and the rest is history.
Santana’s first year in New York was his best as he led the league with over 234 innings pitched and a 2.53 ERA. He’d finish third in the Cy Young voting. In fact, his first three seasons were great for the Mets. He posted a 2.85 ERA with a 1.18 WHIP in 600 innings pitched, but injuries were starting to become a problem. Bone chips were removed from his elbow, he had rotator cuff surgery, and eventually shoulder injuries ended his career.
From Minnesota’s perspective, things went from bad to worse. Gomez was rushed to the big leagues and hit .248/.293/.352 over two seasons. He’d be dealt to Milwaukee as part of the JJ Hardy trade, another bad Twins trade, and he’d become a two-time All-Star with the Brewers. The pitchers acquired in the deal struggled even more than Gomez in a Twins uniform.
Guerra topped out at Triple-A in the Twins system and moved on to other organizations after 2014. He pitched in the big leagues last season with Philadelphia, but he has a career ERA of 4.81 with a 1.32 WHIP. Mulvey made two appearances with the Twins and allowed four earned runs in 1 1/3 innings. In 2009, he was sent to Arizona to complete the trade for Jon Rauch. Humber pitched in 13 games for the Twins with an ERA north of 6.00 and he was granted his free agency after two seasons. He’d go on to pitch for Kansas City, Chicago, and Houston and fans may remember his perfect game for the White Sox.
Just a few years after the trade, none of the players Minnesota acquired were still on the roster. Santana’s time in New York didn’t end well, but he was able to pitch three very good seasons for the Mets before injuries shortened his career. At the same time, Twins fans are left wondering if a better deal could have been made with the Red Sox or Yankees.
What are your thoughts after looking back at this trade? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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