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  • What Can the Santana Trade Teach the Twins About Berríos?


    Thiéres Rabelo

    We’re a few hours away from the 2021 trade deadline, and the Twins are on the verge of trading away José Berríos. ‘La Makina’ is, without a doubt, the greatest homegrown starting pitching talent Minnesota has developed in a long time. Is trading him similar, in any way, to trading Johan Santana back in 2008?

    Image courtesy of Image courtesy of Thiéres Rabelo

    Please, calm down.

    I’m not at all saying Berríos is, today, similar to what Santana was when the Mets acquired him from Minnesota. Nor that he will be nearly as good as the Venezuelan. But bear with me, while I look at what those two deals have in common.

    Their role in the Twins
    After the 2007 season, Santana was already one of baseball’s greatest pitchers, if not the best one. Mentioning his accolades up until that moment has no use here. They couldn’t afford him, so they found themselves forced to trade him. Berríos, right now, may not be the ace Johan was, but he is certainly one of baseball’s most reliable arms. Especially, you know, health-wise. So far in his career, Berríos hasn’t had any serious injury that cost him relevant playing time. His injury history is immaculate. Minus 2016, the year he got called up for the first time, and 2020, the 60-game season, Berríos has logged at least 145 innings in each season of his career.

    He’s having career numbers this year, which indicates that he’s only getting better. So he may not be as talented as Santana, but he’s a solid piece of this rotation. A player who could easily be a number three starter for the vast majority of MLB teams. And, at 27, which is two years younger than Santana when he was dealt, you just have to assume he’s just entering his prime.

    What if they stayed?
    My main point here is this. What could’ve happened if the Twins could afford Santana and signed him to an extension? And what may happen if they decide to hold on to José now? Everything from now on will be hypothetical, so get ready for many ‘what ifs.’ When Minnesota traded Santana, they knowingly gave up on a two-time Cy Young Award winner, the best starter they had since… Blyleven? Viola in ‘91? Or the best one ever? You decide. If he had stayed, he would’ve made that phenomenal Twins team even better.

    After a disappointing 79-83 record in 2007, Minnesota went on to win at least 87 games in each of the following three seasons, including a 94-win season in 2010, capping a second consecutive AL Central title. However good they were, those teams could never get past the Yankees in their trips to the ALDS.

    How much closer to winning a World Series would that particular team be, had Santana stayed? No one will ever know. But I think it’s fair to assume they would have much, much better odds. In conclusion, trading away Johan, even though it was the only logical solution given the club’s financial reality at that point, undeniably made the Twins a worse team.

    With that being said, let’s shift to Berríos’ case now. Realistically speaking, the Twins are a much better team with him around. No pitcher within the organization brings to the table, today, the same productivity from Berríos. Kenta Maeda bounced back very nicely, but there’s no way he’s had a better season than José so far.

    If you’re not looking at the prospect of a two or three-year rebuilding process, there’s no way you trade Berríos now. Minnesota’s chances of having a competitive rotation in 2022 are not better at all with the absence of Berríos. Unless, of course, they pull a huge free agent signing during the winter, which is very unlikely.

    Let me repeat myself: Berríos is no ace (yet), and he doesn’t bring to the table the same as Santana 13 years ago. But if you keep him, adding one or two good free agent arms during the winter could turn this rotation around next year. If you don’t, you’re considerably further along.

    What is the big difference?
    Like I said before, the Twins had no alternatives but to trade Santana. Revenue wasn’t the same, so it’s understandable. What you can question is how bad the return for Santana was. That deal turned out to be one of the worst in club history. But, yeah, trading him was a must.

    On the other hand, that certainly doesn’t seem to be the same case with Berríos now. First, a contract extension to José wouldn’t be nearly as expensive. Twins Daily’s Ted Schwerzler believes that a Berríos contract would look similar to those of Luis Severino, Aaron Nola, and Lance McCullers, ranging around the  $12-15M AAV and going for four or five years. We don’t know the complete picture of Minnesota’s financial reality, but that doesn’t seem like a very expensive ask.

    The aftermath
    While the return for Santana was suboptimal, sadly, the remainder of Santana’s career was severely affected by injuries. While still a fine pitcher and pitching an amazing 2008 season, he needed to go through two season-ending surgeries in 2009 and 2010, the latter one also removing him from the entirety of 2011.

    Again turning to hypotheticals, if he had been healthy in New York, watching him pitch at a high level for a different team could be somewhat similar to watch David Ortiz slug his way into the Hall of Fame in a Red Sox uniform. What aggravates Ortiz’s case is the fact that no one saw that coming, unlike Santana. Still, it wouldn’t feel nice.

    Thinking about the comparison with Berríos, how frustrating would it be to see him actually become an ace for a different team? Many Twins fans don’t consider him ace material up until now. But are you willing to bet money that this will never change? How certain are you that he won’t be one of the league’s top starters two or three years from now?

    Offering a more optimistic perspective: how amazing would it be if Berríos actually becomes an ace and the Twins had already locked him up long-term with a ‘bargain’ of $15M AAV? He would not only be the cornerstone of the Twins rotation, but he would also serve as a mentor to all the exciting arms coming up from the farm. Just picture, three years from now, a rotation containing Berríos and names like Josh Winder, Jordan Balazovic, Griffin Jax, and Bailey Ober.

    Assuming the financial aspect isn’t an issue, the only thing standing between Berríos and a future with the Twins is whether the club wants him around or not – unlike Santana. A haul in exchange for him would obviously look nice. But keeping him may potentially be even more profitable.

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    Very much agree with the broad point of this article.

    I think the contract estimate cited here underestimates what Berríos would take or could get. Nola and Severino signed their deals when they were much farther from free agency, right? That kept their prices down. It seems like those deals have been thrown out there as comps for Berríos for a couple years, but I think it always would have taken more to extend him. Since reports have said the Twins were trying to negotiate an extension, I hope they were serious enough to go higher than $12-15M per year.

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    The Twins had a choice with Santana. They could have chosen to have Santana play out his contract and leave as a free agent and receiving a draft pick in the  compensation round. This would have been the best option considering they were in the playoffs the following season and the poor return of players received from the Mets. 
     

    They have the same choice with Berrios. They can trade him now for whatever they can get or keep him for the 2022 season. An uncertainty is over the CBA and whether there will be free agent based draft compensation. 

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    Almost everything stated here makes very little sense. Maybe Santana doesn’t get hurt with the twins. But he did and you could probably reason that he would have no matter what team he played for. So, he would have never pitched a playoff game in 09 or 10 even if the twins were able to sign him. Which in turn worked out terrible for the Mets having that contract on the books when he was unable to play. Then, it’s been stated that Berrios wants to go to the market to make a splash. So why in the world would you think he could’ve been signed for 12-15M? Maybe 3 years ago. Maybe. Haven’t we been trying to extend him and Buxton for years now? I wanna say when Kepler and polanco signed their deals Buxton and Berrios were brought extensions as well. Berrios has obviously been eyeing FA for some time now so I don’t think that 12-15M number was ever relevant. These two pitchers and situations are polar opposites in every degree

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    13 minutes ago, Eris said:

    The Twins had a choice with Santana. They could have chosen to have Santana play out his contract and leave as a free agent and receiving a draft pick in the  compensation round. This would have been the best option considering they were in the playoffs the following season and the poor return of players received from the Mets. 
     

    They have the same choice with Berrios. They can trade him now for whatever they can get or keep him for the 2022 season. An uncertainty is over the CBA and whether there will be free agent based draft compensation. 

    They would have been a playoff team with Santana.  They lost game 163 to miss the playoffs.  I'm sure he would have gotten them one extra win somewhere.

    The timing of the Santana trade was bad, I thought at the time.  Prior to 2007 when rumors had started circulating I thought was the best time, then at the trade deadline that year.  Trading a star pitcher with only one year to go is going to bring minimum return, even less than waiting until the trade deadline in 2008.  Teams didn't have the urgency and only had him for one season.  

    We will be disappointed if the Twins trade Berrios for any of the offers they had for Santana (disregarding eventual outcomes like Lester).  But if they don't trade him today, they will be looking at similar scenarios.

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    Looking at Santana's stats, a crazy thing stood out to me where his 2004 season had such a rough start that he missed the all star game, but his second half was so dominant he won the Cy Young and finished 6th in MVP voting. Wow.

    Final 22 games that year: 1.36 ERA, 0.69 WHIP (nice), 11.5 K/9, and over half the runs he gave up were solo and 2-run home runs. Crazy.

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    $15 million / year is not going to happen. He wants $20+ which means you're banking on him taking another step. Otherwise he'll be an overpaid #3.

    Also, a staff of Berrios, Josh Winder, Jordan Balazovic, Griffin Jax, and Bailey Ober sounds very high risk to not pan out well. Pitching prospects are so volatile. The absolute ceiling for Jax and Ober is a 4th/5th starter, but they have a ways to go to get there. Winder and Balazovic could be solid mid-rotation guys or could bust completely out. Overpaying Berrios because you're penciling in prospects to fill out a rotation in 2 years is a monster gamble.

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    The lesson is that there is only a few elite level players. When you have one try to keep them, if you can't, you need to be better than potential league average to below average players in return. The team trading now for Berrios wants to win now, so should be willing to give up potential star player that may be a couple years away from MLB.

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    Shoot for the moon. Berrios is looking to get paid as #1 or #2 when he's really a #3. Ask a high price and stick to it. If another team really wants him, they'll pony up. 

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    If Berrios is looking to go to free agency and receive a market-level contract there's nothing wrong with that. The last time the Twins were serious about signing a top of the rotation pitcher, before the 2020 season, they were out of the bidding before it even started. Gerrit Cole because he was going to get 30M/year and they were out of it for Madison Baumgarner and Zack Wheeler because they already decided they would be happier playing near their homes.

    If the Twins can get him for market-level at least the Twins would have a chance before being eliminated before the bidding even starts.

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    Santana was shut down early in the seasons to receive minor things like elbow chip cleanups when it wasn't necessary for the Mets. These kind of optional shutdowns happened multiple times. Santana remained one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball for them until the shoulder capsule, failed surgery and never ending rehab.

    In any case, it's not possible to view Santana's trade assuming the Twins would have been the same team in the future. Moreneau, Nathan and Cuddyer were all extended because the Twins had the money to make those extensions when Santana was traded.

    The lesson, to me, is not to overplay your hand. The return for Santana was very low and it was expected the Twins had received much better offers than what they finally took. Just like the Blue Jays' return for Stroman to the Mets a couple years ago. Piss everybody off, let your market dry up and then desperately pull the trigger. It's a bad look.

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    I know this is a bit of a dream, but the Twins should be locking their sights on CJ Abrams first, Noelvi Marte second.  While they need close pitching, they need a strong shortstop who can really hit even more (especially since "pitching prospects" is a bit of an oxymoron).  I don't think Royce Lewis is the former, and there's a chance he's not the latter.  Unfortunately, he's probably our CF going forward.

    I am absolutely sure neither the Padres nor Mariners plan to give up their prized shortstop prospect, but I would demand it.  Berrios can pitch here next year, if it doesn't work.

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    13 minutes ago, mnfireman said:

    Shoot for the moon. Berrios is looking to get paid as #1 or #2 when he's really a #3. Ask a high price and stick to it. If another team really wants him, they'll pony up. 

    That! If the offer isn't good enough, hang on and see what happens next. Everything is a risk...especially pitching prospects/suspects. Only fly in this ointment is all signs point to him not wanting to stay.

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    59 minutes ago, Taildragger8791 said:

    Looking at Santana's stats, a crazy thing stood out to me where his 2004 season had such a rough start that he missed the all star game, but his second half was so dominant he won the Cy Young and finished 6th in MVP voting. Wow.

    Final 22 games that year: 1.36 ERA, 0.69 WHIP (nice), 11.5 K/9, and over half the runs he gave up were solo and 2-run home runs. Crazy.

    And we couldn't wait for his next start that season because you knew the Twins were going to win.

    First half win-loss 7-6, 2nd half he went 13-0. That was awesome.

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    This ignores, as stated above, that the Twins used that money to resign players. And that Santana had no interest in being in Minnesota. 

    If they can get great prospects back, I'm ok if the deal Berrios. He wants at least twenty million per year. And has been clear he will test free agency.

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    I believe it was the Yankees who made an offer to the Twins for Santana, but the Twins sat on it.  When Terry Ryan came back later and said OK, the Yankees withdrew the offer and made a worse offer, one that the Twins could not accept.  Ryan wanted to wait until the last second before the deadline to make the deal, the Yankees did not.

    The Twins were also hoping for something better from the Mets, but didn't get it.  And the thing with trading Santana to the Mets -- the Mets were not a good team.  The Twins were just not going to get much out of that, and they didn't.  The Mets didn't get much out of it either, at least if you're looking at season records.  Honestly, I'm not sure what the Mets were thinking.

    The Twins were stuck on the "Until the we have a new stadium, we can't afford Santana" schtick, and broadcasting this to everybody did not help.  Santana also went to the media during this time and expressed his frustration with the team's morbid fear of spending money.

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    2 hours ago, Thiéres Rabelo said:

    On the other hand, that certainly doesn’t seem to be the same case with Berríos now. First, a contract extension to José wouldn’t be nearly as expensive. Twins Daily’s Ted Schwerzler believes that a Berríos contract would look similar to those of Luis Severino, Aaron Nola, and Lance McCullers, ranging around the  $12-15M AAV and going for four or five years. We don’t know the complete picture of Minnesota’s financial reality, but that doesn’t seem like a very expensive ask.

    If Berrios is more affordable, doesn't that also imply he's not quite as difficult to replace as Johan? Not that he's easy to replace or should necessarily be traded, of course.

    If one was looking for a Twins statistical comp for Berrios, Scott Baker isn't too far off. Berrios is better and more consistent (on a season level) than Baker to be sure, but they are surprisingly close by a number of measures for their Twins careers:

    # Name ERA- FIP- xFIP- G GS IP RA9-WAR WAR
     
    1 Johan Santana 71 76 73 251 175 1308.2 37.9 31.7
    2 Jose Berrios 92 92 97 136 135 781.1 12.9 13.2
    3 Scott Baker 96 94 94 163 159 958.0 16.2 15.8

    https://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=pit&lg=all&qual=0&type=c,117,118,119,7,8,13,212,59&season=2021&month=0&season1=2000&ind=0&team=8&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=6176,14168,755&startdate=2000-01-01&enddate=2021-12-31

    Berrios is ~2.5 years younger than when Baker threw his last pitch for the Twins, though, so he has a chance to get better.

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    22 minutes ago, Mike Sixel said:

    This ignores, as stated above, that the Twins used that money to resign players. And that Santana had no interest in being in Minnesota. 

    The Twins final offer to Johan was something like 4 years, $80 million. It wasn't even close to what he got from the Mets. I'm not sure if we can conclude Santana had no interest in being here -- seems just as likely that he knew, like everyone else knew, that the Twins wouldn't pay him nearly as much as other clubs. (That same offseason, Johan had just watched Torii Hunter sign with the Angels for 5/90 after rejecting the Twins offer of 3/45, putting the situation into pretty stark relief.)

    Also, on reinvesting the money in other players, I believe the 3 players we signed to extensions in the immediate wake of trading Santana were Cuddyer, Nathan, and Morneau. The first two were probably poor allocations of resources, although Cuddyer did turn into the Berrios pick eventually. Morneau was much better, although as it played out, this contract extension basically just bought us his post-concussion years of 2011 and beyond (we already controlled him -- and Mauer -- through 2010).

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    1 minute ago, Otto von Ballpark said:

    The Twins final offer to Johan was something like 4 years, $80 million. It wasn't even close to what he got from the Mets. I'm not sure if we can conclude Santana had no interest in being here -- seems just as likely that he knew, like everyone else knew, that the Twins wouldn't pay him nearly as much as other clubs. (That same offseason, Johan had just watched Torii Hunter sign with the Angels for 5/90 after rejecting the Twins offer of 3/45, putting the situation into pretty stark relief.)

    Also, on reinvesting the money in other players, I believe the 3 players we signed to extensions in the immediate wake of trading Santana were Cuddyer, Nathan, and Morneau. The first two were probably poor allocations of resources, although Cuddyer did turn into the Berrios pick eventually. Morneau was much better, although as it played out, this contract extension basically just bought us his post-concussion years of 2011 and beyond (we already controlled him -- and Mauer -- through 2010).

    I didn't say they were good decisions..... But that they used the money. It's pretty clear he wanted out. 

    It wasn't a good trade..... But lots of teams have traded guys like this and used those players to build good teams. If the Twins deal Berrios, they could do very well, or badly, or in between. I'd only deal him if I was extremely confident I was getting at least two legit MLB players back, or one superstar type. Not that that is a guarantee, but that's what I'd want.

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    53 minutes ago, Dodecahedron said:

    I believe it was the Yankees who made an offer to the Twins for Santana, but the Twins sat on it.  When Terry Ryan came back later and said OK, the Yankees withdrew the offer and made a worse offer, one that the Twins could not accept.  Ryan wanted to wait until the last second before the deadline to make the deal, the Yankees did not.

    The Twins were also hoping for something better from the Mets, but didn't get it.  And the thing with trading Santana to the Mets -- the Mets were not a good team.  The Twins were just not going to get much out of that, and they didn't.  The Mets didn't get much out of it either, at least if you're looking at season records.  Honestly, I'm not sure what the Mets were thinking.

    The Twins were stuck on the "Until the we have a new stadium, we can't afford Santana" schtick, and broadcasting this to everybody did not help.  Santana also went to the media during this time and expressed his frustration with the team's morbid fear of spending money.

    Not to mention the Red Sox offer that included a choice of Lester or Ellsbury.

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    3 hours ago, Dodecahedron said:

    I believe it was the Yankees who made an offer to the Twins for Santana, but the Twins sat on it.  When Terry Ryan came back later and said OK, the Yankees withdrew the offer and made a worse offer, one that the Twins could not accept.  Ryan wanted to wait until the last second before the deadline to make the deal, the Yankees did not.

    The Twins were also hoping for something better from the Mets, but didn't get it.  And the thing with trading Santana to the Mets -- the Mets were not a good team.  The Twins were just not going to get much out of that, and they didn't.  The Mets didn't get much out of it either, at least if you're looking at season records.  Honestly, I'm not sure what the Mets were thinking.

    The Twins were stuck on the "Until the we have a new stadium, we can't afford Santana" schtick, and broadcasting this to everybody did not help.  Santana also went to the media during this time and expressed his frustration with the team's morbid fear of spending money.

    The Santana trade was a Bill Smith trade. Ryan stepped down shortly before. I've always asked myself if Ryan would have made that deal.

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    The Twins were being, naturally, cheap. Looking for a massive hometown discount. Hunter walked, Cuddyer left. Nathan moved on. Yes, the Twins offered $80m, at first. Then went to $90. Then hinted at $100. During the process, I believe Santana's agent was also able to talk to the variety of interested clubs and get an idea if they could sign him longterm.

     

    That happened and the trade went forward with a $137 6-year contract that could push it to $150 million.

     

    Like Berrios, Santana saw dollar signs. Why not. He also wanted to go to one of the major markets for baseball, be it Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston or New York. A pitcher like Johan was also looking at the secondary dollars that come with name branding and commercial ventures.

     

    But, like so many, you can be a regular fish in a BIG marketplace, or stayed in Minnesota and be the Kemps or Subway King of Minnesota.

     

    The Twins probably could've pushed to $120 million for six years. And, quite frankly, they should've. Like Corey Koskie, you wonder if Santana's career would've continued strong if he had stayed and been a Minnesota icon rather than chasing the almigty dollar.

     

    And when a player is NOT returning to a club (remember the demanding Chuck Knoblauch), the paying club is somewhat in the driver's seat.

     

    The Twins got Humber. I believe they originally wanted Pelfrey at the time.

     

    The Yankees supposedly offered Cabrera, Hughes, Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy. The Twins didn't want Cabrera.

     

    The Red Sox offered Lester, Crisp, Bowen and Lowrie. The Twins wanted Ellsbury. The Red Sox countered with Buchholz rather than Lester..

     

    But nothing could be put in stone and the Mets suddenly became the players in the game, only.

     

    The Twins got Humber, who had to be put on the roster. They got Gomez, who should've been sent to the minors for some seasoning. They got Mulkey, or eventually got us Jon Rauch. And Deois Guerra, who spent SEVEN YEARS in the Twins system leaving at the ripe age of 25 and ahs pitched in 100+ games since, okay.

     

    You have to hope that the Twins were running the board this round, that San Diego, Mets, Blue Jays and a couple of other teams were making offers you'd be a fool to refuse while scouting secondary options that may be more fruitful.

     

    Sometimes it is a tough call. You can't expect a hometown discount. You should actually be paying a hometown bonus because the guy ahs been toiling for your team for the past six/seven years (or in Buxton's case, working part-time for six of the past seven).

     

    Good luck to Berrios. He has the incentive to be the BEST pitcher he can be looking for a payday. So many things can happen between then and there. And then you have to always hope that the player will have the same "in play" as they beak the bank but still need to come to work and play every fifth day for the next half-a-decade.

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