I read a blog posting this morning that claimed the Mets won the Johan Santana trade, based on the talent given up, but lost the contract extension. This couldn’t be any less accurate or more naive.
While it is true the players surrendered didn’t amount to much on the major league level and Santana did have several productive years, one cannot separate the trade from the contract because they are linked. The trade was made because Santana waived his no-trade clause and agreed to a six-year extension.
Translated: There would have been no trade without the contract.
I wrote at the time the Mets overpaid for Santana both in terms of players – not that it matters now – and in money. That has proven to be correct.
The market for Santana was Boston and the Yankees, and the Mets only became involved only after both those backed off because of the Twins’ demands. When the deal was made Omar Minaya admitted Santana came back to them.
In essence, the Mets were bidding against themselves, something Minaya also did in the contracts for Francisco Rodriguez, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and several others.
The contract of $137.5 million over six years was excessive for Santana because of the accumulated innings on his arm and he had a previous arm injury. Six years is a gamble for any pitcher at any time because of the fragility of the arm, shoulder and elbow. Too many things can go wrong and the team ends up paying from damaged goods.
I believe, as I did then, the Mets misjudged the market and overpaid for Santana. While he did win for the Mets, he was injured at the end of every season and required surgery. The Mets already paid for one season and received nothing, and it is possible they could be on the hook for three more years.
Any trade is a gamble, but this one the Mets lost. That is, unless Santana makes a full recovery and pitches – and wins – for a pain-free three more years.
Anybody want to take that bet?