Mets Gambled And Lost On Johan Santana; End Era By Buying Out Contract

The New York Mets took care of business and officially parted ways with often-injured Johan Santana when they paid a $5.5-million buyout Friday, and the classy left-hander, who always wanted to do more – sometimes to his detriment – did the same and thanked the franchise and its fans for their support.

In a statement, Santana said: “I want to thank the Mets organization, my teammates, and, of course, a big thank you to Mets fans, who have been behind me from day one and stood by me through all the good and bad.’’

SANTANA: Era ends.

SANTANA: Era ends.

It was a noble gesture from Santana, something he didn’t have to do after completion of the six-year, $137.5-million contract that made him the highest-paid Mets’ pitcher.

The Mets have not ruled out bringing back Santana at a low-cost deal – which would be on top of the buyout – and toward that end, the left-hander lobbied on his behalf.

“I am not sure what the future holds, as this is all new to me,’’ Santana continued, “but I have every intention of pitching in 2014 and beyond and I am certainly keeping all my options open.’’

After losing in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS and kicking away a seven-game lead with 17 games remaining in 2007, and in dire need of pitching, the Mets gambled big on Santana. They sent four prospects to Minnesota – one of them turning out to be All-Star outfielder Carlos Gomez – to acquire the already damaged left-hander. Then they signed him at the time to the richest contract in franchise history.

Santana became available because both the Yankees and Red Sox backed off, so in essence the Mets were bidding against themselves, and arguably could have had him for less. Subsequently, they issued a contract they didn’t have to at that price. Clearly, they mis-read the market. The deal turned out to symbolize then-GM Omar Minaya’s tenure that included a run of lucrative, underachieving contracts.

Outside a 15-7 record with a league-leading 2.53 ERA in 34 starts in 2008, his first season with the Mets, Santana never completed a full year in New York and didn’t pitch at all in 2011 and 2013 because of shoulder injuries. If a full season is considered 34 starts, Santana left 95 starts on the table. That is more glaring than his production of 46-34, a 3.18 ERA and the only no-hitter in franchise history.

That no-hitter came in just his 12th start after rehabbing from shoulder surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule. To this day, manager Terry Collins laments letting him throw 134 pitches.

Ironically, it was a tainted no-hitter because a blown call on what should have been an extra-base hit for Carlos Beltran was ruled a foul ball. If that call is made correctly, then Santana doesn’t throw that many pitches, then, who really knows?

Santana made only 10 more starts for the Mets before he was shut down in August of 2012. In spring training of 2013, in an angered response to GM Sandy Alderson’s comments he didn’t report in shape, Santana went against his prescribed rehab routine and without Collins’ knowledge, threw off the mound and aggravated the injury.

In another dose of irony, the pitcher often fueled by pride was done in by the same. Santana re-tore the capsule and underwent a second surgery.

To this day, Santana never acknowledged his mistake of throwing off the mound, and Anderson never admitted whether his dig at the left-hander’s condition was meant as motivation and backfired.

Either way, at least publicly, both sides are open for a return. But, don’t bet on it.

4 thoughts on “Mets Gambled And Lost On Johan Santana; End Era By Buying Out Contract

  1. The trade they made for Santana is one you make every day and twice on Sunday… They traded nothing for him and paid him what a two-time Cy Young winner turning 29 should make. Just more fodder for the Wilpons to say they got burned when the truth is that they probably made as much back in Santana jerseys and merchandise.

    • MDonald: In retrospect, they lost the deal. That was the point. They did not get what they paid for. Also, they misjudged the market and gave away too much. The Twins had nobody else they were talking to.-JD

      • I agree with both of you.

        He was the best pitcher on the market and needed to get paid. Plus he had veto power..

        Did they overpay? Sure. It turns out they bid against themselves but Omar did that a lot. More egregious was his contract for Ollie, a journeyman pitcher who played for a decade with a decidedly forgettable record who had some good games in a stretch where it mattered. We bid against ourselves when there was no other suitors. At least Santana as the best pitcher on the market had other teams interested.

        Was he overpaid? Of course. In retrospect you do not make that trade. Especially when you include a young Center Fielder who was great in the field but could not hit who has turned into an all star. But if I had to do it again knowing what I knew at the time I would do it without hesitation.

        • Dave: He was the best pitcher on the market at the time, but the point I was trying to make is the Mets didn’t read that market well. They overpaid for him, and in hindsight didn’t get what they paid for. Santana left 95 starts on the table which is almost three years. That’s a lot.-JD