Nov 02

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.

Jun 15

Johan Santana Makes Appearance; Reminder Of Deal Lost

Johan Santana made an appearance, perhaps for the last time, to the New York Mets’ clubhouse Friday. Maybe it was to say good-bye to teammates or pick up a few things. Perhaps it was to get a Matt Harvey autograph. Maybe the Mets needed him to sign a few papers before he gets the last of the $31 million owed him.

No one can ever doubt Santana’s work ethic or determination on the mound, but when all the numbers are added, one can’t say the Mets got their $137.5-million’s worth. Or, should I say $143-million’s worth when the 2014 buyout is considered?

SANTANA: At one time there was a smile. (AP)

SANTANA: At one time there was a smile. (AP)

Yes, they did get the franchise’s only no-hitter last season, but a tainted one because it was the product of a blown call. But, that night also cost the Mets the rest of Santana’s career because Terry Collins wrongly kept him in to throw 134 pitches.

There were a few more good starts after, but Santana hit a wall and lost his last five decisions before he was shut down because of injury for the third time in his four seasons with the Mets. And, that  DOESN’T include 2011 and this year, in which he didn’t pitch at all because of a shoulder injury.

To be technical, you can also throw in 2014, when the Mets will pay him to go away and rehab on their dime while he attempts a comeback.

For all that money, Santana only had one season in which he made all his starts, and that was his first, in 2008, when he was 16-7 and worked 234.1 innings. It wasn’t a sign of things to come.

That was the year the Mets faded in the stretch to lose the division on the final day to the Philadelphia Phillies. The previous season, the Mets lost a seven-game lead with 17 to play because their pitching collapsed. They also lost on the final day in a loss always known as the Tom Glavine Not Devastated Game.

Santana was supposed to prevent a reoccurrence. He did not, but to be fair, Santana threw a masterpiece in Game 161 on an injured knee to give the Mets a chance in the season finale.

Santana’s effort was never in question as it was with Oliver Perez, nor did he fail to produce when healthy, as was the case with Jason BayStill, his contract falls in the grave disappointment if not bust category. What can be called into question was Santana’s judgment when he forced the issue in spring training out of pride by throwing unauthorized mound session in a snit in response to Sandy Alderson’s comments about him not being in shape.

Even at the time of the deal an argument can be made the Mets overpaid in terms of prospects given up and salary because they misjudged the market and bid against themselves.

At the time, the Yankees and Red Sox were in hot pursuit of Santana, but Minnesota kept jacking up the prospect price to the point where both opted out. The Mets, who weren’t on the Twins’ radar, suddenly were in the game, but as the only players.

The Mets surrendered prospects Deolis Guerra, Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey. Gomez had moments of production, but not stardom. If nothing else, he would be playing in today’s Mets outfield. As for Humber, he pitched a perfect game not tainted by an umpire’s call.

After the deal was agreed to, there was the matter of working out a contract and the Mets went high, six-years, on a pitcher with a previous shoulder injury and a mountain of innings. Even had they gone less in terms of years and money, Santana had to accept if he wanted out of Minnesota because he had nowhere else to go as the Twins wouldn’t have come close.

The Mets had to know it wouldn’t end well, but gambled Santana might give them an October before breaking down. It was a gamble they would lose.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Apr 02

More Bad Pitching News For Mets; Shaun Marcum Scratched

Another day and with more Mets’ pitching news and naturally some of it being bad.

The club said Johan Santana underwent successful surgery on his left shoulder today, but failed to define “successful.’’ It is being able throw, much less pitch again, or the ability to raise his arm over his shoulder?

In addition, free-agent Shaun Marcum – who didn’t endear himself to the Mets for not being in shape during spring training – was scratched from today’s simulation game after expressing neck pain as he warmed up and won’t pitch this weekend against Miami.

Obviously, he is the Mets’ most immediate concern because Santana’s career is over, while the club hopes Marcum will pitch for them.

The Mets placed Marcum on the disabled list retroactive to March 22. Marcum had been sidelined with shoulder and neck pain and took a cortisone injection that obviously hasn’t helped.

Marcum was signed to a one-year, $4-million deal – with up to another $4 million in incentives – but didn’t report in shape and tried to convince manager Terry Collins he only needed three starts in spring training to get ready for the season.

This was notably concerning because Marcum has an injury history, which makes one wonder why the Mets pursued him in the first place.

Normally, a starter gets six starts and up to 30 innings, but Marcum made only three for 9.2 innings. So, one game into the season and the Mets are already scrambling for another starter. The primary candidates are Aaron Laffey and Collin McHugh of Triple-A Las Vegas.

There is also the possibility of signing a free-agent such as former Met Chris Young.

Whatever the Mets choose, they’ll need to do something quickly because there is no timetable for Marcum’s return.

Ironically, Young is also coming back from the same surgery as Santana’s, to repair a tear in the anterior capsule.

For Santana, it will be his second such surgery in 31 months. His first surgery came in September of 2010, and it took him 19 months to get onto the mound for the start of last season.

The abuse of Santana’s shoulder includes not only his 134-pitch no-hitter last June and anger-fueled mound session March 3, but also several arm injuries plus all those innings with Minnesota.

While Santana will not throw a pitch in his last year with the franchise, the Mets will still be on the hook for $31 million, including a $5.5 million buyout. The contract is not covered by insurance.

Mar 29

Did Mets Win Santana Deal And Contract?

With Johan Santana’s season and possibly career over, it might be time to wonder if the Mets won the trade and subsequent contract signing.

Was he worth it, or does he fall into the Jason Bay-Oliver Perez category?

SANTANA: Bargain or bust?

SANTANA: Bargain or bust?

For the cost of $137.5 million, Santana never pitched in a playoff game for the Mets and each winter his health was in issue. However, it is unfair to label him a bust, because unlike Bay, he produced when healthy. And, unlike Perez, there was never an issue of his effort or competitive nature.

Never was that in doubt. Not after pitching Game 161 in 2008 on an injured knee. There can be no question of his dedication in spending nearly two years rehabilitating his shoulder. There can be no question of his grit as he showed the night he threw 134 pitches in the only no-hitter in franchise history.

Getting a pitcher of Santana’s caliber was a no-brainer because with how the 2007 season ended for the Mets, blowing a seven-game lead with 17 remaining, pitching was a necessity.

However, a case can be made they overpaid, perhaps in prospects and definitely in terms of money.

At the time, the Yankees and Red Sox were engaged in a game of chicken with Minnesota for Santana’s services. Both deemed the Twins’ asking price too high and backed off to let the Mets swoop in.

However, the Mets didn’t read the market correctly. Although there was no competition for Santana, they still surrendered prospects Deolis GuerraCarlos Gomez, Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey.

Humber pitched a perfect game and Gomez – once one of the Mets’ three prized outfield prospects – is still in the major leagues.

Whether the Mets gave up too much in talent is up for debate, but the money was clearly too much. It wasn’t as if they were in a bidding war with anybody, so that makes $137.5 million exorbitant, especially since Santana had a history of arm injuries with the Twins.

On those nights when Santana was at the top of his game, he was a joy to watch. The initial shoulder injury was just the nature of the sport. However, this last spring was a study in frustration. There was the snit over Sandy Alderson’s comments that prompted Santana to throw off the mound when he wasn’t ready.

Did Santana re-tear his shoulder that day? Nobody knows for sure, but it didn’t help.

With hindsight being 20/20, maybe the Mets should have let Santana pitch in the World Baseball Classic. At least, that way his contract would have been insured.

In the end, Santana pitched only one complete season with the Mets, and they only had one winning year with him.

All for the paltry sum of $137.5 million. Not exactly hitting the jackpot.

Mar 28

Santana Hurts Shoulder; Career Could Be Over

The bleak news concerning Johan Santana turned black this afternoon when the Mets announced the veteran left-hander would likely miss the season and could see the end of his career after a probable re-tear of the anterior capsule in his pitching shoulder.

Santana was attempting a comeback following surgery, Sept. 2, 2010, but hasn’t responded following nearly two years of rehabilitation. After throwing off the mound without the Mets’ knowledge, March 3, the 34-year-old was shut down with weakness in his shoulder.

SANTANA: Will we see this pose again?

SANTANA: Will we see this pose again?

Santana returned to New York where he was given a MRI, and team physician Dr. David Altchek at the Hospital of Special Surgery determined the diagnosis.

“A second surgery is a strong possibility,’’ general manager Sandy Alderson said in a conference call.

If so, it might mean close to another two years of rehabilitation, which would undoubtedly end his career.

Santana is in the final guaranteed season of a six-year, $137.5 million contract . He will make $25.5 million in salary with a $5.5 million buyout.

Alderson said the Mets prepared their rotation with the idea the two-time Cy Young Award winner and four-time All-Star would go on the disabled list. Jeremy Hefner will take his spot in the rotation. Alderson said the Mets don’t have plans to promote highly-touted prospect Zack Wheeler.

Wheeler, who is slated to begin the season at Triple-A Las Vegas, expressed his sympathy on his Twitter account: “Sad to hear about Johan. Got to know him this spring. Awesome awesome guy. Stinks to see it happen to him. Nothing but the best on recovery.”

There is no timetable for Wheeler’s promotion, but the Mets don’t figure to bring him up until mid-June, thereby extending his free-agent and Super Two status.

Santana signed with the Mets during the winter of 2007, which followed a season in which the team blew a seven-game lead with 17 games remaining, citing a lack of strong starting pitching.

The Yankees and Red Sox were after him, but both deemed Minnesota’s asking price too high, so the Twins turned to the Mets. At the time, former Mets general manager Omar Minaya said “Santana fell back to us,’’ in explaining the acquisition of a franchise pitcher for prospects Deolis Guerra, Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey.

Santana started 34 games for the Mets in 2008, his only full season with the franchise. Every other year was cut short by injury or ended with surgery.

After rehabbing during the winters of 2010 and 2011, Santana returned to the majors last year with initial success, including a 134-pitch no-hitter. There was speculation that high pitch count contributed to his shoulder weakness and later that summer he lost a career-high six games before going on the disabled list in August.

The Mets never conceded the high pitch count was a contributing factor, but instead attributed it to his rigorous rehab work, and a sprained ankle and lower-back injury that ended his season.

The Mets knew Santana was to lighten his off-season routine last winter, but Alderson said the pitcher wasn’t in top shape when he reported to spring training. That prompted an angry Santana to throw off the mound despite Alderson saying he was at least ten days away.

“Johan has had an exceptional career,’’ Alderson said of the pitcher with a career 139-78 record and 3.20 ERA. “We all hope that career will continue.’’

That’s unlikely now.