King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Johan Santana to the Mets: The rich get richer and the poor ... build for the future? We'll see.


King Kaufman
January 31, 2008 4:00PM (UTC)

So what are we to make of the Johan Santana trade, which as of this writing is still contingent on the New York Mets reaching a deal on a contract extension with the left-handed ace?

The Mets got Santana from the Minnesota Twins for four prospects Tuesday, provided they can get him signed by 5 p.m. EST Friday. Santana, the premier pitcher of the last half-decade, would be a free agent for the first time after this season. The likelihood the Mets won't reach a deal with Santana by the deadline is approximately zero.

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This kind of trade has become familiar to baseball fans, the star or superstar nearing the end of his contract shipped off, usually from a smaller market to a larger one, in exchange for a passel of prospects. A Minneapolis Star-Tribune editorial lamented that Minnesota sports fans are all too familiar with their best players leaving town.

We're all savvy enough these days to recognize that the team giving up the star isn't necessarily a victim. We're hip to the idea that those three or four guys we don't know much about may end up being more valuable than the big guy we do know.

We're not as likely to be fooled as we were as recently as spring training of 2002, when I and many other geniuses criticized the Florida Marlins' salary-dump trade of Antonio Alfonseca and Matt Clement to the Chicago Cubs for a bunch of minor leaguers -- one of whom turned out to be Dontrelle Willis, who helped pitch the Marlins to the World Series title the next year.

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So were we shocked when the Oakland A's were forced by economic circumstances to trade away ace lefty Mark Mulder and ended up getting the better of the deal with Danny Haren, Daric Barton and Kiko Calero? We were not. Will we be surprised if the A's get the better of this winter's similar trade that sent Haren to Arizona for about half of the Diamondbacks' farm system? We will not be.

Not that it always works out that way. The Philadelphia Phillies hardly got fat off the Bobby Abreu trade, for example. Sometimes it is what it looks like, the rich getting richer.

That's what it looks like here. The four players headed west are outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitchers Philip Humber, Deolis Guerra and Kevin Mulvey. Are there any future stars in that bunch, any Francisco Lirianos or even Eric Miltons, who were traded to Minnesota as minor leaguers?

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Find two scouts and you'll get three opinions on that question. Gomez and Guerra have a lot of potential, but it's still mostly potential. Humber's a former prospect who struggled last year, his second since Tommy John surgery. Mulvey spent the year at Double-A and looks like a middling prospect.

The Twins tend to be pretty good at this sort of thing. It's an organization known for scouting and player development. They're not fools up there. So it's wise to give them the benefit of the doubt. But it's worth a raised eyebrow that they traded away the game's best pitcher for prospects and they didn't get the consensus top man in their trading partner's organization, 19-year-old outfielder Fernando Martinez.

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The Mets, who let's not forget pulled a floparino for the ages four months ago, have installed themselves as National League favorites with the Santana trade. The Twins didn't have much leverage because Santana had a no-trade clause and would only go to that small group of teams willing to pony up for a huge extension, which eventually shrunk to the Mets, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

They may have bought themselves a pennant or two as well this week. Probably not, but if Gomez and Guerra are leading them a few Octobers from now, we'll all nod knowingly, we savvy baseball watchers. Sure. We knew.

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Not interested? Oh really? [PERMALINK]

Virtual friend of King Kaufman's Sports Daily Paul Lukas, who writes the Uniwatch column about sports aesthetics for ESPN.com, checked in to comment on my item Wednesday about Super Bowl logos.

I'd written, "I have a feeling this subject interests only me." Lukas' response: "Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha."

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OK, OK. So I worked Lukas' side of the street there, but he was walking down my sidewalk the other day on his blog when he wrote about curling.

There was quite a bit of discussion about the logos in the letters thread too. Who am I kidding? People love this kind of minutia. It's why Lukas' writing is so much fun. I forgot that I'd learned that when I wrote about stirrup socks.

Now, about the font they use for the yard-line markers on NFL fields ...

Previous column: Don Nelson loves Chris Webber

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  • King Kaufman

    King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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