Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Johan, Johan and the Mets (a-la Elton John)

The situation between the Mets and their former ace Johan Santana seems to be getting testier by the day. Santana was irked about the way that Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson described him as not being in "pitching shape". In response, Santana took to the mound to show that he could throw. Today it is being reported that Santana would probably not be ready for the season opener and that he will be starting the season on the disabled list. Somehow I get the impression that a few things will be said and/or done before things come to a head. If the relationship between Santana and upper management continues to deteriorate then there is only one suitable resolution: TRADING JOHAN SANTANA.

Full disclosure here folks. I started writing this blog post on the train last night while headed to work not fully realizing what the details of Johan Santana's 6-year $137.5 million dollar contract was. He technically isn't a free agent after this season. Contractually he will an unrestricted free agent after the 2014 season. There is a mutual option on his contract for the 2014 season. According to Spotrac here are the details of the option:

- The party holding the 2014 option must exercise it by Nov. 15, 2013
- If 2014 option is Santana's and he declines it, he receives no buyout.
- Full no-trade clause
- 2014 option includes a $5.5 million buyout
- 2014 club option becomes player option if Santana:
Wins Cy Young award from 2008-13 and finishes second or third in the Cy Young vote in one other season
Ranks second or third in Cy Young vote in any 3 seasons, 2008-13
Is on the active roster for the final 30 days of 2013 season, and:
Pitches 215 innings in 2013, or Pitches 420 innings in 2012-13, or Pitches 630 innings in 2011-13

So given these details and Santana's recent rash of injuries, it looks like the Mets will hold the option. In order to gain his option Santana would have to win the Cy Young this season and he already finished third in the voting during the 2008 season. In terms of his innings pitched threshold he is not coming close to making them. His best chance is to pitch 215 innings this season. He missed the 2011 season so the 630 innings pitched threshold is gone. Since Santana only pitched in 117 innings last season, there is no way he pitches 303 or more innings this season. So it would be safe to say that the Mets will indeed hold the option for Santana at the buyout rate of $5.5 million. Going back to my earlier point, if Johan is healthy and pitching well near the trade deadline, the Mets should just trade him.

I know, some of you out there are aghast that I would dare to say trade the only Met pitcher to throw a no hitter in franchise history.  These must be the same people who were adamant about not trading Jose Reyes in his contract year (what did that get you). As with Reyes, Santana is in his contract year and to be quite honest, a change of scenery might do him well. Also keep in mind that Hall of Famer Tom Seaver was traded by the Mets (and he was and so will say still is THE all-time franchise player) so anyone in this organization can be traded. Now trading Santana at this point of his career won't yield a bonanza of players and/or prospects (as the Mets may have gotten in a trade of Reyes) but why not take advantage of the chance that Johan is possibly healthy by the deadline and you can get something back in return. Doing so would also open up a spot for a young arm to get valuable experience pitching at the Major League level and free up salary money in the process.

My friend Sean B. believes that Santana is no better than a number three starter at this point in his career and on the Mets he would be a solid two. I can't say that I disagree with him.  Sean says that by season's end the Mets' starting five-man rotation made up of Dillon Gee,  Jon Niese, Mike Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Jennry Mejia. If not Mejia then Jeurys Familia would be in the five hole. This is not even including Shawn Marcum into the mix. Obviously there are other questions involved with that proposed rotation. One is whether or not Mejia will be healthy to be part of the rotation. Another is whether or not Wheeler will make the roster during the season let along Spring Training.

Be that as it may, I believe the Mets would be better suited trading Santana to a team that might be in the thick of a pennant race such as Baltimore, Oakland, Los Angeles (either one), Detroit or even Pittsburgh. Santana has a full no-trade clause that he would have to waive. Let me put it this way, if you had the chance to be traded from a rebuilding franchise to play for a contender with a chance to show you can still pitch at a higher level during an option year, would you really give that up? In my opinion, if Santana was faced with that option he'd be a fool to let it pass by. The Mets' future doesn't include an almost 34 year old pitcher who can't seem to stay healthy.

So if you were Sandy Alderson with a healthy Johan Santana do you keep him and risk losing him to free agency? Or Do you trade him for something more than just a compensation pick? Let me know what you think.

Sisco Kid

- Click Here to Access Johan Santana's career statistics from Baseball Reference.com
- Click Here to look at the details of Johan Santana's 6-year $137.5 million dollar contract with the Mets from Spotrac.com