So, I’ve been ignoring this topic for the last couple of weeks, but now that Geoff Baker has gone and written an article about it (by the way, welcome back Geoff), I guess we’ll address the Johan Santana situation.
It isn’t often that the best pitcher in baseball becomes available for trade. Johan is, without a doubt, in the middle of a Hall of Fame type career. Whether he has the durability to one day end up in Cooperstown is another story, but his peak is certainly induction worthy. He’s a truly great player. He isn’t Barry Zito – he actually is a good pitcher, worthy of a ridiculous amount of money and the acclaim being thrown his way.
So, if you’re the Mariners, you need starting pitching, and the best of the best is available – being interested is pretty obvious, yes?
Yes and no.
The Mariners absolutely should be interested in Johan Santana, and I’m glad Bavasi’s making calls and figuring out what it would take to get involved in the sweepstakes. It’d be irresponsible for the Mariners to not be at least somewhat involved in conversations about Johan Santana.
But should they be willing to compete with Boston, New York, and potentially others in a bidding war? I say no.
Johan Santana, for as great as he is, has to be projected as something like a 5 to 7 win addition to his new team (not accounting for the wins surrendered by giving up major league talent to acquire him). He’s an incredible pitcher, but the irrational exuberance surrounding the “Get Johan Santana, pair him with Felix Hernandez, win World Series!” type of analysis is just not realistic.
Look at the 2006 Twins – they had peak Johan, Francisco Liriano putting up a performance that we can’t even expect Felix to match, quality back-end starters in Brad Radke and Boof Bonser, the best bullpen in baseball, a legitimate MVP candidate in Joe Mauer, a non-legitimate MVP candidate who won anyway in Justin Morneau, solid role players in Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, and Jason Bartlett, and useful years out of spare parts like Nick Punto, Luis Castillo, and Mike Redmond.
That team had a +120 run differential, won 96 games (squeeking out a division title by one game), and got swept out of the playoffs in the first round. And that roster ran circles around what the 2008 Mariners with Johan Santana would look like.
Johan Santana is a great player. He is not a panacea for all the ills that the Mariners are suffering from. This team is just not one pitcher away from greatness, so their situation is inherently different from that of New York, Boston, the Angels, or other teams that legitimately could claim that Santana is their missing piece.
The cost to the Mariners future – certainly the package would require Adam Jones, Brandon Morrow, and likely two additional players of significant value – is simply too high, considering their current situation. The cost benefit analysis just doesn’t work for the Mariners right now.
It’d be great if it did. Perhaps if the Mariners hadn’t screwed the pooch last winter, building an inflexible roster with three DHs, they’d be in a situation where giving up some future value to make a run at winning it all would make some sense. But for this organization, for this team, it just doesn’t. Not right now.