I’m not sure if they can even be called rumors anymore. Multiple sources, since early December, have reported talks between the Twins and the Yankees, and the Red Sox, and the Mets, and the Dodgers, and even a little with the Angels and Mariners. It seems now, as we’re less than 6 weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting, that talks have narrowed to the teams that can legitimately afford Johan Santana, and those would be New York (Yankees) and Boston. Basically, I’ll run through an outline of which names are being thrown around in the various scenarios. At the end, I’ll briefly explain which trade I think would be the best trade possible.

To help me with different notations, I’ll use these symbols: a * by a player’s name means they could be involved but might not be involved. A # sign means the player was asked about by the Twins but have been deemed untradeable (is that even a word?) by their current clubs. If a trade involves a player with a # symbol, the player listed AFTER the player with the # symbol is the person substituted by their club for the player we want. For instance, with the Yankees, we want Ian Kennedy but they will give us Alan Horne instead, as you’ll see coming up.

Alright, let’s get started. First scenario:

1. Santana to the Yankees for Phil Hughes (SP-ML), Melky Cabrera (CF-ML), #Ian Kennedy (SP-ML), Alan Horne (SP-AA). This was one of the original propositions, but it’s since changed. On December 26th there was a report saying the Twins have backed off their demand of Kennedy, who moved from High A to the Majors last year (similar to what Matt Garza did for the Twins) and will instead take pitcher Jeff Marquez, a solid prospect. The new deal would not include Horne, but the Yankees are still slow to accept because of Hughes being sent away and the ridiculous contract Santana is sure to get. The Yankees seem like the best candidate, just because of their willingness to shell out huge contracts to players entering or at the end of their prime.

2a. Santana to the Red Sox for Jon Lester (SP-ML), Jed Lowrie (SS-AAA), Justin Masterson (SP-AA), and Coco Crisp (CF-ML). Notice this is number 2a. You’ll see 2b. following this. I don’t like this deal at all, simply because of his numbers thus far. Last year in AAA he made 14 starts and posted a 3.89 ERA; certainly a decent one in days of sluggers and steroids, but the main piece for the best pitcher in baseball? No thanks. The upside with Lester is that he’s beaten cancer (toughness) and has made 26 starts at the ML level at age 23. Lowrie is a slick-fielding, ML-ready shortstop with great minor league numbers. Last year in just 40 games (160 ABs) in AAA he had 5 HR, 21 RBI and 21 runs scored, a hitting line of .300/.356/.506/.862 to go along with his .297/.410/.501/.911 line in 93 games last year in AA. With the team signing Adam Everett, though, it seems they’d look to trade Everett or keep him for a year while Lowrie plays it out in AAA. Masterson really isn’t anything special. Although he had outstanding numbers as a reliever in 2006, he’s started 27 games and an ERA hovering around 4.34. The last peice is CF Coco Crisp, whom the Twins are not all that interested in. I showed his stats in an earlier post, and they really aren’t all that fantastic. Which brings me to 2b.

2b. The same package as above, except without Lester and Crisp we’d have Jacoby Ellsbury (CF-ML). Ellsbury is basically a sparkplug at the top of any lineup, someone who will get on base, steal bases, and score a boatload of runs. The Twins are very high on him, moreso I think than Lester, and that’s why nothing’s been done; the Twins want a package including both of them, the Sox are willing to trade just one of them.

2c. This really isn’t big, but I thought I’d throw it out there anyway. The Twins at one point asked for Ellsbury AND Clay Buchholz, who, as a rookie last year, threw a no hitter for the Sox. Boston basically scoffed at that trade.

3. Santana to the Mets for (the Twins asked for both OFers, however the Mets are only offering one of them) Carlos Gomez (AAA-OF) and Fernando Martinez (AA-CF), and numerous pitching prospects as well. It’s logical for the Twins to want these guys, as both can play center. Gomez is a Speedy Gonzalez on the basepaths while Martinez is only 18 years old and is already at AA. Gomez could use work on drawing more walks, but so could Delmon Young so not everyone is perfect. I don’t see this deal going down because of the Mets’ unwillingness to part with both OF prospects.

4. Nothing has really gained steam on the Mariners front, but they seem to be a valid trade partner. Not only do I think Santana would waive his no-trade clause to go there because they just signed Carlos Silva, I think we’d get the best package in return. Adam Jones (CF-AAA), Jeff Clement (C-AAA), #Brandon Morrow (P-ML), Yung Chen (2B-AAA). As a 21-year old in AAA last year, Adam Jones hit 25 homers. He might need a half season there again before he’s ready for the Majors, but as a Twin he would compete for the starting job during Spring Training. Clement, a C/DH type, is blocked by Kenji Johjima on the Seattle squad. Not that he wouldn’t be blocked by Joe Mauer here on the Twins, but a catcher who hit 20 HR in AAA is too hard of a prospect to pass up. Morrow did a decent job in relief last year at the ML level and is expected to move into the rotation this year. The Mariners think highly of him and really want to keep him, so he might be the thing holding a deal up. Chen, who missed most of last season with a labrum injury, has hit well at every level and would be a solid prospect to add. I like this deal just because of Jones’ minor league history, and young age, and Clement’s ability as an above average prospect to trade. A downfall is Jones’ limited time at the ML level, while Ellsbury has pretty much proven he can play with the big boys.

There you have it, quite possibly the longest post I’ve ever made, all revolving around my favorite pitcher. The chances of Johan being resigned are slim to none. We offered him $20 million a year but it was only for 4 years, and he’s looking for 6 or 7. GM Bill Smith can’t give in. It’s plain foolish to lock up a pitcher for that kind of money over that period of time. If Johan gets hurt in the second year of that deal and never pitches again, he’s still owed that money. How would the team look then? It seems to me the most likely scenario is that Johan pitches for us in the first half next season and we trade him to somebody really looking for a boost to get into the playoffs. I’d rather see us trade him at the deadline and get valuable prospects/proven players we can use versus watching him walk into free agency at the end of the year and we get 1 draft pick for him.