Over at ESPNNewYork, Ian O’Connor has an interesting article about whether Johan Santana regrets accepting a trade to and signing an extension with the New York Mets. Considering how dismally the Mets’ last two seasons ended, and how uncertain their near-term future now seems, I think that’s a very fair question. What I don’t get in O’Connor’s column, however, is his repeated reference to Santana’s insisting on an additional $5mn above the Mets’ initial offer before compromising on a bump of $2.5mn. O’Connor uses this as a reoccurring theme in the piece, but in doing so seems to suggest that Santana sold his soul for this less than princely (in baseball terms) sum. For example, O’Connor writes:
If he could give back that $2.5 million today, Johan Santana would surely cash out of Queens.
To cash out of Queens, however, Santana would have to give back $137.5mn, not $2.5mn. I am sure Santana would have much preferred being dealt to the Yankees, or even the Red Sox, but the only option presented to him was the Mets. I guess he could have essentially vetoed all deals by refusing to sign an extension, but then he’d have been taking a $100mn gamble on his health. Who knows…on the open market, maybe he would have commanded an even better contract with a more preferable team. Then again, maybe the Yankees would have still opted for C.C. Sabathia, leaving Santana without the leverage he needed to get a better deal? Or, even worse, he could have sustained an injury that would have scuttled any chance at a megadeal. For that reason, I don’t think Santana is experiencing much regret (although he may regret what has become of the Mets).
Another interesting angle to this story is where would the Yankees be had they made the Santana deal? Would they be the ones regretting the decision? The obvious comparison to make is Santana versus Sabathia. Both are essentially making the same amount of money, so the question becomes who is the better long-term value. With Santana coming off a significant surgery, I think it’s safe to say that Sabathia looks like the better bet over the long haul. So, in that respect, the Yankees seem to have made a wise decision.
Beyond the principals in the equation, you also have to consider the relative costs. Sabathia only cost money, but according to most reports at the time, Santana would have also cost a package like Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Melky Cabrera. Hughes is the fifth man in the Yankee rotation, while Kennedy and Cabrera were used as key components in deals to get Curtis Granderson and Javier Vazquez, respectively. All three of those players are expected to play a significant role in 2010, and perhaps for years to come.
To be fair, you also have to consider missing the playoffs in 2008 as a “cost” of not trading for Santana. Had he been healthy, Santana would have likely pitched the Yankees into the playoffs, and then possibly to their 27th championship one season earlier. Still, when all things are considered to date, I think it’s easy to say that GM Brian Cashman has no regrets about the course he charted. Does Santana? Perhaps, but then again, they are likely too few to mention.