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Tuesday, January 29, 2008
  Johan Santana is going to be a New York Met

This hasn't been an easy offseason to be a New York Mets fan. For months it seemed the Mets would either do nothing significant to improve the 2008 squad or they'd sacrifice the farm system for the sake of a short-term splash. The Milledge trade made it appear that they'd much prefer the latter approach. I never would have figured they'd pull off what they did today. The Mets have acquired Johan Santana in exchange for Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra. Wow.

If the Mets are going to trade prospects for veterans, this is the kind of deal to make. None of the four players given up was likely to make a significant contribution in 2008. None of them is an elite prospect. And the player the Mets got back will make a serious difference for years to come.

Gomez is the closest to a sure thing among the players the Mets gave up and even he is not that close. His offensive potential is still mostly wrapped up in his tools and his youth rather than his actual performance. He already appears to be quite a defensive player and he may hit enough to be a very valuable player in center field someday. But given that the Mets don't have much need for a center fielder in the next few years, Gomez is more valuable to the Twins.

The three pitchers don't seem likely to make the Mets regret this deal in the coming years. Only Humber has thrown more than six innings above AA and none of them have put up the sort of numbers that portend future dominance. Guerra is only eighteen and he's pitched well in A-ball, so there's a lot of room to dream. But realistically, if two of these guys turn into solid middle of the rotation starters, things will have gone well for the Twins.

This trade does empty out the Mets' cupboard a bit. After 2008, they will have some holes to fill and it would be nice to have some cheap, talented youngsters to plug in or use in trades. This trade leaves them more dependent than ever on the free agent market. But at least they did hold onto top prospect Fernando Martinez. I'm sure we'll still be hearing his name in trade rumors for a couple of years, but I am very glad he'll still be in the organization at the end of this offseason.

Of course, none of this addresses the fact that Johan Santana is about to join the New York Mets rotation. You can pretty much close your eyes and point to a spot on Santana's career stat sheet and expect to land on something that will amaze you. His career strikeout ratio of 9.497 per nine innings is fifth best all time, right between Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan. He's pitched at least 219 innings each of the last four seasons. He's never allowed more than 54 walks in a season. He's only twenty-eight!

The idea of Johan Santana pitching to National League lineups in Shea Stadium the day before (or after) Pedro Martinez is enough to make one weak in the knees. The Mets' bullpen could still use some tweaking. Carlos Delgado might not bounce back. They don't have a great backup plan for the weeks Moises Alou will spend on the disabled list. But with a rotation featuring Santana, Martinez, John Maine and Oliver Perez, the Mets should find their way back to the top of the NL East in 2008.
Disseminating descriptions and accounts of New York Mets games without the expressed written consent of Major League Baseball or the New York Mets since 2003.

Location: Hatboro, Pennsylvania, United States
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