New York, evidently, needs Johan Santana.
Since the Minnesota Twins made their star pitcher available in a trade, the Yankees’ Hank Steinbrenner made it known that the team is negotiating to put him in pinstripes. Meanwhile, Mets general manager Omar Minaya is fixated on landing Santana to throw the first pitch at CitiField, and resolve a three-year obsession with landing a number-one starter.
The competition for Santana’s services is unlikely to be resolved based on money alone. The team that lands him, whichever it is, will certainly pony up for a contract extension of 6-7 years at $150 million. Instead, the question is: which team can put together the trade package that the Twins will finally bite on?
Here is a guide to the players you will hear about in the coming days (and weeks?) as elements of a possible mega-deal.
For the Yankees
Good Bets to Go
Why he will go: Hughes is a frontline pitching prospect beyond any that the Mets can offer. The Twins could simply slot him into the rotation next season, and with his four strong pitches, he could conceivably replicate Santana’s success, should he stay healthy. He wouldn’t cost the Twins much, as a second-year player, for several years.
Why he won’t go: If the Yankees can put together a deal with any other pitcher as the centerpiece, excluding Joba Chamberlain, they will.
Why he will go: The Twins need a center fielder to replace the departed Torii Hunter, and Melky is the highest-upside, cheapest option the Yankees have. Questions about his long-term potential, with two straight seasons of below-average offensive production, leave him as an unlikely centerpiece. But it is hard to imagine the trade happening without Melky in it, simply because of the alternatives the Yankees can offer.
Why he won’t go: The Yankees won’t want to blow another $60-70 million on a free agent center fielder like Aaron Rowand or Andruw Jones.
Why he will go: If the Yankees need to add a second quality pitcher, Kennedy could be the one. He could be put into a starting rotation right now, though his stuff is merely average, making him more likely to pan out as a number 3-4 than a number 1. The Yankees don’t really have another major league-ready pitcher to throw Minnesota’s way, unless they deal Chamberlain (they don’t want to) or Chien-Ming Wang (Minnesota doesn’t want him).
Why he won’t go: It opens up two spots in the rotation if Hughes and Kennedy are dealt. That either means another year of counting on Mike Mussina, or a free agent contract for Carlos Silva.
Why he will go: Despite his youth (he’s 20) and inexperience (only one season of high-A ball), Jackson represents the closest thing the Yankees have to a ready-to-go top hitting prospect. This is not a knock on Jackson, who tore through the Florida State League, a notorious pitchers’ league. But optimistically, the earliest he is likely to be ready is 2009.
Why he won’t go: Minnesota may prefer another high-end pitcher to Jackson.
Why he will go: If the Yankees are determined to get a deal for Santana done, and especially if the Mets end up as the other serious team in the running, a Joba/Hughes-based deal should put any Minnesota doubts to bed. He is a trump card.
Why he won’t go: Dealing Chamberlain and Hughes puts to rest any idea that the Yankees are looking to build around young pitching. Both the organization and its fans prefer Chamberlain to Hughes. They are both top-flight prospects.
Why he will go: If the bidding goes high enough, the Yankees may need to counter with a star offensive player. Cano is the only one young enough for Minnesota.
Why he won’t go: He’s still too expensive, entering his fourth year.
Why he will go: If Minnesota decides they want a pitcher with a track record, Wang has it.
Why he won’t go: He’s also too expensive, entering his fourth year. He’d also be a poor fit for Minnesota, with a 4.85 ERA for his career on turf.