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January 29, 2008 at 6:50 PM

Santana/Bedard packages

Many of you have written in, asking for my take on today’s trade of Minnesota Twins pitcher Johan Santana to the New York Mets for four players. Specifically, you want to know how it relates to the Mariners’ reported proposal to the Baltimore Orioles for pitcher Erik Bedard.
On the face of it, whether it’s ultimately four or five players being shipped to Baltimore, the M’s have the better package of players on the table. Adam Jones trumps Carlos Gomez as an outfield prospect, while George Sherrill is one of the best situational lefties in the major leagues. The closest thing the Twins received to a major league ready player is former No. 1 draft pick Phil Humber, who’s got a big-time curveball and 3-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio, but may not develop beyond a mid-rotation arm. The other guys? Chris Tillman might be better than the two other bodies the Mets put forth.
So, will the M’s change their proposal to the Orioles? I doubt it.

First of all, the Santana and Bedard deals have little in common. Santana gave the Twins a list of teams he’d play for, specifically, East Coast contenders. Bedard has no such say. That limited the hand the Twins were dealing from once the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees pulled back from offering top prospects. In fact, one could say the Twins drastically overplayed their hand over the past two months since the winter meetings. Even some of the rejected trade scenarios we’ve heard seem better than this one we saw today.
But the Mets appear to be the last team standing. The dance is over and the Twins aren’t in the mood to wait for the next one. They don’t want to enter the season with a pitcher who doesn’t want to be with them.
That’s not the case with the Orioles. They don’t have to trade Erik Bedard right now. But even the four-player package we’ve heard about — Adam Jones, George Sherrill, Chris Tillman and Kam Mickolio or Tony Butler — is better than they may get next July. Mariners GM Bill Bavasi appears to be correct when he stated that his offer trumped all comers. The O’s will be hard-pressed to take his deal.
What does Bavasi do? Not much he can do. He’s already shown a willingness to part with Jones as his centerpiece. If he goes to the O’s now and says Jones is out, they laugh in his face, walk away and take their chances next July.
That’s not in Bavasi’s best interests. If he’s already convinced himself that his off-season plans revolve around Bedard — which he has — then it’s in his interests to give up Jones to get him. None of that has changed. And if we’re going to start debating the merits of the fourth and fifth players being offered up, well, that’s pretty minor stuff. In the end, one team may end up getting slightly better value in this deal over the next two years. But that’s not what this is about. If the M’s are convinced their future is better off in Bedard’s hands, they get him and forget worries about the merits of the fourth best player (so long as it isn’t a top prospect we’re talking about).
When does Bavasi walk away?
If the Orioles come back now and ask for Brandon Morrow or Jeff Clement in return for Jones. Bavasi was inches away from completing this deal while giving up just one premium prospect. Giving up two now would be caving. I won’t lose sleep over a second-tier prospect who’s the fourth or fifth guy in the deal.
Other differences between Santana and Bedard? The Mets will still have to shell out about $130 million for Santana over the next six years. The M’s will be on-the-hook for only about $18-$22 million over two years with Bedard. That savings may make it worth giving up a better package. Remember, it’s not always the best thing to get a pitcher locked-in for five years. Think Barry Zito and the Giants. I’m sure the Dodgers are thrilled they only are on-the-hook for two more years of Jason Schmidt.
I’m not whistling in the dark here. There are no guarantees this deal won’t blow up in Seattle’s face. But they’ve made their play with Jones. It’s a fair package they’ve offered. They felt it was worth giving those players up for two years of Bedard on Sunday. Their needs haven’t changed. No need to impose their own 72-hour deadline on Baltimore (as the Mets did with Santana) to negotiate an extension. They have to see this deal through now, and be prepared to walk away if the O’s try to fool around and up the ante.
So, despite all the Santana headlines, nothing really changed today.



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