Sunday, December 02, 2007

Who for Johan?

Now, before I even begin to discuss the wacky idea of giving any pitcher even a five year contract, the question before the Red Sox is how much do you give up to the Twins for Johan Santana? Second, forget about the idea of driving up the price for the Yankees, Johan Santana is a left-handed Pedro from back when Pedro was Pedro (think 1997). So, if we go in assuming that the Red Sox braintrust will sign Santana for 4 years at around $18M to $20M per season, what kind of package is necessary for the Twins?

First, think about it from the hTwins perspective: they have Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau and just traded Matt Garza for Delmon Young. The Twins have pitching up the ying-yang, but they will gladly take Clay Bucholz if you give him to them. What they really need are hitters. They need power hitters, speed guys, gap-power guys, anyone who can hit. The problem for the Red Sox (and even more so for the Yankees) is that their top prospects are pitchers, not hitters. In fact, the Red Sox have an appalling lack of power hitters in their system.

So if the trade is going to be made, it is not going to focus on Lester and Buchholz, but rather on the other players in the deal. Of course, the Red Sox would prefer to trade Coco Crisp rather than Jacoby Ellsbury. The top hitting prospect that has been mentioned in any trade has been Jed Lowrie. Here is what Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus had to say about Lowrie in his most recent Future Shock article on the top Red Sox prospects:

Jed Lowrie, SS
DOB: 4/17/84
Height/Weight: 6-0/180
Bats/Throws: S/R
Draft: 1st round, 2005, Stanford
2007 Stats: .297/.410/.501 at Double-A (93 G);
.300/.356/.506 at Triple-A (40 G)
Year In Review: After a disappointing full-season debut, Lowrie had what can only be defined as a breakout campaign, putting up great numbers at both Double- and Triple-A.
The Good: Lowrie is an on-base machine. His approach is highly advanced, as he works the count well, and recognizes which pitches he can drive into the gap. His makeup is off the charts--he’s a baseball grinder who plays and practices with an infectious all-out style. Defensively, he’s fundamentally sound and features a solid, accurate arm.
The Bad: Scouts’ opinions of Lowrie vary wildly, with some seeing him as an everyday big league shortstop, and others seeing him as no more than a very good utility player. There is little doubt that with Lowrie’s average speed and slow first step that his range is a little short to play on the left side of an infield in the big leagues.
Fun Fact: Lowrie is just one of 21 first-round picks to come out of the Stanford baseball program.
Perfect World Projection: A starting shortstop, though second base is more likely.
Timetable: With Julio Lugo still under contract and Dustin Pedroia establishing himself as one of the better second basemen around, Lowrie has no obvious job with the Red Sox. He’ll return to Triple-A in 2008, and probably won’t achieve a full-time role in the majors until he or Lugo gets moved elsewhere.

Of course, out of the top prospects (non-pitcher) outside of Lowrie, the hitters have all been no higher than single-A. Somehow, I do not see the Twins getting too excited about any package that does not have Ellsbury and Lowrie at the minimum. The pitching preospects are likely not the problem, it is the hitting prospects. And this goes for the Yankees as well. They are stocked with young arms, but lack hitters in the minor leagues. Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano would have to be 1 and 2 in any trade offer from the perpective of the Twins needs.

So, what do I think? Well, maybe Santana goes now, maybe at mid-season, but unless the REd Sox or Yankees cough up some major-league ready hitters, there is no deal for Johan.

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