Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
What a difference one player can make.
Over the weekend if you would have asked me to grade the New York Mets and general manager Omar Minaya on their offseason and gauge their chances for the upcoming campaign, I would have given them a D at best and said they were still a ways behind the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League East.
In fact, I thought they actually made themselves worse this offseason.
But, fast forward to Tuesday and the news that the Mets agreed to acquire two- time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana from the Minnesota Twins, pending a contract extension and physical, and now, according to most, the boys from Flushing are not only the team to beat in their division, but could very well be the toast of the National League.
I still think the Mets have some problems, but you can't deny Santana definitely puts the Mets back into the discussion. I am still not sold on John Maine and Oliver Perez. I will tell you what, though, I like them a lot more as the third and fourth options than I do as the second and third. And the list of teams with a better No. 5 starter than the ageless Orlando Hernandez is not very long.
Now, if the Mets can find a right-handed bat, preferably one that plays right field, they may have something here.
What is so amazing is that the Mets acquired, maybe, the best pitcher in the game for what amounts to be a bag of balls. I don't need you Baseball America geeks telling me what great prospects these guys are either. Peter Gammons said that not one of the players the Twins received would make the top 10 prospects list of either the Yankees or Red Sox.
Johan Santana is coming off his worst season.
That might be a little overstated, but you get the point.
I saw Carlos Gomez play last year. He has been compared to Roger Cedeno, but is better defensively. He lacks plate discipline and might not fit in the top half of the lineup. That is not saying much and he was the centerpiece of the package. Phillip Humber hasn't been the same since Tommy John surgery and the other two pitchers are still years away from ever seeing big league action and a lot can go wrong in that time.
The Twins have some of the best talent evaluators in baseball working for them, so I guess I have to give them the benefit of the doubt. Remember, this is the same group that fleeced San Francisco out of not only Francisco Liriano and Joe Nathan, but starter Boof Bonser as well, for catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
At first glance at this deal, though, it looks as if neophyte general manager Bill Smith got hosed. I don't care how good these guys are going to be. There is no way this package is better than one headed by Phil Hughes or Jacoby Ellsbury. How the Mets pulled this off, or how Smith could allow a deal to go through without Minaya sending his top prospect, outfielder Fernando Martinez, back in return is beyond me.
Heck, I am not even sure I would have traded Ervin Santana for the package that was accepted. Look at the ransom Oakland's Billy Beane received from Arizona for Dan Haren. Smith has some explaining to do.
Ultimately, and to Smith's dismay, the Yankees and Red Sox came to their senses and realized it wasn't worth mortgaging their futures in addition to shelling out another $130 million or so for one player. But, they would have done it in December in Nashville at the Winter Meetings when they were seemingly upping their offers by the hour to outdo one another.
That is when Smith should have struck. Instead, he waited and was forced to take a lesser deal. The Yankees, Red Sox and, of course, the Mets are all winners here. The only losers in this are the Twins and their fans.
Now the Mets have to sign him. Santana may have the most leverage ever as it pertains to a new contract. Whatever he wants he is going to get. Six, seven years, $25 million-per. If that is what he wants he is going to get it.
Can you imagine the public relations nightmare this would be for the Mets if they can't work out an extension? I know Mets fans that are already cementing his place in team history, slotting him in somewhere between Tom Seaver and a young Dwight Gooden. He is as good as there is as far as those fans are concerned. They can't take him away now. Especially over something like money.
And why shouldn't Mets fans be excited. Santana's resume speaks for itself. Since becoming a full-time starter four years ago, Santana has been incredible, winning 70 games for Minnesota in that time, while pitching to a splendid 2.89 earned run average with 983 strikeouts.
In 2006, Santana won the second of his Cy Young Awards and became the first American League pitcher in seven seasons to win pitching's Triple Crown, leading the league in wins (19), ERA (2.77) and strikeouts (245).
Santana also won the award in 2004, going 20-6 and leading the league with a 2.61 ERA and a career-best 265 strikeouts.
I guess if you are looking for a downside to the deal for the Mets it would be the fact that statistically Santana is coming off his worst season since entering the rotation. He ended the year 15-13 with a 3.33 earned run average, but was just 5-7 with a 4.04 ERA after the break, allowing 88 hits (16 of which were home runs) over 98 innings.
Either way, I am just glad we are talking about actual baseball news and not steroids.
SUPER BOWL PREDICTION
Well, I guess I have to give an obligatory Super Bowl prediction here. As a lifelong fan of the New York Jets, a Giants-Patriots Super Bowl is by far and way the last thing I wanted to see.
There is no way in God's green earth that I will be rooting for Bill Belichick to not only win a Super Bowl, but complete an undefeated season. The only problem is that I just don't think the Giants can win. I can't imagine Eli Manning beating a Belichick defense in the Super Bowl. New England's offensive line will keep Brady upright and that will be the difference.
I am going 37-12 Pats, with Randy Moss winning the MVP.
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