Sunday, December 2, 2007

Johan talk heating up

Even in December, baseball is always a hot topic for New York natives. Recently, it was announced that the Yankees would perhaps be willing to part with future ace Phil Hughes if that was what it took to make a deal for Johan Santana. Is this deal worth it for the Yankees? Pat (playing, to some degree, the devil’s advocate) says yes, while Andrew says no.

Andrew: This trade reminds me of something that the 2002-2006 Yankees would do. They have a good, young team with a lot of potential and a pitching staff filled with talented young starters. There is certainly not a hole in the rotation. Also, their outfield defense should be stellar as Melky and Abreu have above average arms in center and right. By trading for Santana, they would be going after the big name available at whatever cost instead of making the moves necessary to build a complete and winning ball team.

Pat: See, that's where I think you're overreacting. The flaw, at least last year and in the years past, has been a lack of an established, dominant ace (to go along with a poor bullpen). This team can keep a lot of that youth that you are right in saying is very promising, while trading away just two of them for the best pitcher of this decade. When you have the chance to grab Santana, you're going to have to give up something. Melky has probably somewhat reached his ceiling as a .290 hitter with a little pop and a good outfielder. Hughes has a lot of potential. But, in getting Santana, you're getting a lefty that's established himself as one of the most dominant arms in the league. And unlike Carl Pavano, he's pitched in the AL. There's might not be a hole in the rotation, but there are some serious question marks. Three of the five starters, Kennedy, Joba and Hughes, have started a combined 16 games at the big league level. Shoring this up with an established ace that will not only be valuable in the regular season but indispensable in the postseason, is more important than outfield defense

Andrew: Another thing to keep in mind, though, is that if the Yankees trade for Santana they will also be signing him to a contract extension for an amount of money seen only by A-Rod. He will probably make over $20 million a year for at least seven years. That is a lot of money to tie up in any pitcher, and it is a huge risk. You bring up Carl Pavano, and while Pavano is not anywhere near the pitcher Santana is, what happened to him and many other talented pitchers should serve as a warning. Pitchers are the most injury prone players in baseball, and no matter how dominant or mediocre a pitcher is there is always the risk that his career will be derailed by injuries. I am not saying that investing all that money in Santana isn't worth it. It is a gamble, but one that will probably pay off, as Santana is the best pitcher in baseball and should be for the next five years. I think it will be worth it for the Yankees to make that gamble next off-season if Santana is a free agent. I just don't think it is worth giving up Hughes and Melky in order to make that gamble.

Pat: Yea...but then using that logic, you'd never sign pitchers (at least to long contracts). Pitchers are a risk. So is any player that you sign to a long deal. There is an inherent risk. But, I do agree, this is your good point, is it worth it for the Yankees to make the trade now instead of waiting till the off-season? This is where it gets more cloudy. This is why getting Santana now is the right move: You get him for another year, and with the Yankee team having some key pieces getting older and older, this next year could be the year to make a move in the postseason. Johan would help that push significantly. Also, you get him now, without other factors coming into play. Leave him alone for free agency, and many other teams can make lucrative offers to him. A huge bidding war could ensue or he could simply get a better offer from another team. Instead, the Yanks could grab him now and avoid all of that chaos.

Andrew: You said earlier that the reason that the Yankees have been going home early in recent years is their starting pitching, and that couldn't be more true. They simply haven't had guys coming out of the minors and contributing, and the guys that they were trading for and signing weren't getting it done. I think for Yankee fans, however, this is the year we have been waiting for. The Yankees finally have a good, young rotation that should not be overmatched come playoff time. Hughes, Kennedy and Joba have all succeeded in every level, including the majors (ok, so they didn't pitch enough games in the Bronx to know how good they'll be, but it does look promising). And out of the three, Hughes is probably the closest to a sure thing. I mean, we've been hearing about him for what seems like years. I think it would be worth it to at least give these three pitchers a year together to see what they can do. Also, you bring up that if the Yankees wait until the off-season, they will be involved in a bidding war. That is the Yankees strength and I think that it is a situation that they are very comfortable in. I don't expect them to lose a bidding war to anyone.

Pat: But like I said, Hughes has 13 starts, Kennedy has 3, and Joba has none. This is a big question mark. So you can understand why the front office is searching for some starting pitching. And you’re right, it does look promising, but many see Joba as just as big a prospect as Hughes, so you're giving up just one piece. You're giving up Hughes, who has the chance to be very good, for Johan Santana, who has proved he is outstanding. And he's still in his prime, unlike the Yankee’s signings of Roger Clemens (this past year) and Randy Johnson. Also, I wouldn't say that I expect them to win bidding wars, but yes, they are good at them. The problem is, it could open the door for many more teams which may be more attractive to Santana, or be able to offer him a better deal (more years, etc.). I personally think that this is tough. It would be nice to keep Hughes and Melky and just shell out a few more million for Santana. The negatives though, are missing him for this season, and also the risk of losing him to another team.

Andrew: But the negatives to trading him are losing a 22 year old potential ace who looked like he really hit his stride in September and October. This is a guy who almost pitched a no hitter in his second major league game! Another negative is losing Melky. I know it doesn't seem like a huge deal, as Melky is never going to be an All-Star, but the defense would suffer greatly with Matsui, with his bad knee and weak arm in left and Damon, also with a weak arm, in center. I think one of the biggest improvements this past year over recent years was that the Yankees actually threw guys out on the base paths. I'd hate to see them revert back to their previous form. Overall, while Santana is a great player and I would love the Yanks to get him, the cost of doing so and the risks are just too great.

Pat: I see you're thinking about the negatives, but I think you're just looking too hard for drawbacks. A downgrade in outfield defense is not as important as obtaining the best pitcher of this decade, who also, may I mention, is a lefty (which the Yankees lack if Andy Pettitte retires, which looks probable). Lefties are important at Yankee Stadium because they pitch hitters towards the larger part of the park (left center). Also, they of course match up better with lefty hitters. Matsui also is better than you're giving him credit for, he tracks down a lot of balls and has a very quick release. That being said, the defense will suffer as Melky has a cannon in center. But there are going to be drawbacks with any trade. And outfield defense, to me, is greatly outweighed by adding an established lefty ace to an inexperienced starting rotation. We've seen how important pitching is in past few postseasons. I hate to use Boston as an example, but look how they parted with two of their big prospects, Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez, in a trade for Josh Beckett. Those were two huge prospects, but Beckett has become the top of the rotation guy the Red Sox had been looking for since Pedro left. He's been dominant and was the key piece in their last World Series run. The risks are there, but they always are accepted as part of trades and free agency. In a perfect world, the Yankees would win this year without Johan, grab him in the off-season and keep Melky and Hughes. But the Yankees are paranoid about the Red Sox and Mets grabbing Santana. The last thing they want to see is Johan in Boston. Because of this, the risk of not obtaining him in free agency, and getting him a year sooner, I understand what the Yankees are thinking. I'm not sure they should pull the trigger right now. But if you look at it, if the Yankees were to make a deal, it is not a bad deal at all.

-Pat and Andrew

Anyone out there have an opinion? Leave a comment telling us what you’re thinking.

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Anonymous said...

Do you guys want to revist the debate now that it looks like Petit is coming back?

stevengoo said...

its pettite buddy...

Evan O'Dorney said...

Really buddy? Are you really sure? It's actually P-e-t-t-i-t-t-e, Pettitte. You're welcome.

Cose said...

Guys guys. Peittttettte. OK>? YOUR WELCOME