Monday, November 15, 2010

A Different Johan Santana Angle

This post started with me looking back at the critical treatment that I believe DV gave the Rivera and Posada deals when they were signed. It's a fun thing to do from time to time, looking back at some of the stuff written here (both in the posts and in the comments) and how incredibly spot on and how incredibly off a lot of it was. Some if it is downright hysterical how wrong it was looking back, but at the time it seemed right, which is the point of this post.

Anyway, I'm looking through these posts and the comments from around the time in 2007 that Rivera and Posada signed. If you remember, this was a period where DV was just crushing long-term deals for guys in their mid-30's or above (really starting with Johnny Damon as far as the Yankees were concerned). I couldn't find any, and I actually found one comment where he defended the Posada deal, but I know this occurred. Just so I don't pass up an opportunity to bust his chops - he has a big race this weekend, maybe it will fire him up - I want to point out that Rivera had arguably the best 3 year stretch of his career over this last contract (1.64 ERA, 0.797 WHIP, 5.8 H/9, 8.9 K/9, 6.69 K/BB, 271 ERA+ average over those three years - are these even real numbers?). Posada missed a substantial portion of 2008 due to injury (point for DV) but has come back and averaged 20 homers and 69 RBI the last two seasons (points for PF), which by the way happens to be one more RBI than J.D. Drew has ever had in a single season for the Red Sox. And these two were central to the Yankees winning another World Series. I'm just saying. All contracts for aging players are not bad. I digress.

Back to the point of this post, in my failed effort to find some of DV's comments, I stumbled upon some Johan Santana/Yankees/Red Sox posts from the same time. The Yankees' angle gets talked about all the time. I'm sure we've all heard it. The Yankees would have traded Hughes, and might not have gotten C.C., ending up with Johan Santana and no C.C. or Hughes. I'm not making light of this angle. As I've said before I think this is one of the most significant moves/non-moves the Yankees have made the last few years. It was massive, and probably played a big part in them winning the 2009 World Series. All I'm saying is that this gets talked about a lot.

What doesn't get talked about as much is the Red Sox non-move. Reportedly, the Red Sox initially had Jon Lester in the package. And this was deemed by most to not be enough. The Red Sox were legitimately concerned about including Jacoby Ellsbury, and by some reports ultimately were willing to part with one of Lester or Ellsbury but not both. This all sounds ridiculous now, but of course at the time it made some sense.

The Red Sox could have dealt Ellsbury for Santana and despite Santana's salary would still probably be at a net gain. But can you imagine if they had made that deal and included Jon Lester? Lester is the best player on that team, and outside of Youkilis nobody else is even close. When you consider he's made just over $5 million the last three years, while Santana has made approximately $58 million, and that the two have been comparable despite one pitching in the AL East and the other in the NL East, this could have been an organization-changing move. Really, really bad for the Red Sox.

Of course, Lester broke out the year right after this non-move. The Red Sox obviously thought very highly of him for a long time, but the fact that they were potentially willing to include him in this deal goes to show how hard it is to predict when and how good even the guys you think are going to be good are going to become. He basically became Santana a few months after they considered trading him for Santana, only just under five years younger and at an extreme fraction of the cost. There was no way to predict this happening, at least that soon. For the Red Sox, it's a good thing they didn't make that trade and that it happened with Lester in a Boston uniform. The Red Sox non-move for Santana was just as important as the Yankees non-move for Santana.

7 comments:

TimC said...

All I know is that the 'Johnny Damon is a slurpee' post was all I needed to see to get me signed up for a google account. Haven't looked back since.

PF, regarding Posada/Rivera, one feeling I have about 'bad' contracts is that you should overpay for unique abilities. Rivera, I feel, is nearly unique in his ability as a closer (particularly in postseason) and Posada, as a catcher, is in that neighborhood as well. On the other hand, is a guy like Drew or Werth bringing something unique? Are they worth paying full value for on the open-market?

I think I can link this post to what was thrown around yesterday. Although a FA signing is not a trade, the Sox do give up the ability to find the next 'Lester', a guy who gives them what Werth might for a fraction of the cost. And, even if it is not a one-to-one replacement (so not a guy stepping up to put up Werth's numbers) the money saved could be used elsewhere at any point in the next FIVE years to shore up another position. I just think he's a classic FA guy that paying for is too much.

Back to Santana for a second, although the non-trade looks to have worked out, he may have still been a better option for the team in '08 (and '08 only). It's close. But if that brings them to another World Series, we would agree that the trade did work, right? Maybe he swings the outcome of the ALCS. It is obviously all speculative but I think the general consensus would be that if the Sox did win the WS that year the trade, regardless of what happens now and in the future, would have been a success. Should that kind of thinking apply to FA signings as well?

Anonymous said...

Tim

Couldn't agree more about "unique" abilities. That's more or less what I was trying to say yesterday--Werth may be a good player, but he's nothing special as far as middle of the order bats go, so why break the bank for him?

PF

No question that the Sox and Yankees both made out by not trading for Santana. Lester is the Sox best player (as you mentioned) and a guy who should (unless injuries or something horrible happens) get even better as he moves into his prime years. Trading him for Santana would have been awful.

Also, I want your opinion on Amare Stoudamire's concern/surprise about the struggles that the Knicks are going through right now. Is he even serious? Did he think they were going to be a completely different franchise because he showed up? Didn't he play against them for the past nine years?

--the Gunn

Anonymous said...

PF,

Remember when you thought Hughes, Joba, and Ian Kennedy were all sure to have breakout years like 3 years ago. I just couldn't help but bring it up.

Gunn,

You should know by now that you are not going to get PF all riled up about the Knicks. People try and try to get him going by talking about the Knicks but it's just not going to work. He is too mature.

Also, PF can't fault Amare from being upset when he himself thought that adding Amare would make them relevant again.

Patrick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrick said...

timc -

points well taken on unique players. rivera "nearly" unique? i'd say about as unique as it gets.

very good point about the 2008 playoffs. maybe i didn't say it explicitly enough in the post, but one of my points was very much meant to be that if the red sox had made this deal you really couldn't have faulted them for it. they had just won a world series, were certainly in a "win now" period, and adding santana would have upped their chances of continuing to do so, especially since lester hadn't broken out yet. since lester did break out, would santana have made a difference? maybe, not as much as we probably would have thought when the deal would have been made. but it still would have been a sound deal. i'm just saying in retrospect, wow is it a good thing they didn't make it, no matter how good it might have looked at the time.

bandi -

if we were to go back and look at missed calls, i'd be right up there. i admitted as much in the opening paragraph of this post. that doesn't make it any less fun to point out other's misses.

gunn/bandi -

if i was amare, i'd be pretty concerned and surprised too. what's gone on these last 5 games, i have no idea, but it's a totally different team than we saw in the first 5 games (and in the pre-season). that's especially in relation to amare, who they went from (rightfully) featuring because he can get whatever he wants inside 15 feet against 80% of the guys who guard him, and the knicks have the shooters and he has the passing ability to keep them off him...to treating him like just another good player on the team. the reason you bring a guy like that in is to feature him and run your offense through him, especially since they don't have anyone else like that. they beat chicago on the road playing this way, which is an impressive win. then, seemingly, they started to feel good about themselves because people were making open threes and decided to start absolutely chucking all kinds of threes, contested and otherwise, to the point where they took 30+ the next week against golden state (making 7), playing at a reckless pace (20+ turnovers), despite the fact that amare had andris biedrins on him and scored 33 points on 15 shots at a 60% fg clip. if i was amare, i'd be pretty shocked too as to why we aren't doing what we were doing when we were winning, and why i'm not taking more than 15 shots when i can literally do whatever i want against my defender. would the knicks be a great team by playing that way? no, and nobody was ever under the misconception that they would be just because they added amare. would they be a lot better than the way they've played the last 5 games? of course, because we saw it the first 5 games and at chicago, and that's what is to be expected when you add a player of amare's caliber. so i think amare was spot on. especially since he was questioning the knicks attitude/culture more than anything, something that a player who has been on a lot of winning teams like him should be questioning. and i think those questions have to (fairly) start with mike d'antoni for the aforementioned reasons, amongst others.

the gm said...

Pat,

It really is a shame that I was onsite at a client site all day today and therefore couldn't defend myself. However, even without my intervention, this is among one of your all-time Hall of Fame posts.

First of all, your scoring method is suspect at best. Not sure if Posada's missed time in 2008 should be only one point for me, but Posada's modest production for a $13 million player counts as "points" for him, like multiple.

Having JD Drew's RBI totals as a bench mark is like if you took the posts for the rest of the week and congratulated yourself because you exceeded your August total. Your bench mark is completely wack.

I am still crushing long-term deals for guys in their mid-30s or above, because it's a stupid thing to do. Damon exceeded all reasonable expectations in his entire Yankee career with the exception of his first three months of 2007. This is something the player must be credited with. Looking at the data at the time, if you were to tell me, "hey, through 2009, Damon's going to have this, this, this, and this for stats. He will be instrumental in a Yankees' World Series victory, but not until the last year of his contract," I'd call you a homer and an idiot. And so would you. You were just in the boat of saying that overpaying for the last two years will be worth it because the first two years will be so good.

With Posada, the team outbid themselves. Nobody else would have even touched that offer. This is similar to the Red Sox outbidding the field for Julio Lugo, except Posada's regression was from a high point of being a good baseball player and Lugo's regression was from a high point of being a borderline major leaguer. They could have gotten him for 4/$40. The extra $12 million -- what, is this a charity? That's stupid.

Mariano Rivera, a couple of years ago, was considered the best of all time. But most reasonable people thought he'd regress. The last three years have proven that he might be even better in his sport than Michael Jordan was in his. If he were Michael Jordan, now would be like the Washington Wizards years.

Another key part of the Boston angle of the Santana non-deal was the fact that Clay Buchholz's name was also kept in there. We both opposed the Santana trade because trading for the guy would require close to free-agent money plus the prospects as a "posting fee" (my term). Good internal scouting, which in my opinion will logically just become better over time, can predict what happened to the prospects, though, I think Lester probably beat most expectations.

As CC proved, there is always a guy who will be available for "just" money. Especially as other teams (oh, you know, like the Mets) become capable of processing rational thoughts, this trade-and-extend practice will soon cease to exist.

Life without 46 would have been pretty awesome, though.

the gm said...

Also, people consider the day Teixeira signed with the Yankees as a Red Sox franchise-altering moment. Just imagine the day they parted with two of Lester, Buchholz, and 46, as well as probably $100-120 million. F that.