Posted at 7:14 PM on March 25, 2008
by David Zingler
Let me get this straight, the Twins trade their 29-year-old ace and re-sign their 33-year-old closer. That makes sense to me; yesterday I bought a new car, instead of power steering, I opted for leather seats.
I know Nathan commanded "only" $47 million for 4 years and it took 6 years and $137.5 million for the Mets to ink Santana, but the Twins offered the two-time Cy Young winner either 4 years, $80 million or 5 years, $100 million in January, depending on who you talk to. Why not add Nathan's money onto the deal (along with a year or two), keep Santana and trade Nathan for some prospects?
There's a strong possibility that Santana will go down as one of the greatest pitchers of this era (the best post-Randy Johnson lefty) and end up in Cooperstown. Nathan is a very good closer, but is far more easily replaceable and much less needed.
The Twins roster is full of candidates that may be capable of the closers' role: Pat Neshek, Matt Guerrier and even Jesse Crain, while their best candidate for the ace spot is coming off arm surgery and hasn't pitched since August 2006.
The way this team is built, Nathan could go long stretches between save opportunities, while the rest of the bullpen could be burnt out by July because of a series of short starts. I understand the Nathan contract from a PR perspective, but it leaves me wondering if the Twins really have their priorities straight.
1) It seems fairly clear that Santana had very little interest in remaining in Minnesota, whereas Nathan took a discount to extend his contract with the Twins.
2) There is a humongous difference between a six-year, $138M extension and a three-year, $41 extension (which Nathan's ends up being). The most important thing here is that the Twins have no real financial concerns until around 2011, when Mauer, Kubel, Liriano and numerous young pitchers will be reaching free agency. Nathan's contract ends in 2011; the Twins would be paying Santana $25M/yr for three-four more years still at that point.
I agree 100%. With a little bit of work, Neshek would be perfect for the role. Crain, to a lesser extent, would work as well. Hunter was the soul of the team (in more ways than one), and Santana... well you already said it all about him.
It's also possible that Nathan will have plenty of save opportunities, as has been the case with nearly 20 of the men in big-league history to save at least 45 games in a season.
The worst of the teams one of those men pitched for won 72 games. Two other teams with such prolific closers won 79.
Where would those teams have been without a ninth-inning lock?
It is not difficult to find closers who saved 45 or more games for teams that finished under .500, or whose teams finished with win totals in the low- to mid-80s.
Granted, ultimately it matters little if a team misses the playoffs by 4 games or 24, but from a standpoint of the fans paying to watch that team it matters a great deal whether a team wins 62 games or 82.
There have been times when a great closer was that difference.
It's erroneous to suggest that only great teams had-- or need -- reliable closers.
And then there's the argument that a guy who pitches 210 innings spanning 3 seasons has less chance of injury than a guy who pitches 210 each season.
Well, there might be another explanation: Santana is just not what he used to be... His 2007 was average & the team had a higher winning percentage when either Baker or Slowey was the starter than with Santana at that spot. Additionally, Santana had more run support than the other two... I just think that he is on the decline...