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Johan Santana: Trade & Fantasy Impact

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by Brad Stewart of MLB Front Office

Johan Santana has been the best pitcher in baseball over the past five years. It's not often that someone of that caliber is available. Unfortunately for the Twins, there are two players of that caliber available this off-season as the Marlins are almost sure to trade Cabrera. Currently the Yankees and Red Sox are at the top battling for Santana, but whichever team loses out on the Cabrera sweepstakes between the Angels and Dodgers surely has the firepower to get Santana. It's worthwhile to note that the Twins' trade of Matt Garza shouldn't have an effect on the Santana deal. The Twins will likely require a two major league players and another top prospect, at least one of which will have to be an elite young pitcher.

This, however, is not the reason I write this article. That is all old news that has been told over and over on the internet and sports talk shows. The question I seek to answer is: How will a Johan Santana trade affect his fantasy value for next season? In the end, this all depends on where Santana is traded to. Santana has a career 3.22 ERA and has had over 230 strikeouts in each of the last four seasons. He is going to be an elite pitcher no matter where he is traded to. But, let's take a look at the candidates and decide which team would benefit him the most.

New York Yankees:

What the Twins would get: One of Hughes/Chamberlain/Kennedy, Melky Cabrera, and another prospect

How it would impact Santana: Yankee stadium favors hitters slightly (as compared to the Metrodome which favors pitchers), but not enough to make a real difference. The real impact on Santana here would be playing for such a prolific offense. Though I have no proof to this, I imagine Santana could handle the New York media especially because he is rarely playing poor enough to get any grief. The Yankees scored more runs than anyone else in the majors by 76 (Yankees had 968 to Philadelphia's 892). This will surely help Santana in the win column. In fact, Minnesota was 25th in runs scored with 718. That's a 250 run difference. Or in other words, 1.54 runs per game. Those 1.54 runs per start would have meant an additional five wins for Santana making him a 20 win pitcher.

How it would impact the other players in the deal: If the Yankees can make this deal without giving up Hughes or Chamberlain they're getting a steal. Any of the three pitchers mentioned will take a slight hit in value by downgrading the offense, but also get to play half their games in a pitcher friendly park. Cabrera would become the starting CF for the Twins in an offense that is sure to not drive him in as often or provide him with as many RBI opportunities. Downgrade Cabrera, but the pitchers stay relatively neutral. If anything they lose a couple of wins.

Boston Red Sox:

What the Twins would get: One of Buchholz/Lester, and Ellsbury. Another option has been discussed involving Coco Crisp, but the Twins are less intrigued by that for obvious reasons. As of now, the Red Sox seem willing to include one of the three mentioned, while the Twins want two.

How it would impact Santana: It's no secret that Fenway is one of the most hitter friendly parks in the game. In fact, last year they were the most hitter friendly, even more so than Coors. Fenway had a park factor of 1.177 compared to Coors 1.160 (Wrigley was 2nd at 1.172 and Coors was third). So, going to Fenway would hurt Santana more than any of the other teams from this standpoint. However, Boston was the fourth highest scoring team with 867 runs. Santana would benefit from the improved offense which would probably be good for another couple of wins. Going to the Red Sox would benefit Santana, but it's more neutral than the Yankees.

How it would impact the other players in the deal: The effect on the young Boston pitchers would probably be pretty neutral. Boston is a great town to play in as players can quickly earn an almost iconic status. However, for a young pitcher this could be a little overwhelming. Ellsbury and Crisp both fit the standard Twin's profile. Neither hits a whole lot of homeruns so the difference in that between Boston and Minnesota doesn't mean a whole lot. However, Boston still remains a much more hitter friendly park even excluding the homerun factor. Either Crisp or Ellsbury loses value, but would get a slight stolen base boost playing for Minnesota.

Los Angeles Angels:

What the Twins would get: A package would most likely consist of two starting pitchers and Reggie Willits. Pitchers could include two of Nick Adenhart, Ervin Santana, and Joe Saunders. Adenhart would be the guy the Twins would target, but the Angels are hesitant to give him up. Brandon Wood could also be involved. Note: The Angels only have interest if they lose out for Miguel Cabrera.

How it would impact Santana: Angel Stadium favors batters slightly more than Yankee Stadium, so that could have an impact on Santana. That being said, Santana is going to be an elite pitcher wherever he goes. He would join a rotation that already includes two aces in John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar. Santana along with them and Jered Weaver, plus whoever doesn't go to Minnesota, would become one the best rotations in the game, if not the best. This would relieve pressure from Santana because he wouldn't have to win every time out in order for the team to stay competitive. On the offensive side, the Angels were 6th in runs scored which would still provide a significant improvement over the Twins, albeit not that of the Yankees.

How it would impact the other players in the deal: As with the Yankees and Red Sox, you have to consider the pitchers almost neutral. They would join an excellent rotation in Minnesota on a team that is getting younger with every move the Twins make. Reggie Willits would be able to find playing time and he fits the Twins' prototype bat with speed. Willits would upgrade despite moving into a more pitcher friendly ballpark purely because he would find himself with significantly more playing time.

The other three teams that have an outside shot at Santana are the Mets, Dodgers and Mariners. The Mets won't be able to put together a convincing enough package without giving up Jose Reyes, which they won't do. The Dodgers will wait to see what happens with Miguel Cabrera and they may have even more options ahead of Santana on their wish list. As for the Mariners, they could put together an interesting package of Adam Jones, Brandon Morrow, and Jeff Clement, but it would leave too big a whole in their outfield.

In the end, the Yankees seem to have the best shot. However, if the Red Sox change their stance and are willing to include two of the three mentioned, they automatically become the front runner. Whatever team trades for him will be provided a window to lock him up long-term. Obviously, of the trade options, the Yankees would have the easiest time signing him. This jives well with fantasy owners because the Yankees would easily be the best fantasy option. However, any of the big three would represent an upgrade over Santana's current situation.