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The Red Sox, Yankees and Mets Begin To Play Hardball In Johan Santana Talks?

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Looks like yesterday afternoon's announcement on ESPN.com that the Yankees are out of the Johan Santana talks has spurred the local baseball media into writing more stuff.  Joe Christensen at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune kicks things off this morning.  

He begins by concluding what I have concluded already.  If the Yankees drop out, then the Twins' bargaining leverage collapses.  That conclusion logically leads to the follow-up question.  Did Twins' GM Bill Smith overplay his hand?

More interesting is Mr. Christensen's final sentence.  As a Twins local writer, one can't discount his ability to have his finger on the pulse of local Twins fandom.  He wraps up his piece by stating the worst case scenario for the Twins would be Johan Santana on the mound on Opening Day.  

Nick Cafardo at the Boston Globe offers some hints that the Red Sox are lowering their offer already.  He writes:

The Red Sox have been very quiet as of late about their interest. A Jon Lester-Coco Crisp-Justin Masterson and possibly Jed Lowrie package could still be in play. But some Sox officials would prefer to keep their young players and not make the deal.

"Possibly Jed Lowrie"?  Wasn't everyone judging the Red Sox deal with the .850 OPS minor league SS as a key piece in any trade valuations relative to the Yankees or Mets offers?  A lester/Crisp/Masterson offer would no longer measure-up to the Yankees' package and certainly makes the Mets' four player package more attractive.

Inerestingly, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald runs an article that has both Baseball America contributors, John Manuel and Jim Callis, preferring the Lester offer because of the presence of Lowrie.

Finally in New York, Mike Puma and Mark Hale of the New York Post get Yankees' GM Brian Cashman to say the Yankees could get back into the Santana discussions <if> the Twins lower their price. "I know what [the Twins] want," Cashman said. "If they call and give us something else to think about, we'll discuss it."

The pair of sportswriters also report the Mets do not have a standing offer for Santana.

To me, this looks like the competing teams in the Johan Santana trade talks are beginning to take a very hard line with the Minnesota Twins.  While I am not going to conclude that Santana's presence on the mound for the Twins' Opening Day game is a worst-case scenario, I do believe it shifts significantly the risk the Twins bear as Santana enters his walk year.  The Twins will not get a better package than those currently being offered because teams will not trade key components of play-off contending teams (Lester, Ellsbury, Hughes, Cabrera and Gomez) nor will those teams hold all their prospects in the hopes Santana is available if other needs team needs arise i.e injuries, that can be addressed by using prospects to fill those needs.