Twins needs, wants and recent rumor analysis - part one: Santana

La Velle Neal just indicated that the Twins cleared up 2 positions on their 40 man roster, indicating that there is a potential acceleration of events regarding either a Johan Santana trade or a SoCal-initiated rumored trade that would bring Morneau to the Angels or even a Boston-globe remark regarding a straight up Coco Crisp trade.

In this segment I am commenting on the possible returns on a Santana trade.

The main needs of the Twins before this postseason were: 2B, 3B, DH with emphasis on power and right hand bats. After Hunter's signing with the Angels, there is an additional hole in CF. Also, after Castillo's departure, there is a need for a lead off hitter (and overall speed in the lineup) which apparently cannot be satisfied by Casilla at this point

The major want of the Twins brass is to keep the payroll within the 70-75 million dollar range, before the new stadium opens.

Given these parameters, a Santana trade better happen and a couple of additional trades could go long ways. Let me explain:

Johan is pretty much at the apex of his trading value (if not on its downside). A quick comparison of similar pitchers at his age reveals names such as John Candelaria, Bob Welch, Jack McDowell, Sid Fernandez, Kevin Millwood, Kevin Appier, and Mike Mussina. Good pitchers, sometimes great but certainly no Hall of Famers or pitchers who you should spent 30% of your payroll for. I realize that this is a projection and Johan right now is probably the best pitcher in baseball, but I think that the numbers make the point. If there is the potential for a deal with the Yankees (as rumored) including Robinson Cano as the centerpiece with Melky Cabrera and one of the Yankee pitching prospects added to the deal, it might make a lot of sense for the Twins.

My favorite Santana trade for the Twins would be with the Dodgers for Matt Kemp, Andy LaRoche, Johnathan Broxton and Clayton Kershaw. Kemp and LaRoche will plug the holes in the CF and 3B, bringing strong RH power and Broxton could be the closer (with Kershaw waiting in the wings developing in the minors) as soon as Nathan walks or is traded. Furthermore, the addition of Santana, might pull the Dodgers over the edge in a pretty balanced NL West and crown them Champions.

Still, this picture, even though it addresses the Twins' right hand power and 3B/CF needs, does not address the speed/lead off hitter and DH needs. Monroe hopefully is not the team's answer to the DH position. Hot off the press is a speculation that the Mets might be big players in the Santana sweepstakes, with Reyes as the centerpiece and probably a center fielder (Milledge/Gomez) and a pitcher or two added. This would be a steal for the Twins, since it would provide a great lead of hitter and solve the CF problem. This would probably require Bartlett to move to 2B, a position he played only twice in the minors... Additionally, the needs at 3B, DH and right hand power would need to be addressed.

A possible lineup with the Mets trade would look like this (ages as of 2007 in parenthesis):

SS Reyes (24)
2B Bartlett (27)/Punto (29)
C Mauer (24)
RF Cuddyer (28)
1B Morneau (26)
CF Milledge (22)/Gomez (21)
LF Kubel (25)/Monroe (30)
DH Monroe (30)/Kubel (25)/ G. Jones (26)
3B Buscher (26)/Punto (29)

additional bench: Tyner (30), Redmond (36), Casilla (22)

SP Liriano (23)
SP Slowley (23)
SP Garza (23)
SP Bonser (25)
SP Baker (25)/Blackburn (25)/Perkins (24)
RP Rincon (28)
RP Neshek (26)
RP Reyes (30)/ De Paula (24)
RP Guerrier (28)/ Crain (25)
CL Nathan (32)


1. This is a young and fairly inexperienced team with a lot of potential upside and would probably entering its peak when the Twins enter the new ballpark. Would this team be able to contend before that?

2. A lot depends on the development of these players. Cuddyer, Morneau, Punto and Mauer had career years in 2006 then regressed in 2007, would they be able to improve in 2008? Bartlett and Kubel had good years in 2007 (esp. late), would they be able to repeat or improve in 2008?

3. Would Buscher hold the 3b job? (he is another left handed bat, his fielding percentage in the minors was .938; but his OPS was .897 in AAA)

4. Still with a Santana trade, there is a surplus in both starting and relieving pitching, with several others (Duensing, Pino, Manship, Delaney, Tippett) a year or two away, which makes additional trades possible or even necessary.

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