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Wille’s Way: A Johan Reunion Now Makes Perfect Sense

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When the Minnesota Twins traded away Johan Santana to the New York Mets in January of 2008, it was supposed to signal an end to one of the most productive and dominant eras that any Twins’ starting pitcher has ever experienced. It also was supposed to signal the beginning of the next wave of great pitching depth that the Twins were set to acquire via the Santana trade. While the return in the Santana trade was vastly underwhelming in terms of pitching quality, there still is hope for a fairy tale ending that involves Santana ending his career in Minnesota as part of a rebuilt pitching staff.

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ID:	6120With the recent signings of Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco, many analysts believe that the Twins are done shopping for starting pitching outside of possibly bringing back Mike Pelfrey or another journeyman starter at a discounted rate. If you are a subscriber to that theory, you also are likely to believe that the Twins’ 2014 rotation will look something like this

1. Nolasco
2. Hughes
3. Kevin Correia
4. Samuel Deduno
5. Whoever survives from the scrap heap of Vance Worley, Scott Diamond, Kyle Gibson, Andrew Albers, Liam Hendriks or possibly the talented prospect Alex Meyer.

However, if you look at the rotation, it is dominated by right-handed pitchers unless Diamond or Albers solidifies themselves as the fifth starter. In addition, Worley and Diamond both will be out of options if they do not solidify themselves in the rotation or as a reliever—and I do believe Worley could have an intriguing and productive future as a reliever, but that is a different story for a different time—which means that the Twins would trot out a “lefty free” rotation come Opening Day. That doesn’t sound like a recipe for success or competence.

There is a chance that Albers surprises and nails down the last spot, but I believe the Twins will need to go out and sign themselves a potential left-handed starter who can compete for that last rotation spot and bring balance to the rotation. The ideal pitcher would also be a veteran who would sign a one or two year deal in order to keep open the possibility of youngsters like Meyer progressing into the rotation at some point over the next two seasons. In addition, wouldn’t it be nice to have a veteran presence—who has actually had success in the majors—in the rotation to help mentor these youngsters once they make it to the majors? If you believe that the ideal candidate would fulfill all of the above mentioned characteristics, then you should have no reservations about the Twins still signing Santana.

Does Santana provide a huge injury risk ala Rich Harden of a year ago? Absolutely, but he also provides a huge reward factor that few other left-handed starters, that are currently available in free agency, possess. You could certainly make an argument for Paul Maholm; but with Santana’s history here in Minnesota and the possibility of getting Santana at a discounted rate compared to Maholm, Santana makes more sense. If Santana were to need a few extra months to rehab and come back mid-season, Minnesota would be the perfect place for this to occur. The Twins already have a glut of “fifth starter” candidates who are either out of options or are borderline big league starters who could easily step in and eat up innings until Santana comes back; whether or not those pitchers could amount to anything or not is another argument. Who knows, if everything works out perfectly and the Twins find themselves in contention this year or next, wouldn’t it be nice to have a pitcher of Santana’s pedigree nearing return for the post-season stretch? In my opinion, actively pursuing and signing Santana should be something that the Twins strongly consider now more than ever. Remember, now that they have signed two pitchers who can improve the rotation, they also get to receive the benefit of not needing all of the mediocre pitchers to pitch above their ability and comprise an entire rotation. With all things considered, a reunion with Santana makes more sense now than it ever did before the Nolasco and Hughes signings.

Certainly everything I am suggesting is contingent upon the Twins signing Santana at a reasonable price—I’d be willing to give him one-year, two million dollar deal with an option for a second year—and the Twins actually contending. Then again, I certainly thought that signing two free agent pitchers with somewhat of a track record was a pipedream in Twins Territory no more than a week ago so under that premise, isn’t anything possible? Kevin Garnett sure seems to think so.

Picture courtesy of: The Star-Ledger


  1. gil4's Avatar
    "...isn’t anything possible? Kevin Garnett sure seems to think so."

    Is KG coming back? That would be cool.
  2. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
    Something I really hadn't considered before is that Johan might find it easier to try a comeback here than anywhere else.

    Minnesota Twins fans love Johan. If he gets on the mound and has a bad day, the fans are not going to boo him. They may be disappointed, but you can't boo Johan Santana! (well, at least not the first couple of times he gets hammered)

    This is the one place where the fans would be so solidly behind him that it would make his efforts easier. He will be granted more leeway here than anywhere else.

    I wonder if anyone ever thinks about that sort of thing...
  3. twinsfan34's Avatar
    Good thoughts Old Goat.

    I know I'd have a good deal of patience for him. To the extent, 5-7 starts he just can't get it done. Johan, can you pitch 2 innings in the bullpen. And if not. So be it.

    Probably just thankful for those amazing years we had.

    He should have had 3 Cy Youngs...advanced metrics weren't available soon enough for him.

    Also, on advanced metrics, would Puckett have won the MVP in 1988 or in 1992. He actually had better WAR than Canseco ('88) and Eckersley ('92) both years.
    Updated 12-05-2013 at 11:24 AM by twinsfan34
  4. Rosterman's Avatar
    It would be a msot wonderful reunion. And, yes, the Twins do need a left-handed arm in the bullpen.

    If they moved Diamond to the bullpen, they could have four lefties in the pen.

    Wprley needs to go somewhere, too.
  5. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by twinsfan34

    Also, on advanced metrics, would Puckett have won the MVP in 1988 or in 1992. He actually had better WAR than Canseco ('88) and Eckersley ('92) both years.
    Fun stuff to go back to.
    In 1988 the OPS leaders in the AL were:
    Winfield and Puckett (Gaetti was next).
    Kirby was 2nd in WAR to Boggs. It's actually Boggs who got screwed that year.

    In 1992 Kirby again came in 6th in OPS, again right behind Winfield. He had the highest WAR of any position player. You could certainly make a case for him as MVP that year.

    Eck had an incredible year, such that the 1992 MVP was going to Eckersley and nothing could keep that from happening. For 80 innings of work. Eck had a great year, but Most Valuable Player of the American League? In 80 innings?

    I hope in retrospect all those in the BBWAA in 1992 are looked down on a little bit for that particular vote. Shamed just enough so that that might never happen again.
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