Yesterday, Rob Neyer had a blog entry about the Twins' need to trade Johan Santana. He starts off looking at it thusly:
The Twins' payroll this season was roughly $72 million. They'll increase that number steadily, and might be in the neighborhood of $100 million in 2010, when they're supposed to move into their new ballpark. Does it really make sense to spend 25 percent of the payroll on one player, however excellent? And a pitcher, no less?
Yes, they could hold on to Santana next season, pay him $13.25 million, and take the draft picks when he signs with somebody else. These days, maybe that makes sense, because maybe there aren't any lopsided deals like this still to be made.
The "this" is a link to the ESPN story from 2002 announcing that the Indians had traded Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew for Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, and Lee Stevens. Stevens was thrown in because he was not useful to Montreal and was making about as much money as Colon, and the Expos (being wards of MLB at the time) couldn't take on Colon's salary without moving an equivalent amount.
And that's been sort of a common refrain the last few years, that prospects are valued so highly that a Colon-type trade isn't going to happen anymore. You heard that quite a bit, in fact, leading up to the Teixeira trade...
But this got me to wondering...was the return for Teixeira and Ron Mahay really any less of a package than what the Indians got for Colon and Drew?
BA's Trade Central review of the deal gives a snapshot of where everyone was at the time. The headliner of the Colon deal was 21 year old Brandon Phillips, who was the #20 prospect in baseball coming into 2002 (the only other Expo prospect in the top 100? Brad Wilkerson), and who moved up to #7 in 2003 after going .327/.380/.506 in AA and posting an OPS in the upper-700s splitting time between the Expos' AAA team and the Indians' AAA team.
The headliner in the Teixeira deal, of course, was Salt E., who was ranked #36 coming into the season and, if he had kept his prospect eligibility by staying in the minors, probably would have been a top 10-15 guy this offseason in the rankings. He's a year older than Phillips was when Phillips was traded, is also an up-the-middle defensive player, was even more impressive at AA (.309/.404/.617), and a 731 OPS in the majors.
So, looking at the top guys, July 2007 Saltalamacchia = June 2002 Phillips
Next are the lefty AA pitchers. The Indians got 23 year old Cliff Lee, who wasn't a top 100 guy coming into the 2002 season, but who was pitching very well at AA at the time of the trade, with a 3.23 ERA and 105 Ks in 86 innings, and then logged time in AA, AAA and the majors after the trade. Lee checked in at #30 on the top 100 list for 2003.
The Rangers, meanwhile, landed 21 year old lefty Matt Harrison, who had almost the same pre-trade ERA at AA as Lee (3.39 in 116 innings), but who had a much worse K/BB ratio. Harrison was ranked #90 in the BA top 100 coming into 2007, and I'm not sure where he'll be ranked this offseason, but with his injury and shaky ratios, he's not going to be #30. Still, he's a well-regarded pitching prospect, and not totally outclassed by Lee.
So looking at the pitchers, 6/02 Lee > 7/07 Harrison, although they aren't all that far apart.
Then we've got the toolsy A-ball teenagers. Grady Sizemore was a 19 year old who had been moneywhipped by the Expos to give up a football scholarship and sign with Montreal in 2000. He had a 716 OPS as an 18 year old in low-A in 2001, and a 699 OPS in high-A in 2002 at the time of the trade, before breaking out with a 934 OPS for the Indians' high-A affiliate after the trade. Sizemore didn't crack the 2002 or 2003 top 100 list, but was #9 on the 2004 list.
Elvis Andrus, meanwhile, was ranked #65 on the BA top 100 list coming into this year, posting a .244/.330/.335 line in high-A pre-trade and a .300/.369/.373 line in high-A post trade. He'll probably crack the BA top 100 this offseason, although lower than #65, I'm guessing.
Looking at this element, I'd say that, in terms of value at the time, 7/07 Andrus > 6/02 Sizemore.
Looking at this, I'd say that the Saltalamacchia/Harrison/Andrus trio is pretty close in value to the Phillips/Lee/Sizemore trio, with the difference between Lee and Harrison probably being a little more than the difference between Andrus and Sizemore.
But then, you also have a couple of other high-ceiling teenage pitchers, Neftali Feliz and Beau Jones, thrown into the mix. Their addition to the package seems, to me, to make the haul the Rangers got for Teixeira pretty close to what the Indians got for Colon.
So what does that mean for the Twins? I don't know. If the new Twins' g.m. is going to shop Santana, then the return that the Rangers got for Teixeira makes his job a lot harder, because the perception is going to be that, if he can't get more for the best pitcher in baseball than what the Rangers got for the 5th or 6th best first baseman in baseball, then he didn't do his job. The perception is going to be, he should get a Colon-type package.
But the reality is, the teams that are going to target Santana are going to be in a different situation than the Braves in 2007, or even the Expos in 2002. Omar Minaya in 2002 was working on a team that seemingly had no future, at least in Montreal, making it all the more imperative to try to win now. And John Schuerholz, in Atlanta, may well have been going after one last shot at a ring before he bows out, having been on the job since 1990.
Who is going to give up that sort of package for Santana? Not the BoSox, who don't have that sort of talent available in the minors (and are going to be very reluctant to part with Clay Buchholz). Not the Yanks, who have already seen Joba Chamberlain become a folk hero, and who would have to include Joba or Philip Hughes to make that sort of offer.
The Dodgers are the one team that would seem to be a possibility, particularly if Logan White takes the Houston or Pittsburgh g.m. job. Ned Colletti might then have less internal resistance to packaging Clayton Kershaw with some of their other young talent and putting together a Colon-type offer for Santana.
But if that doesn't happen, I'm hard-pressed to think of a team that would put together the type of offer Atlanta made for Teixeira, and that Montreal made for Colon, to try to pry Santana away from the Twins.