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 Santana trade good, bad for Tribe

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PostSubject: Santana trade good, bad for Tribe   Thu Jan 31, 2008 5:05 pm

01/31/2008 1:00 PM ET
Santana trade good, bad for Tribe
Deal could set precedent for re-signing Indians ace Sabathia
By Anthony Castrovince /

CLEVELAND -- Just when the Indians finally had Johan Santana figured out, he leaves the league.

Go figure.

Yet even though the Tribe apparently had Santana's number in beating him an unprecedented five times in 2007, the club hardly views the two-time Cy Young Award winner's impending move to the Mets as a negative.

Assuming he waives his no-trade clause and signs a long-term deal with New York, Santana will be out of the Indians' hair in a deal that gives their American League Central Division rival Twins little to no immediate rewards. Minnesota is set to acquire outfield prospect Carlos Gomez and pitching prospects Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra.

At last month's Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., the Twins reportedly had packages on the table for Santana that included Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera of the Yankees and Jacoby Ellsbury and Jon Lester of the Red Sox. The Twins opted to instead play the waiting game and came out with a prospects package from the Mets that is wrought with the inherent risks associated with unproven talent.

All that being said, the final facet of the Santana deal -- his extension talks with the Mets -- does have the potential to have an immediate, and perhaps even negative, impact on the Tribe because of its relevance to the C.C. Sabathia extension talks.

If reports out of New York and Minnesota are to be believed, the Mets and Santana are discussing a six- or seven-year deal worth upwards of $150 million.

Those numbers, both in years and dollars, are out of the Indians' range, when it comes to signing Sabathia.

The question, then, is how much weight Sabathia and his agents, Scott Parker and Brian Peters of Legacy Sports, will place on the relevance of the Santana contract and how much money Sabathia is willing to leave on the table to remain with the Indians.

"If [Santana] signs, it will be one additional reference point in determining a market value for C.C.," Tribe general manager Mark Shapiro said. "How that reference point is weighted in comparison to [Jake] Peavy, [Roy] Halladay, [Chris] Carpenter and [Carlos] Zambrano is up to C.C. and his representatives."

Parker, the point man for negotiations with the Tribe, has not returned calls seeking comment on the Sabathia talks all winter.

The Indians presented a contract proposal to Sabathia's agents around the holidays. It is believed to be a four-year extension, though the value is not known.

It is known, however, that the Indians used the Peavy, Halladay, Carpenter and Zambrano deals as a cost comparison. Each of those pitchers has signed a contract extension with his club within the last two years, rather than testing the free-agent waters, and each gave his club what amounts to a "hometown" discount.

In 2006, Halladay signed a three-year extension with the Blue Jays worth $40 million and Carpenter signed a five-year extension with the Cardinals worth $63.5 million. During the '07 season, Zambrano signed a five-year, $91.5 million extension with the Cubs. Peavy signed a three-year, $52 million extension with the Padres this winter.

Santana was not as generous with the Twins. He reportedly turned down their four-year, $80 million offer this offseason.

When it comes to comparables, it is difficult to find a pitcher to whom Sabathia, 28, is more closely aligned than Santana, 29. Both are left-handed, have spent their entire careers in the AL Central, have won a Cy Young, have a career ERA under four (Sabathia at 3.83, Santana at 3.22) and have avoided major arm injuries.

The Indians, though, only put so much emphasis on comparable contracts because they have their own economic situation to take into consideration.

"We frame our own values," Shapiro said, "from the standpoint that we have got to build a winning team within the constructs of our market."

Still, it is overwhelmingly clear that for Sabathia to remain in Cleveland, he'll have to be open-minded, when it comes to dollars and cents.

"For him to stay here would take effort from both sides," Shapiro said. "It would take compromise and reach from both sides."

While in town last week to receive the Professional Athlete of the Year Award from the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, Sabathia called the city his "second home" and reiterated his hope that a deal can be reached.

"Right now, I'm just letting them hammer it out," Sabathia said. "Maybe in Spring Training, I'll get to sit down with everybody. But right now, I have nothing to do with it. My agents are doing it."

If years, rather than dollars, are the holdup, then the Indians would have to venture into risky waters to sign C.C.

The club knows that contracts for pitchers that extend beyond four years have had disastrous consequences in the past. Witness Denny Neagle, Darren Dreifort or Chan Ho Park.

But Shapiro said the organization does not have a hard-and-fast rule about avoiding deals for pitchers that go five years and beyond.

"We don't believe in black and whites," Shapiro said. "There are no complete black and whites."

So it is with the impending Santana trade, which, depending on your perspective at the moment, is either a good thing or a bad thing for the Indians.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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