King Of His Castle
As noted last night, Johan Santana is taking a serious run at pitching's triple crown. He leads American League pitchers with 18 wins, 230 strikeouts and a 2.74 ERA, and has won 9-straight decisions.
The Triple Crown measures are familiar but suspect. But as usual, Santana passes more rigorous tests with flying colours. He’s the standout leader among AL pitchers, coming into Monday with a VORP of 74.9, well above Roy Halladay’s 63.1 and Justin Verlander’s 51.2. That echoes his 18-point lead over Mark Buehrle at the end of last season.
Santana is lights-out in the second half. As pointed out yesterday, since joining the Minnesota rotation he is a remarkable 39-3 in second-half starts. And he hasn’t lost at home since August 6, 2005.
This year Santana has something extra to pitch for: control over his current and future home. Minnesota back-loaded their four-year contract with the lefty, paying him $5.5 million last year, $9 million this year and $12 and $13.25 million in the next two seasons. That puts his future salary at 20% of Minnesota’s $63 million budget.
Does that mean it’s time for Minnesota to sell? Quite possibly. But the market for Santana’s talent is about to shrink. His 2007 contract comes with a limited no-trade clause: Santana can list 10 teams that he’s unwilling to be traded to (he was allowed to list three teams in 2005 and eight teams this year; it would be interesting to know who he put on the list).
But if he’s in the top-three for the 2006 Cy Young voting – and he was the unanimous selection in 2004 and third in 2005 – then he earns a complete no-trade clause for 2007. Similarly, if he’s top-three next season, he’s got an ironclad no-trade clause for 2008. The $100,000 bonus for winning the Cy Young is gravy. If Minnesota wants to trade him, he’ll be able to dictate the destination.
Where will it be? The choices are limited by more than Santana's preference. Only a handful of teams could commit to the guesstimated $100 million it would take to sign the pitcher to a long-term deal.
TradeRumours pegs the market at $120 million over six years, and notes the synchronicity between Santana's first free-agency year (2009) and the opening of the new Yankee Stadium. Agent Pete Greenberg already represents one imported Yankee – Bobby Abreu – and has major clients at other big-spending (Angels, White Sox, Mets).
They can bid as much as they want in 2009, or look to cut a deal with the Twins before then. But either way, it will be Santana's choice to make.