It’s just six games deep into 2012, and Johan Santana, who did not throw a single pitch in 2011, has tossed two respectable games so far. His new-found health and “non-suckiness” has some optimistic Mets fans thinking a renaissance season–but others, a mid-year trade.
Before fans get excited about dealing Santana for Mike Trout, there are a few hurdles ahead. First and for most, the former-ace must show his ability to pitch deeper into games. In his first two starts, Santana has only averaged five innings per game–far off from his 6.81 IP/Start from 2004 to 2010. Five innings per start simply won’t cut it for a number one, two, or three pitcher on a competing team.
The next hurdle would be Santana’s monstrous, remaining contact. The lefty is guaranteed to make $74.5 million from 2012 through 2014 (his 2014 option became guaranteed when he placed third in the 2008 Cy Young Award). That’s a whopping $24.8 million per season. Essentially, the guy ain’t cheap. But if the Mets were to kick money (say $30-40 million) to the prospective team, it would make Santana much more enticing.
The final hurdle would be finding an actual taker. Since Santana has two years remaining on his contract beyond 2012, this prospective team isn’t just acquiring a playoff-run-free-agent-to-be; two-and-a-half years is a Hollywood marriage. The only teams that come to mind are the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, and San Francisco Giants. And even with any Mets-provided cash to go with, it would still take some smooth-talking to finagle a top prospect in return for the veteran pitcher.
In all likelihood, Johan Santana will stay a New York Met for the entirety of his contract (or at least through 2013). But then again, if Santana can stay healthy, and continue to keep hitters off-balance, there could be a lot of worse things for a Mets fan to have to watch (ahem, Jason Bay, ahem).