I can’t believe it’s been five years since this happened, because it still feels like yesterday. I remember hearing Omar Minaya and the Mets pursuing Twins ace Johan Santana hard, but baseball analysts saying there was no way the Amazins would be successful because their prospects weren’t attactive enough. However, there I was in my house with my roommates as a college senior, jumping up and down like a little boy when news broke the Twins and Mets had agreed on a trade, pending an extension between New York and Santana being inked within 72 hours.
Minaya gave up four players in order to acquire Johan, but after the disappointment and collpase that was 2007, the former Mets GM knew how important it was to excite the fan base with a trade such as this, and how badly the team needed a legitimate ace for the starting rotation. Want a reminder as to who the Amazins sent to Minnesota? They shipped out three pitchers: Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey, and Deolis Guerra, with one Major Leaguer as the centerpiece of the deal, outfielder Carlos Gomez.
So, how did both sides make out in this deal? From the looks of it, I would say the Mets have come out on top, even though they’ve had disappointing seasons since the acquisition of Johan, and are on the hook to pay him $31 million this season (2013 salary plus contract buyout).
Philip Humber did make news last season for throwing a perfect game for the Chicago White Sox, which at the time, made Mets fans frustrated because we still hadn’t seen a no-hitter by someone in the Orange and Blue yet. Little did we know, it would only be a couple more months before the 50-year wait was over. After starting five games for the Mets in ’06 and ’07 without recording a win or a loss, Humber spent parts of two unsuccessful seasons with the Twins; he appeared in 13 games (not starting any of them), and compiled a 6.10 ERA and 2.03 WHIP in 20.2 innings pitched before moving on to the Royals and White Sox, where he’s had minimal success. After a subpar 2012, he’s hoping to find his 2011 form (9-9 record, 3.75 ERA) as he joins the Astros for this season.
Next is Kevin Mulvey, who had an even shorter tenure with the Twins; he appeared in two games during 2009, and while throwing 1.1 innings that season, he compiled an enormous 27.00 ERA and 4.50 WHIP before heading to the Arizona Diamondbacks later that season. He had brief cups of coffee with the Dbacks in ’09 and ’10, but has spent most of his time in the minor leagues, and is actually back in the Mets farm system, spending 2012 in Double-A Binghamton, going 0-1 with a 5.59 ERA and 1.71 WHIP in 13 appearances (19.1 IP).
Deolis Guerra was ranked the 35th best prospect in baseball before the 2008 season, and he’s the only player the Twins still are holding out hope for. The right-handed pitcher hasn’t made it to the Big Leagues yet, but he’s still developing at the young age of 23. It’s taken a while and he’s experienced some bumps along the way, but Guerra worked his way up to Triple-A in 2012, appearing in 29 games and compiling a 2-3 record with a 4.87 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in 57.1 IP after posting a 0.71 ERA in 7 appearances to start the year in Double-A.
To date, Carlos Gomez has been the most fruitful part of the Santana trade for the Twins, and I doubt they would consider him as such. After hitting .232/.288/.304 in 58 games for the Mets as a 21-year-old, Minnesota agreed to make the young speedster the centerpiece of the deal, and it didn’t work out in the two years he spent with the organization. Gomez was primarily the starting centerfielder, and hit .248/.293/.352 in 290 games played for the Twins before heading to Milwaukee to man the outfield for the Brewers. He probably should have been put back in the minors for a year or two once he was traded, as it took him until 2012 to post his first respectable stat line (.260/.305/.463, 19 HR, 51 RBI, 37 SB), at 26-years-old.
So, we all know how Johan has worked out in New York. Santana and the Mets were able to work out a six-year/$137.5 million extension to complete the trade, which an option on the books for 2014 (which is now unlikely to be exercised). After posting a 16-7 record and leading the league with a 2.53 ERA and 234.1 innings pitched in 2008, he’s experienced injury after injury, cutting short both his ’09 and ’10 campaign, missing all of ’11, and again seeing his 2012 season end prematurely this past August.
The Mets are on the hook for a lot of money owed to Johan this season, and despite the fact that his salary doesn’t allow the team much payroll flexibility until after the 2013 season, for me, all of this money paid to him was worth it because of what happened last June. I always felt that if the Mets were ever able to experience someone throwing a no-hitter, it would be a no-name kind of pitcher that fans didn’t have a connection with. Boy, was I wrong! Being able to experience him making Mets history, after all he went through the year before with his shoulder capsule surgery, was incredibly special, and although he more successful with the Twins than the Amazins, he will now forever be remembered as a Met.
I mean, if I had to choose again between taking Johan or any of the four players the Mets gave up for him, I would take Johan every time. At this point, it would be nice to have someone like Gomez in center field for New York, but after all the struggles he had leading up to his first successful campaign in 2012, you know it would have been unlikely for the Mets to hold onto him long enough to reap the benefits.