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Would You Trade Johan Santana?

Now that the whole A-Rod contract is kind of sorted out, and there’s nothing new on the Miggy front, I guess Johan Santana would be the top chip on the trading block. He’s a free agent at the end of the season, which puts new GM Bill Smith in the toughest of spots. Does he trade Johan now, during the season, or not at all?

You’re likely to get more for him now than you would during the season because the team that acquires him will have a full season of Santana starts, rather than a half-season. But letting Santana goes is the same thing as flushing the season down the drain. Trading him at the deadline would net you a lot in return because he could easily put any contender over the edge, and even mean win a World Series win for the right team. But trading him at the deadline also means you’re giving up on the second half of the season, which could be a mistake, given what the Rockies showed us this year.

I think I would hang onto Johan as long as possible if I’m Minnesota. With Francisco Liriano coming back this year, the Twins have the potential to be a contender. If Liriano’s anywhere near his form of two years ago, you’re talking about winning 50-55 ballgames that he and Johan start. Adding in Matt Garza, Boof Bonser, and maybe Kevin Slowey to the mix, you’re dealing with a pretty good staff. Sure they lost Hunter and their offense took a step back last year, but it won’t take many runs to win games with those pitchers on the hill.

I’ll say this much for Minnesota: trading Johan now isn’t the end of the world. It would only mean the end of playoff contention for the Twins for the next three to four years. Hunter’s gone, Johan soon to follow, and Nathan shortly thereafter. Maybe Minnesota only has the money to keep Mauer. They have a new ballpark opening soon, but what will be playing in it? The future does not look bright for the Twins. Keep Santana this year — it’s now or never.

Johan Santana Will Not Be With the Twins in ’09

We already knew that the Twins players were not happy the front office (read: Terry Ryan) traded Luis Castillo to the Mets for what my buddy Alan termed “a backup catcher and 5th outfielder at best.” Now, the biggest name and most talented of them all lashed out. Let me just say this, when a guy unloads the type of bombs that Johan did, it’s safe to say he won’t be staying with the team for long. Unless your name is Kobe Bryant. Cy Young pitcher Johan Santana went off on the Twins, Gary Sheffield-style:

“We’ve been close,” Santana said. “And in all those times, we seem to be a couple players away from winning it all. So I respect all the decisions they make, but I won’t say that they’re right all the time.

“They protect their young players. They protect their organization, their roots, everything. But I guess I won’t be a part of it. A lot of guys don’t feel like they can be part of it, and they have to move on.”

“I never give up,” Santana said. “Me, personally, I never give up. It’s over when the last game of the season’s over. I don’t know how these guys upstairs think. I’m expecting everybody else to do their jobs and help us win games because I’ve been so close to being in the World Series.

“A lot of these guys, they don’t know. They’re just happy to be here. Maybe that’s how they like it upstairs, but I don’t like it.”

Really, you must just read the entire article to get the proper feel. As Tom Hanks said in Saving Private Ryan, gentlemen, take note, now that is how you gripe. The Yankees meanwhile, are licking their chops. Tell me this cat won’t be in pinstripes in two years making A-Rod-type cash.

Johan’s Making Bert Blyleven Go Bald

Johan tossed a CGSO last night against the Mets, striking out an uncharacteristically low one batter, while throwing an economical 92 pitches. But getting the win for himself and the team wasn’t the only outcome at stake for Santana. There was something more riding on it.

The challenge Bert Blyleven made to Johan Santana went something like this: Pitch a shutout, and I’ll get my head shaved.

Oh, those silly TV analysts.

Viewers can expect a new hairstyle from the Twins color man tonight, after Santana went the distance Tuesday night in a 9-0 victory over the New York Mets at Shea Stadium.

Johan says he’s going to make sure Blyleven lives up to the challenge. I’m going to have to tune in to tonight’s Twins game to see if Blyleven has become a bald beauty. Now, if Bert can come up with a way to make Carlos Silva effective, then I’ll be impressed.

Hi, I’m Francisco Liriano, Remember Me?

It was just about a year ago when Francisco Liriano was stuck in the Minnesota Twins bullpen, blowing hitters away while grabbing the occasional save (stress on the occasional). Then starting on May 19th, Liriano was hoisted from the depths of the pen to the gloriousness of the rotation. Francisco proceeded to go on an absurd run as a starter, posting an 11-2 record, striking out 93 batters in 79.2 innings of work. Liriano only allowed 15 runs during that span, good for a 1.70 ERA. In fact, Liriano was such a stud, he was giving Johan Santana a run for his money as the best pitcher in baseball. The two were on their way to forming the best pitching tandem in baseball since Randy Johnson/Curt Schilling, or Sandy Koufax/Don Drysdale for older fans.

Then at the beginning of August, most of the Twins future hopes came crashing down as a mystery injury befell the unfortunate Liriano. Nobody really knew what it was. It forced the young lefty to get season-ending Tommy John surgery on his elbow in the off-season. Well, with all that in mind, I’m pleased to announce that Liriano, yeah, that guy, remember him? Finally made an appearance in the Twins clubhouse, rejoining the team in Tampa Bay on Thursday.

Just wanted to pass that note along in case you had forgotten about him. Because I know I certainly had. And after watching him dominate unlike anyone else in the majors last year — Santana included — I desperately want to see him back and healthy again.

Baseball Preview: Minnesota Twins

Last year’s record and finish are in parenthesis with projected improvement/decline indicated by plus or minus.

Minnesota Twins (96-66, 1st in the AL Central) -13 games

Get Crunked: Hmm, let’s see. The Twins have the best catcher in the game, the best starter in the game, and quite possibly the best closer in the game. Oh yeah, they also have the reigning league MVP at 1B. Those players are Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, and Justin Morneau. Torii Hunter still plays some stellar defense in center, and hits for power. Michael Cuddyer blew up offensively last year and finally showed his 1st round potential. Pat Neshek, Dennys Reyes, and Juan Rincon were awesome last year, and round out one of the most complete bullpens in baseball.

Party Foul: Francisco Liriano is out for who knows how long. That’s a huge loss because he was as dominant as Johan Santana last year, and the pair would’ve been good for like 40 wins themselves this year. His injury leaves a gigantic hole in the rotation, leaving spots 2-5 in the rotation as a mess. They are projected to be occupied by Boof Bonser, Ramon Ortiz, Carlos Silva, and any combination of Matt Garza, Sidney Ponson, or Scott Baker.

At only 23, Joe Mauer is already the best catcher in baseball

What’d my GM do: He locked up Joe Mauer for four years so Twins fans won’t have to hold their breath too long on Joe. Unfortunately he didn’t have the same success with Justin Morneau or Cuddyer, only signing them to 1 year deals. Beyond that, nothing else mattered. The biggest obstacle for Minnesota will be finding a way to keep the core of Mauer, Morneau, Santana, and Nathan together. While Mauer’s good to go, it looks like some of the other guys will unfortunately be gone. Will Terry Ryan be able to stay competitive like Billy Beane did when the A’s lost Tejada, Giambi, Foulke, Hudson, and Mulder?

Lay it on me Straight: Everything broke right for this team last year. The offense got hotter than shit, with Mauer, Morneau, and Cuddyer putting together career years (even though they’re all young, I figure they’ll all be hard-pressed to ever reach those numbers again). Santana and Liriano were the most dominant duo since Big Unit and Schilling teamed up in Arizona, and it showed. The bullpen was un-hittable last year, and on the last day of the season, the Twins snuck into 1st place. Think about all those things that went right last year, and ask yourself if you realistically think it can all happen again this year.

So where my boys gonna finish right now: Still above .500 by a few games, but they won’t be in the thick of the playoff hunt like last year. Where they finish in the division depends on how the season plays out for Chicago and Cleveland. I’m thinking that all three teams will be within 2-3 games of each other.

Can we be better than that: Hey, you won 96 games last year and finished in 1st, who’s to say it won’t happen again? I just don’t think history’s likely to repeat itself.