Worse than losing Torii Hunter? How about losing Santana

Worse than losing Torii Hunter? How about losing Santana

Twins

Worse than losing Torii Hunter? How about losing Santana

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For years now, Torii Hunter has been my favorite Twin, but I’ve realized lately that it was time for him to go, especially at the price the Angels are giving him. What is certain now, however, is that if the Twins are concerned with winning in the next couple of years, Johan Santana is absolutely indispensable now.
The Twins are opening a new stadium in 2010, and I’m sure they would like to have an exciting product on the field on opening day. For the past half decade, the Twins have had two players that breed excitement both here and in other markets, and they were Torii Hunter and Johan Santana. Sure, the Twins have had Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer, but 75% of teams have a low key hitter batting around .300 with 35 home runs, meaning Morneau really isn’t all that different from anyone, and Joe Mauer doesn’t have the dynamic personality that one wants from a premier star. Sure, he’s popular in his hometown and definitely with the teenage girls, but he just doesn’t have the personality to make his high batting average seem all that exciting.
Like it or not, Torii Hunter had fire in his belly, and was noticed. I can’t tell you how many dogs and cats I know that were named Torii. No other Twins name, save for Kirby, even comes close. Johan Santana doesn’t have the same intensity, but given his Cy Youngs, he certainly gets the same publicity. There’s no doubt he would provide the excitement the Twins need to open the stadium.
From a strictly baseball standpoint, he is the best pitcher in the game on a team that had no offense before Hunter walked out the door, which increases his value as it is. Next, there is no rotation, but a bounty of high end prospects. These guys could certainly be dealt for the bats the Twins need, with the remaining pitchers succeeding under the tutelage of Santana. If the Twins decide that now is the time to open their pocketbooks (do people still use pocketbooks?), I certainly hope that some of that cash is directed to Santana.
Of course, the Twins have offered Santana a contract, which he countered with a request equal to Barry Zito’s contract last year. There was no per year increase in value in his counter offer, but the Twins are balking at giving Santana 7 years and fielding trade offers now. Originally, the trade offers were promising and exciting, but now they seem to be fraught with prospects that seem as though they should have panned out by this point (Lastings Milledge comes to mind (according to my spell check, there is a word “Lastings”)). Moving Santana now would be sending a horrible message to the fan base, namely, “You built our stadium, and now we’re done trying to win”.
If Santana goes, there is only one player of consequence left on the roster that could potentially leave via free agency, and that’s Morneau. Sure, he says he would love to stay in Minnesota and that he and Joe Mauer are best friends, but athletes sing that same tune all the time, especially when a team is winning. Ask him again when the team is rebuilding during a contract year, and see how quickly he buys a house in Seattle. Heck, Mauer may be inclined to get off the sinking ship too if things aren’t looking up. He did sign on to play football at Florida State, after all, so he may have the itch to get out of town. More than likely, I see him remaining the Twins version of Mike Sweeney, however.
And that’s the final reason that Santana is indispensable. Not only would losing Santana make next season a tough go, but it would cripple the franchise for at least a decade. I’m not optimistic.

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