By the time 2008 rolls around, the Johan Santana Rumor Mill will get cranked up again.
The latest bit of speculation is that Minnesota would accept a package of Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera and Jeff Marquez for their lefty ace. I’m sure that sounds acceptable to many fans.
But, for a second, look at the bigger picture. Are the Yankees developing their kids to play them or trade them?
Santana is terrific, no doubt about it. But adding him to the roster would cost $20 million a season plus a 40-percent luxury tax penalty. The Yankees will be paying for what Santana did in Minnesota.
Santana could be great again. He was 15-13, 3.33 last season despite a lack of run support and only will be 29 in March. But he has thrown 932 innings over the last four seasons, counting the postseason. Sure, he could be terrific. Or he could be the next Mike Hampton. Nobody knows. Name me all the long-term contracts for pitchers that worked out well over the years.
Hughes and Cabrera are symbols of what Brian Cashman is trying to do with the Yankees. The organization did a great job of scouting, drafting and then developing Hughes into the best pitching prospect in the minors.
Cabrera is a guy they rushed to the majors in 2005, screwed up and then built back up into a player good enough to take a job away from Johnny Damon. He would have been cut or traded five years ago.
Trade these guys now and the message is pretty clear: The Yankees are only paying lip service to development. This isn’t trading a few B-level prospects for Bobby Abreu in July. This would be an old-school Yankees move.
It’s their money, not ours. But I sit there at the Stadium and listen. People cheer loudest for the players who came up in pinstripes. People respect A-Rod but they love Jeter. They wanted Clemens do well. They adored Andy Pettitte.
Cashman has somehow made it cool for Yankee fans to care about Jose Tabata even though 99 percent of them have no idea what he looks like.
Spend the money on draft picks, Dominican shortstops and Taiwanese pitchers. Go find kids in Korea, Australia, Venezuela and everywhere else. Hire more scouts and go see every junior college prospect in Texas. Go find the next Santana, don’t trade for the old one.
Let Santana go to the Mets or the Angels or better yet, let him stay in Minnesota where he belongs. If the Red Sox were serious, they would have done the deal weeks ago. They’re pushing chips around the table hoping somebody in Tampa will go all in so they can fold.
We’ve spent two years wondering how good Phil Hughes could be. Let’s find out.
UPDATE, 8:52 a.m.: After seeing all the comments and e-mails, let me clarify something. Santana is a wonderful pitcher. I’m not anti-Santana or against the idea of making trades. I’m with Cashman on this, at some point you have to give these kids you develop a shot. Santana didn’t just arrive one day and win the Cy Young. The Twins developed him over several years.
To me this isn’t a money issue, it’s a philosophy issue. Are the Yankees going to do what they always do and overpay for their starters or develop their own?