Brian Cashman got a lot of grief when he elected not to trade Phil Hughes and other prospects to Minnesota for Johan Santana after the 2007 season.
What many people did not understand was Cashman had two levels of reluctance. He did not want to part with the players and he did not think it made fiscal sense to give Santana the huge contract extension needed to get him to agree to a deal. It cost the Mets six years and $137.5 million.
Santana is 29-16 with a 2.78 ERA for the Mets. Over 401 innings, he has allowed 362 hits and struck out 352. That’s impressive.
But he started the season with elbow issues and now his season is over because of surgery to clean out bone chips. As Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports pointed out, here’s the average speed of Santana’s fastball:
Meanwhile, the Mets owe him $98.5 million over four more seasons. Santana will be only 31 at the start of next season, so the odds are with him in terms of making a successful comeback from surgery. But will his stuff get back to where it once was? Nobody knows.
Odds are good that Santana will again be an effective pitcher in the National League, probably even an ace. But given his injuries and his diminishing fastball, would Santana be an ace in the American League East? Maybe, maybe not. $25 million a year is a lot to pay somebody trying to get by on guile.
It took time to prove it, but Cashman made the smart play.