Santana Not In The Cards


It’s time for a reality check, Cards’ fans.  The Johan Santana saga is over, and for any of you that were thinking the best pitcher in baseball over the last several years was about to don the Birds on the Bat, wake up.

Johan will pitch in St. Louis, but not until the end of June, when the Mets come to town.  It’s tough to imagine Santana throwing to National League hitters.  I guess if anything, at least we’ll get to see another superstar in person that we might not have otherwise.

So why the Mets?  Why not the Cardinals?  First, note the package of players the Twins got in the trade.  New York sent over their number 2, 3, 4, and 7 prospects. Sure the Cardinals could have come up with a similar package, but it would have certainly included Colby Rasmus, Jamie Garcia, maybe Mitchell Boggs, and another prospect.  Derrick Goold has more.  Is that too much talent to give up for one player, even if that player is Johan Santana?  That’s debatable.

Remember, going into this offseason, with our new GM, John Mozeliak, the message was clear.  The Cardinals are trying to rebuild their depleted farm system while trying to stay competitive.  Unlike in years past, this means not mortgaging the future for a veteran all-star.  St. Louis has been very successful with the old strategy (6 playoff appearances in the last 8 years, including 2 trips to the World Series and 1 Championship).  But, the game is evolving.  The stars of today are the youngsters, guys like Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Troy Tulowitsky, and Joba Chamberlain.  The list goes on and on.  And while the Cardinals current farm system looks better than it has for quite some time (ranked 13th by Baseball America), a multi-player package for Santana undoubtedly sends it back near the end of the pack.

The other big reason for not being in the Santana sweepstakes:  money.  The Mets are finalizing an extension for Santana that the Cardinals just could not touch.  Right now, word is around $130 million for six years, to go on top of his $13.25 million for 2008 (link).  St. Louis can’t compete with that.  We’re talking about two completely different sized markets.  The Mets ranked third in payroll last season, while the Cards were 12th.

Also, the Redbirds have been pretty stingy when it comes to giving pitchers long term deals.  Their last, for Chris Carpenter, preceeded an injury to the former Cy Young Award winner, leaving him on the shelf until at least the ’08 All Star break.  Carpenter pitched in only one game in ’07.  It was Opening Day, and it was against the Mets.  I don’t foresee another multi-year deal for a pitcher anytime soon.

So, while it’s nice to visit fantasy land every now and then, especially in the offseason, the fact of the matter is that Johan Santana, and other players of his caliber, won’t be coming to play for St. Louis.  I’m glad.