The Reds have no chance at all, even if they tried, in the Santana sweepstakes. Lets set our sights on candidates that are more realistic.
Just read where the D'Backs are seriously looking at Haren.
Say you are looking for a frontline starting pitcher. An ace. Somebody capable of helping to lead your team into the playoffs. You could back up your organization's truck and offer two Grade A prospects and a couple of Grade B prospects and call the Minnesota Twins about Johan Santana. And if you arrange a conditional deal with the Twins, you would have the opportunity to try to convince Santana to waive his no-trade clause. That could cost you merely the largest salary for any pitcher in the history of baseball: six years, $150 million, on top of the $13.25 million he is owed for next season.
Or you could back up the organization's truck and offer three or four prospects for Oakland's Dan Haren. No strings attached, no no-trade clause. And here's the really good news: You would have to pay Haren just $4 million for 2008, $5.5 million for 2009, and he has a $6.75 million option for 2010. So not only would you have a great pitcher on the cheap for three years, you'd have cost certainty, the flexibility of not being locked into a long-term deal -- and you could spend cash that you would've had to spend on Santana to fill other needs.
Oakland executives began meeting this week to discuss what they will ask in trade for Haren, and if they decide to trade him -- a sign that the Athletics are committed to a long-term rebuilding effort -- well, it would make sense for them to trade Joe Blanton and closer Huston Street, as well. Haren is well aware of the possibility that he will be involved in a deal. "I read a lot of the stuff that's written on the Internet about me getting traded," he wrote in a text message Monday, "and it's definitely something I'm prepared for. When I was traded from the Cardinals [following the 2004 World Series] I was Christmas shopping, and it's getting to be that time of year now. From what I have read, I think [GM Billy Beane] is trying to figure out if Oakland is going to rebuild. Our team is good enough to win now if we were healthy, but that hasn't been the case lately. "I am not hoping I get traded because I love the Bay area. My home is here and I'm close to my family. But if it happens, it happens. I understand baseball."
Right now, Haren could not yet be considered an equal to Santana. The Twins' lefty has won two Cy Young Awards, and has four straight seasons of 235 or more strikeouts. He is an incredible athlete and has a tremendous feel for his changeup, all of which bodes well for the possibility that he will continue to be successful into his 30s. But over the last three years, Haren has averaged 221 innings, and last season he went 15-9, 3.07 and walked 55 in 222 2/3 innings, while striking out 192. Opponents had an OPS of .687. Haren is 27 years and two months old. Santana will be 29 years old when he throws his first pitch next season, and he is coming off a season in which he went 15-13 with a 3.33 ERA, with 52 walks and 235 strikeouts in 219 innings. Opponents compiled an OPS of .678 against him, virtually identical to that of Haren. If all of the players in the majors were put up for a draft, Santana would get picked ahead of Haren. But this situation is weighted heavily; when you stack up the price for Santana -- the cost in prospects, his salary, his forthcoming contract demands -- against the price of Haren, with his dirt-cheap salary and a contract that runs on for three more seasons, the question of who is a better value is a no-brainer. Haren would simply be a more cost-effective acquisition. And there's another option, if you're a team comfortable with the notion of spending $25 million a year on Santana (or C.C. Sabathia, who, like Santana, will be eligible to become a free agent after next year). You could trade the prospects to Oakland for Haren and gamble on the possibility that Santana and/or Sabathia will be free agents after next season, when you could sign one of the left-handers. You could have both Haren and Santana for basically the same price for which you could get only Santana now (minus the $15.25 million Haren will make over the next three years). Executives with rival teams are split about what they think is going to happen. "It's going to be very tough for Minnesota to trade him, because with [Francisco] Liriano coming back, they have a chance to win in 2008," said a major league assistant GM. "And I think the union is going to want Santana to push the market on salaries. If he takes a deal for $20 million a year, then everybody will slot in kind of where they are now, at $17 million or $18 million a year. But if he gets $25 million a year, then the market will be pulled up behind him, with the better guys getting $21-22 million." An AL GM is convinced Santana is going to be traded, and that when push comes to shove, the current asking price of $25 million a year in an extension can be negotiated down. "If somebody offers you six or seven years and $130-$140 million, how do you say no to that?" he asked rhetorically. "Especially a pitcher, whose entire career can change with one pitch -- one blown elbow." But no matter what happens with Santana, the Athletics are in a position now in which they can plow in the wake of the Santana trade talks and offer up the much more reasonably priced alternatives of Haren and Blanton.