By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

I know this is dumb

But I wouldn’t trade Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz or Jacoby Ellsbury as part of a package to get Johan Santana. Michael Silverman reports in the Boston Herald that the Red Sox are reluctant to trade two of them. Sorry, but I wouldn’t even let one of them get away. Not even for Santana. I know, I know. Fire away, mike_b1.

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  1. Anonymous

    Not dumb at all. I think a lot of fans feel like this. If you listen to sports radio, you would get the false impression that the “fan” is an endangered species replaced by the “wannabe GM”. People derive as much pleasure watching young players develop as they do watching overpriced free agents wear their team laundry. I am a Celtics fan who still misses Delonte West and Al Jefferson, though of course I enjoy the Celtic’s 9 and 1 start as well. Santana is great. Would he be twice as good as the alternative (meaning would he get twice as many wins?) No. Would he cost 10-20 times the alternative? Surely. Its the law of diminishing returns.

  2. ETVal

    Agreed that that is not a dumb stance at all. As a Yankee fan I see that both teams can make similar offers. I think, though, that the Yankees are more likely to go for broke. Honestly, they have the greater need.

  3. mike_b1

    Sorry, couldn’t resist the bait. There’s a natural tendency to over- or underrate the home team’s players.Here’s the deal in a nutshell: I have the best pitcher in baseball and I’m willing to give him to you for three rookies. You want him? Santana is as close to a lock as any pitcher in the majors. Lester and Buchholz have promise. That, and $4.50, will get you a Starbucks latte. We will probably never see Ellsbury perform better than he did over the first couple of months of his big league career. Only a fool, or a local, would extrapolate that. I recall a lot of people (read: fans and media) around Boston didn’t want to trade Casey Fossum and Brandon Lyon. Look how that turned out.In short, if it was offered, I’d make the deal.

  4. Dan Kennedy

    Well, here’s my argument, beyond mere sentiment:1. Ellsbury could be a solid centerfielder for the next 10 to 15 years. Rookie of the Year candidate, possible All-Star, great defense, great speed, .280-.290 hitter.2. I would not want to be the GM who got rid of Clay Buchholz. Yes, we’re only talking about potential, but he seems to have the makings of a huge star.3. I’m not so sure about Lester, but the Sox are deep enough that they can give him time. That he came back from cancer and won the World Series clincher has got to count for something — wouldn’t it at the very least be bad karma to let him go?4. As others have already observed, Santana is a little guy who’s thrown a lot of innings. Not that he may not have three or four more great years in him. But his arm may be quite a bit older than the rest of his body.

  5. jamesgarnerisgod

    Um … haven’t the Red Sox won the World Series a couple of times without Santana and, for that matter, A-Rod? Please tell me I wasn’t dreaming for the last several years.If you want to see what it looks like to trade away your prospects and sacrifice your farm system for the promise of free agency gold, there’s already a perfect modern-day example: The Yankees.

  6. Dan Kennedy

    JGIG: You’ve got to strike a balance. The Sox certainly wouldn’t have won in ’04 without Schilling and Foulke. Santana’s 28, not 38. I don’t want the Sox to make this move, either, but it’s not like it would be stupid.

  7. man who's a sox fan

    I could understand Lester and Buchholz for Santana, but dealing Ellsbury seems hugely counterproductive given how much Ellsbury has cemented himself as Coco Crisp’s replacement. Hell, I’d deal Crisp in that package before Ellsbury.I don’t know about dealing Buchholz either…remember Cla Meredith? These kids coming out of the farm these days are indeed THAT good. Lester, on the other hand, is probably never going to be a “dominant” pitcher…but he can and will be an excellent four or five hole starter. Definitely a big step up from Tavares or Arroyo.It’s hard to say…Santana is admittedly amazing, but it’s not like the Sox are lacking in quality starting pitching: we’ve got two or three aces (Beckett and Schilling/Dice-K), a 13-15 game winner in Wakefield, and either Buchholz or Lester to round it out. Plus plenty of decent arms in the bullpen, several of which can spell a starter in case of an injury.If anything, I’d say the most glaring hole in the Sox’s overall makeup is catcher. Remember when Tek got hurt? How disasterous that was? We REALLY need a solid backup catcher and Mirabelli ain’t it. If anything I’d deal Wakefield and Mirabelli for something, either another solid starter or a backup catcher.

  8. mike_b1

    Ellsbury could be a starting CF for 10 or 15 years. Or, he might not be. That’s the problem with potential. And even if he pans out, chances are he won’t spend more than seven of those years in a Red Sox uniform. Quick: Name the last player to spend 10 straight years or more on the Red Sox.Dan, how would you like to be the GM who acquired Johann Santana? And jamesgarnerisgod, that’s a specious argument. Haven’t the Red Sox won the WS without Lester, Ellsbury and Buchholz? And for that matter, didn’t they win it without Ted Williams, Willie Mays and Hand Aaron? Yes, they have. Next to A-Rod, no single player gets the Red Sox closer to WS title #3 this decade than Santana.(Btw, did you catch Amelie Benjamin’s piece in the Nov. 21, Globe? She wrote, “When the Sox won their first World Series in 2004, the [average ticket] cost had gone up to to $75.”The Red Sox, of course, won its first World Series in 1903.

  9. Wes

    Potential? Hardly. Ellsbury has played enough major league games to vault past that term. I’d trade Lester and Buchholtz for Santana, but remember when Freddie Garcia was as good as they come and made a marked fall from grace.

  10. mike_b1

    Wes, seriously, he’s played 33 regular season games. He played so sparsely, he will qualify in 2008 for the Rookie of the Year.Scott Podsenick is a player with a similar skill set to Ellsbury’s. SP’s first full season: 154 games/.314 BA/.379 OBP/43 SBs. Pretty good.Lifetime: 657 games/.272 BA/.338. Pretty average.Sample size, sample size, sample size. I’m not saying Ellsbury won’t be a good major league player. Consider, however: measured by WARP3 (a metric that incorporates a player’s hitting and fielding contributions, adjusted for park and league difficulty) Coco Crisp (8.4) was fifth on the Sox last year, just Youkilis (8.8) and Beckett (8.6) (Lowell and Ortiz were 1 and 2, respectively). And that was almost all because of his defense. Had he hit at his career averages, he would have been the third most valuable player on a WS championship team. Ellsbury isn’t being asked to replace Bob Zupcic.And Freddy Garcia was never “as good as they come.” He’s finished in the top 10 in the Cy Young race twice, the highest being 3d. He’s made all of two All-Star teams. Putting him in Santana’s class is laughable.

  11. Anonymous

    Dan said: “1. Ellsbury could be a solid centerfielder for the next 10 to 15 years. Rookie of the Year candidate, possible All-Star, great defense, great speed, .280-.290 hitter.”That’s a description of Rick Miller so if you have a chance to trade Rick Miller for Sanatana, who wouldn’t before the other team’s GM sobers up?I personally think Ellsbury will be better than that and I think Buchholz has the potential to vie with Beckett for Number 1. Lester is the best story in the Sox system in years and given their historic affiliation with the Jimmy Fund, a key marketing piece. That said, I’d give him our best wishes and wrap him, Coco, cuz they need a CF with Hunter gone, and a combination of two of SS Jed Lowrie, SP Michael Bowden or RP Craig Hansen. That’s a deal that serves everyone’s purpose and if they don’t take Lowrie, I’d offer them Lugo and eat as much of his salary as it takes and open the spot for Lowrie.And will people please get off this “we need a back-up catcher” jihad? We need a pinch runner/left-handed batter who can sacrifice off the bench, too. They’re not big issues in the scheme of things.

  12. man who's a sox fan

    Oh really 6:32am? Were you asleep for the last half of 2006? Sure as hell the Red Sox pitching was without Tek in there. I love the phrase “The Pitching Whisperer” that someone coined in the Globe Mailbag that year. He’s got one hell of a gift at reading opposing hitters combined with knowing exactly what his pitchers can and can’t do. I agree his bat isn’t nearly as good as it was in 2004-05, but his ability to shave half a point (at least) off his pitchers’ ERA makes up for it!I’d agree the collapse of 2006 can’t all be laid on Tek’s injury…not by a long shot…but I firmly believe the Sox wouldn’t have slid even half as far if a healthy Tek was in there.Also, Ellsbury DOES hit left handed, and can bunt, and you bet your ass he can pinch run…man scored from second on a wild pitch – that’s pretty goddamn fast! Plus Lugo, who admittedly is a RHB, is also a good bunter and has excellent speed. Now obviously neither are “off the bench”…although if Crisp doesn’t get traded, he certainly could fulfill that role nicely, and Crisp’s defense is quite amazing.Also, something else I’ve been wondering…if Santana is so good, why are the Twins so apparently willing to let him go? Given the payroll the Sox are already shouldering, I find it difficult to believe they could afford THAT much more than the Twins could.On the other hand, many, MANY teams have been making horrible mistakes in offering long-term deals to expensive veterans on the downside of their careers. Lugo and Drew come immediately to mind…but the Sox dodged bullets with Pedro and Damon, too. I’m sure there are countless other examples across both Leagues. Meanwhile the Sox farm system appears to be able to do no wrong (ignoring Hansen for the moment) both last year and this year. Why not have a little faith in the youngsters?

  13. sensibilityguy

    Carl Pavano had great promise when they traded him to the Expos for Pedro Martinez. Pavano, aside from 2004, had a tremendous decline following his minor league start with the Red Sox. Buchholz has had such a small amount of experience, it seems only diehards outside of Boston can understand the common sense on trading him & Lester to the Twins. I’d do it, if it meant there was a window where they extended Santana 5-7 years. He’s solid, proven, left handed, and has shown no sign of having an ‘old arm’. Every pitcher has an ‘old arm’!

  14. mike_b1

    man who’s a fan: If you want to get into the whole good free agent/bad free agent thing, it can be boiled down to this: great players (e.g., Manny Ramirez, A-Rod, Barry Bonds) played great and bad players (e.g., Wayne Garland) did not.The Twins’ owner, Carl Pohald, is actually the wealthiest owner in baseball (reported net worth of over $3 billion). However, he has never shown much interest in spending lots on money on the team (“I didn’t get this rich by writing a bunch of checks.” hehe) You could make the same statement about Seattle and A-Rod, or Pittsburgh and Bonds, or Cleveland and Manny. Some teams simply don’t push the payroll limits; the Twins have always been one of them.

  15. Dan Kennedy

    Let me open a completely different can of worms. Let’s say the Red Sox or the Yankees somehow wind up with Santana and sign him to a multi-zillion-dollar contract extension. Aren’t we sick of the Yankees and the Red Sox being able to reach out and do whatever they want financially? Almost for that reason alone, I hope the Twins are able to keep Santana.

  16. mike_b1

    Dan, again, the Twins could keep him if they want. Pohald could buy John Henry or George Steinbrenner more than three times over. Wall Street billionaire Tom Hicks traded A-Rod because Tom Hicks is a stupid baseball owner, not because A-Rod was a drain on the team’s finances. Billionaire KC owner David Glass was president/CEO of Wal-Mart for 12 years; according to Forbes, his team is worth more than three times what he paid for it in 2000. Yet he is more than happy to collect the $32 million or so a year that the other teams pay KC under the revenue sharing agreement. Oh, and by the way, KC averages a $10 million/year profit.See a pattern here? These teams can afford the great players. They choose not to.

  17. Dan Kennedy

    Mike: The question is not whether Kansas City is turning a profit, and not whether Carl Pohlad is richer than God, but whether the Twins, as a business, are in the position of being able to sign high-priced talent. Pohlad’s wealth is irrelevant unless you think he should be running the Twins as a hobby. And, obviously, the Royals’ $10m/yr profit is less than the Red Sox pay J.D. Drew every year. (Sorry, J.D.! All is forgiven!)

  18. mike_b1

    Actually, Dan, it is the question. Clearly, many teams in baseball have operated at a loss over the years. Pohlad didn’t buy the Twins to make a profit from operations; it’s too small a business to bother. (MLB an an industry generates a hugely disproportionate amount of press; it’s actually pretty darn small compared to tech, banking, insurance, and lots of other sectors.) Baseball owners buy teams because over time every franchises sells for way more than it was purchased for, and because they’ve made their money in other industries and this is one more place to compete and generate personal fame.And $10M a year profit on roughly $55M in revenues is a great margin. My guess is Manny Ramirez nets more than the Red Sox do right now, too. So what?

  19. The Babe

    Boring beyond necessary when speaking of Sox. Twins may have lowballed Santana because of valid reasons that alone are privy to; diddling with a winning team is a loser’s paradise.And, some wattage perpetually fails to cast a shadow.

  20. mark

    Trading Lester is the only option I’d agree to. Trading Buchholz and Ellsbury is stupid. Ellsbury has been a star at every level – you think he won’t be one now? Crazy. And Buchholz is a star in the making. Folks like Mike miss an essential point. The Sox don’t HAVE to make that trade now. We don’t require Santana to win, whereas lots of others do have to have him. And Dan, I agree with your point that he’s got lots of mileage on him as well. Let’s leave well enough along, and give our kids a chance to become the stars so many people predict that they will be.

  21. mike_b1

    mark: in baseball, you stand pat and you die. Had the Sox met the Indians in the first round of the playoffs, it would have been they, not the Yankees, who would have gone home early. The margin for error is that slim. If you’d rather see Wakefield or Buchholz or Lester walking to that mound than Santana, well, you’re about the only one.The only essential point in all this is that there’s no such thing as a pitching prospect.

  22. Dan Kennedy

    Mike: You write, “Had the Sox met the Indians in the first round of the playoffs, it would have been they, not the Yankees, who would have gone home early.”And, uh, why is that?

  23. mike_b1

    Speculation, of course. But based on the idea that the ALDS is a best of five, and that the Indians took three of the first four games against the Red Sox.

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