Winter Meetings: Santana causing clog
More moves expected after ace left-hander lands with a club
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center is huge. But apparently the site of the 2007 Winter Meetings is not too big to be fitted with a bottleneck.The flashing alert on baseball's transaction highway is Johan Santana, who even in absentia cast his shadow over the Gaylord, 2,181 rooms, five lobbies and all. Day 1 of the Winter Meetings did not live up to the sign outside the Ryman Exhibit Hall -- "Baseball Trade Show" -- primarily because the premier left-hander remained in Minnesota purgatory. The most significant movement concerning Santana may have been by the hands of the clock, because when they crossed midnight, it marked the deadline for a deal imposed by Hank Steinbrenner, the son of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
A source with knowledge of the Yankees situation said Monday night that the team had planned to move forward without Santana.Meanwhile, ESPN.com reported early Tuesday morning that the Red Sox have emerged as the "favorite" to land Santana.
There were a couple of minor, and Minor League, transactions, as well as notable off-field developments. Those included the presentation of the 2007 Robert O. Fishel Award for Public Relations Excellence to Rich Levin, MLB's senior vice president of public relations, and the announcement of a White Sox-Mets pairing in the 2008 Civil Rights Game.But the big dominoes remained upright behind Santana, whom the Twins remain determined to move -- but on their own, carefully calculated terms. It is very sensible to assess why Santana's limbo would hold up other action: Teams on his trail: While the Mariners officially left the posse, it still includes the Angels and Dodgers in addition to the two AL East warlords, and those teams aren't going to explore other options until his status is determined. So Erik Bedard, Carlos Silva, et al, remain out of play. Trade-minded teams also prioritize pitching over even the best offensive options, so the Marlins' attempts to move Miguel Cabrera also are hung up by the Los Angeles teams' dance with Santana. This keeps the market for other third basemen (Joe Crede, Scott Rolen, Miguel Tejada) on ice. As is the case every offseason, agents wait for the top talent to set a market price. So until Santana has a deal, free agents or those looking to negotiate extensions will stay put. If Santana gets a new team and a new deal, that is. But, even in the absence of firm movement, that seems a growing certainty. A veteran American League executive likened the situation to the Twins' experiences nearly 20 years ago with another left-hander, Frank Viola. Minnesota won a World Series title in 1987 with Viola, then dealt him to the Mets in the middle of the 1989 season for a four-player package. "They got Rick Aguilera and Kevin Tapani, and they helped them win another Series [in 1991]," the executive said. "Is Santana going to win a World Series all by himself? No. But getting the right players can get the job done." That clearly is the Twins' goal, refined even further by a Minnesota source who conceded it will take two players to effectively replace Torii Hunter, the center fielder who has signed as a free agent with the Angels. "With [Delmon] Young, [who was acquired in a four-player deal with Tampa Bay on Wednesday], we took care of the offense," the source said. "But we don't think he can play center, so we now have to look for the defense. "Is Melky Cabrera the answer? I don't think so. But Boston ... they have the guy who could be it."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.