Baseball's eyes remain on Santana
Yankees' deadline passes, as likely does their interest in ace
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Johan Santana watch was in full swing on Monday at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, but as of late evening there were no indications that a trade involving the two-time Cy Young award winner was imminent.The Yankees had appeared to be the front-runner in the race for Santana, but a source with knowledge of the Yankees' situation said on Monday night that the team had planned to move forward without Santana. Santana's future has been the primary focus of the 2007 Winter Meetings, with some even nicknaming this year's event "The Santana Meetings." Earlier in the day it had appeared to be a battle between New York and Boston for Santana's services. Now, indications point to the Angels possibly making a strong push to get back into the race. With all eyes on a potential deal, the Twins had been expected to meet with both the Red Sox and Yankees at some point on Monday night. Despite the fact that all three teams are fully represented at the meetings, indications late in the day were that the proposals between the clubs were exchanged by phone. It's yet another sign that the Twins could choose to hold onto their ace -- at least for now. Even as his team took center stage among all the discussions in the hotel lobby, new Twins general manager Bill Smith continued to decline to talk about any possible trade negotiations involving Santana. "I have not commented on any ongoing trade negotiations, contract negotiations, or responded to any trade rumors or contract rumors," Smith said. "I think I need to keep that consistent." Exact trade scenarios weren't something that Smith addressed Monday, but he did acknowledge that the phone lines have been busier in the Twins suite than during previous Winter Meetings. "We've had a lot of years where we would keep going over to pick up the phone receiver to make sure the dial tone was there, because we couldn't get the phone to ring," Smith said. "[So the phones ringing more] is a good thing. We've got good players and we have players that maybe other clubs would like to acquire." Santana is certainly at the top of that list, attracting attention from at least five different clubs. One potential suitor of Santana did definitively drop out of the race on Monday. A high-ranking American League official confirmed to MLB.com in the morning that the Mariners were no longer involved in discussions for the two-time Cy Young Award winner. Seattle is the first team to officially pull out of the Santana hunt, but the Mets have retained their interest in the ace. The Yankees pulling out of the race for Santana coincided with a supposed deadline set by New York. According to remarks made by Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner, an offer by his club for Santana would expire at the end of day on Monday. Steinbrenner told the Associated Press on Sunday that he felt the Twins were playing his club against the Red Sox and that the Yankees could pull out if the Twins don't agree to a package that is believed to include Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera and a mid-level prospect "This is not an act," Steinbrenner said. "It's not a bluff. It's just reality. "Because as much as I want Santana, and you can make that clear -- for his sake, to know that I do want him -- but the fact is that I'm not going to play the game." Steinbrenner's comments have reportedly angered some of those inside the Twins organization with the remarks possibly constituting tampering. When asked about the comments by Steinbrenner, Smith would not address them. The deadline set by the Yankees wasn't the only news item that appeared to push the Twins toward a decision. The Yankees gained a starter on Monday, when Andy Pettitte's agent, Randy Hendricks, confirmed that the pitcher would be donning pinstripes again in 2008. The addition of Pettitte back into the rotation could affect a future offer by the Yankees, should they take this deal off the table. All of this newfound pressure on the Twins to complete a deal soon apparently isn't just from the other teams. Reports surfaced Monday that Santana might not be willing to waive his no-trade clause after the start of the '08 season. Smith said on Monday night that he had not been in contact with Santana, who has been spending some of his time recently in Venezuela. Santana's agent, Peter Greenberg, had not yet arrived in Nashville, but reports were that he was scheduled to fly in sometime Monday night. As new factors keep surfacing, it could make it seem like the Twins are frantic to make a deal. But, so far, that has not appeared to be the case. While many baseball insiders believe that the Twins will indeed trade Santana, indications from club sources are that the team is in no rush to make a deal if they don't feel it's the one they want.
Offers from both New York and Boston have had pieces that the Twins seem to covet, but not the entire package. The Twins want center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and pitcher Jon Lester of the Red Sox, but the Red Sox have said that they will part with one or the other, not both. The Yankees have also reportedly refused to include top prospects Ian Kennedy or Austin Jackson in the same package as Hughes and Cabrera.Smith said he would not be disappointed if his team walked away without a trade this week. "One of the beauties of this is that Johan Santana is signed for '08 and he's one of the best in the game," Smith said. "He's a first-class player and a first-class person. If he's our Opening Day starter in 2008, I would not be disappointed." Yet Smith acknowledged that the club doesn't feel it has a limitless amount of time when it comes to making any trade, whether it's one involving Santana or any player for that matter. "There are time constraints certainly," Smith said. "There are constraints on this week of meetings -- not that it's a be-all, end-all. We can leave here and make a deal next week or next month. But there are a series of other time periods going forward that will come into play. "We'll just have to continually to work to make good baseball decisions and make this club better." It's just whether the Twins will make a decision soon on Santana's future that's keeping Nashville buzzing.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.