"Fearful of the Twins delivering Johan Santana to the Red Sox, the Yankees decided last night to begrudgingly include Phil Hughes in a possible package with Melky Cabrera, and hoped it was enough to bring baseball's best pitcher to The Bronx." -- NY PostHughes for Santana? I'm on the fence. Usually I'd have no problem trading a prospect for an established star, but something about this deal seems fishy. For one, how much better do the Yanks get by trading their "potential" #1 for an established one? At the end of the day, all they did was trade pitching to get pitching (and lost their CF to boot). According to my math, 5-1+1 still equals 5. It's not like they were falling over themselves with starters they were pining to deal.
Sure, I was never overwhelmed by Hughes last season, and baseball is littered with "can't miss" guys who, well, missed. But for almost three years, all we've heard from the Yankee organization -- the scouts, the coaches, the players, the management -- is how Phil Hughes is the real deal. And up until last night, apparently, the Yankees had resisted every single trade offer that included his name. Why, suddenly, now? Were the Yankees equally nonplussed by what they saw?
The other part of this deal that makes me leery is Santana himself. If this was 2006, I'd probably be screaming for this deal to get done. But 2007 was a very different year for Johan the Great. In roughly the same number of starts that he'd made through his astounding 2004-06 seasons, Santana pitched about 13 fewer innings and had his fewest wins since his days as a part-time starter. More glaringly, his strikeouts were down (235 vs. an average of 249 for '04-'06), his ERA was a half-run higher and over 3 for the first time, and his remarkable WHIP also crept past 1 for the first time since '03.
To be fair, if you just looked at his 2007 numbers, Santana was one of the best pitchers in the game. But were the numbers just an aberration, a blip, a "down" year on a lousy team in expectation of being traded? Or are we seeing the first inevitable slippage, the fall from the heights that no pitcher can expect to maintain forever?
My faith in the Yankees brain trust is starting to wane, too. After starting out this off-season with a series of great moves -- dumping Torre, hiring Girardi, saying goodbye to A-Rod and bringing back Posada -- things are starting to take an unfortunate turn for the worse. There was the laughable and potentially debilitating turn-around with A-Rod (more money does not equal more hits in October, folks) and now this.
As I said, I'm really undecided on what the Yanks should do. Santana could win a Cy Young for the Yanks next season... or he could continue his downward trend to the point that the Yankees will be paying Barry Zito money but getting Barry Zito numbers, too. On the other hand, Hughes might turn out to be nothing more than a serviceable if unspectacular starter destined for the middle of the rotation... or he might earn a Cy Young of his own in a year or two, if what everyone's been telling us has been true. I guess only time will tell...