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Santana vs. Hughes

By Mike Silva ~ May 4th, 2010. Filed under: Mike Silva.

Just a day after Phil Hughes pitched a gem at the Stadium and Johan Santana imploded in Philadelphia, Brandon Tierney of ESPN Radio asked this question: Leaving finances out of the equation, over the next 3 seasons, who would you rather have: Santana or Hughes?

It’s a tricky question that doesn’t lead to an obvious answer. On the surface a team like the Yankees who has a “win now” offensive core would benefit from having a 1A pitcher to team with Sabathia. Knowing how there is a finite window of opportunity with this group, I believe the Yankees would have been wise to trade for Roy Halladay since prospects like Chamberlain and Hughes are unproven. However, it’s hard to question the non deal of Melky Cabrera and Phil Hughes for Johan Santana in the winter of 2007. The Yankees sacrificed a season (08) where they didn’t make the playoffs to keep their prospects and add a pitcher (CC Sabathia) every bit the ace of Johan Santana. Not acquiring Santana only looks good today because of the acquisition of Sabathia, which never was a sure thing. Of course, this assumes you don’t believe Santana is in the beginning stages of a rapid decline. I rather take Tierney’s question and add a twist: Why didn’t the Yanks push hard to make Chien Ming Wang, instead of Hughes, the centerpiece of a Santana deal.

There has been much speculation that Chien Ming Wang was a required part of any Santana deal along with Hughes and Cabrera. Hindsight is always 20/20, but trading Wang when his value was highest after 2007 would have made the most sense. Yes, he was coming off another 19 win season, but Wang performed poorly in the playoffs and never had the strikeout rate that made you feel he was destined for consistent long term success. Wang was playing ace on a team that had none so perhaps he was overvalued. Doesn’t Wang and Cabrera look a heck of a lot better than Carlos Gomez and a bunch of 4A pitchers? I think the answer is obvious. In the end Minnesota GM Bill Smith botched the negotiations for Santana so its hard to completely blame Brian Cashman for how things turned out.

Of course, leaving finances out, as Tierney posed in that question, is impossible. Do the Yankees go after CC Sabathia with Santana in the fold? Probably not, but I would never say never. Does Santana mean the 2008 Yankees make the playoffs? Again, no guarantees, but it’s not impossible to think he could have made up 6 games in the standings. The bottom line is the decision to keep Hughes over Santana is solid for the Yankees because of the presence of CC Sabathia. Without him there is no 2009 World Championship and the history of the Yankees makes it hard for me to believe they would have been patient with a struggling Hughes in the rotation. In the end the non deal worked out because of the Yankees being in the right place at the right time with CC Sabathia.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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3 Responses to Santana vs. Hughes

  1. Charley Baseball

    Uhhhhhnnn! Wrong answer. Cashman completely botched this potential deal and until you admit it, you will be fooling no one but yourself.

  2. Greg Cohen

    Charley, what are you talking about?

    This non-move was great for the Yankees. Sure 2008 stunk, but they won in 2009, and now they have a 23-year-old pitcher who is quickly becoming a very good starter.

    Meanwhile in Queens, they have an aging pitcher who will only get worse as the years go by. His fastball is already averaging less than 90 MPH and as that number gets closer and closer to his changeup (81 MPH) he will become more and more hittable.

  3. DBest

    Yeah, Charley Baseball is obviously an envious Mets/Sox fan who can’t admit Cashman’s move to keep Hughes and sign Sabathia was brilliant and supported by their 27th championship last year.

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