Where Are They Now? The Johan Santana Trade Edition

An article by posted on June 29, 2010

On January 29, 2008, Mets fans everywhere rejoiced over the formerly-rumored-now-true stories about Johan Santana, a pitching force that many teams coveted from the Minnesota Twins, was coming to our team in a blockbuster trade.  We were not only parting with prospects that we could handle losing (especially in a trade like this one), the Mets were able to negotiate an extension right off the bat with the Venezuelan lefty.

The irony was, last year, as Carlos Gomez scored the winning run in the Twins’ one-game-playoff victory against the Detroit Tigers, many wondered if the trade was more of a favorable one to the Twins than the Mets.  After all, the Twins were going to the American League Divisional Series, and the Mets were simply making reservations at their closest golf course.  I think most of us non-Johnny-Come-Lately fans know that the Twins winning the one-game playoff and making the divisional series in 2009 had more to do with Joe Mauer carrying the team on his back than Carlos Gomez who scored one *measly* (though important) run against the Tigers.

After all, on November 6, 2009, the Twins traded Gomez to the Milwaukee Brewers for shortstop J.J. Hardy. So far for 2010, Gomez has played in 49 games, has hit 5 HRs, 18 RBIs, and is sporting a line of .239/.280/.381. A player who is considered a “speedster”, Gomez has an incredibly low career OBP of .290.

This isn’t an article on Johan Santana or Carlos Gomez, however.  In fact, my inspiration for this post is something I overheard on WFAN as I was walking around Citi Field on Sunday afternoon.  Howie Rose was talking about the Johan Santana trade with the weekend opponent the Twins to see how the respective parties benefited from it.  I believe that although Santana is having a lackluster year thus far, the Mets have done just fine without the four parts the Mets traded for him, including Gomez who was the only position player involved in the trade, and three pitchers, Kevin Mulvey (R), Philip Humber (R) and Deolis Guerra (R).

Kevin Mulvey is a former second round draft pick with the Mets, having signed on August 9, 2006.  Mulvey was later the “player to be named later” in a late-2009 deal the Twins consummated with the Arizona Diamondbacks, sending pitcher Jon Rauch to the Twins.  For the Diamondbacks, Mulvey is currently on the 40-man roster, having appeared in two games for them this season. His stats are abysmal, but he’s still young so he can certainly work out the kinks as he matures.

When the trade occurred, if there was someone I had to be “upset” about potentially losing was Philip Humber, an injury-prone prospect but had a lot of upside to counteract it.  At one point, I remember some rumblings that Humber could potentially have a higher ceiling than Mike Pelfrey, who was considered more “major league ready” than Humber was in 2007.  Perhaps most Mets fans remember Humber being underused towards the end of 2007, as he was thrust into a start in the last week of the season in critical games the Mets absolutely had to win.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see what Humber could have brought to the table, since he was traded to Minny for Santana just a few months after the season’s end.

Humber is another member of the “I Was Traded For Johan Santana and All I Have Is This Stupid T-Shirt” club, but is no longer affiliated with the Minnesota Twins.  You see, he was granted free agency after the 2009 season, and is now a Kansas City Royal.  However, on June 10, 2010, Humber was hit with a line drive while pitching in a game for the AAA Omaha Royals.  He was able to walk off the field on his own and was taken to the hospital for observation.  No other information has been found at this time on the extent of his injury.

Deolis Guerra is an interesting case, having never pitched a game in the major leagues of yet, still the last representative of the trade who is still involved in the Twins organization.  The 6’5″ righthander is working as a starter in the Twins AAA Rochester affiliate, but his stats are nondescript: 0-3, 6.84 ERA and 1.720 WHIP.  Yuck.  However, starting the year in AA New Britain, he was 1-3, 3.20 ERA and 1.207 WHIP.  A bit better, so perhaps he’s just green.  At barely 21 years old, I may have to agree.  We’ll have to keep our eye on him to see how he turns out, since the Twins found him valuable enough to keep him around.

It is perhaps too soon to analyze how well the Mets will make off with Johan Santana in their pitching rotation and not hanging onto the likes of Mulvey, Humber and Guerra.  The fact is, prospects are prospects for a reason: they stay that way for awhile and some pan out, some do not.  While we have the feel-good stories of Stephen Strasberg and “The Other” Mike Stanton, they are exceptions rather than the rule of break-out stars. These could also be cautionary tales of trading prospects before giving them a chance, in instances of half-year rentals or those without long-term contracts.

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