Terry Collins told Jorge Castillo of the Star Ledger that Johan Santana is on target to start his first spring training game on March 10 or 11.
That would give him about five starts, assuming there are no other setbacks, before Opening Day.
Frankly, I don’t care if he’s starting Opening Day. I just want him to get fully healthy as soon as possible, even if that means missing a few starts early in the season.
The Mets are faced with a tough situation regarding Santana is he regains some of his form from previous seasons.
In one scenario, Santana could get off to a great start when he returns, and the team too could play great baseball out of the gate.
Santana would provide leadership and experience for the Mets’ young pitchers, and if he has his stuff working, he will try to keep the Mets competitive for as long as possible, hopefully deep into September or even October.
But scenario two could work out just as well for the Mets.
Santana could pitch very well out of the gate, and the Mets could swing a deal similar to what they did in 2011 with Carlos Beltran.
Beltran was tearing the cover off the ball and the Giants needed an outfield bat, so Sandy Alderson pulled off a deal for San Francisco’s top pitching prospect, Zack Wheeler.
Now, even if Santana starts red hot, he likely wouldn’t command a Wheeler-type prospect in a midseason trade, merely based on his recent injury history. But there’s no reason why the Mets can’t acquire an impact player as they gear up for a strong season in 2014.
It’s going to be a difficult call. If the team is hanging tough, Santana will likely be part of that success, yet the team needs to be realistic in its chances. A contender needing a starting pitcher could certainly look to bring in a starter of Santana’s caliber.
These scenarios, however, will be rendered irrelevant if Santana continues to struggle with injuries or pitches poorly.
But from the Mets’ perspective, a healthy Santana can help this team both in the present – if he’s pitching well – and in the future – if the team can acquire another young prospect in a trade.