On Monday night, I watch the replay of Johan Santana’s no-hitter on SNY and was just as captivated as the night I watched it live on television.
But this time around, I kept thinking to myself what could have been with Santana had his Mets’ tenure not been decimated by injuries.
Then I of course looked to the future hope of the Mets’ starting rotation that almost certainly does not include the veteran lefty.
Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese, Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero are an impressive starting five, right? But odds are against the Mets in having all of these players pan out as expected.
That’s where Santana comes back into the picture.
The Mets have a $25 million team option for 2014 on Johan. He will make $25.5 million this season after not throwing a single pitch.
That option would have vested if Santana won a Cy Young with the Mets in any of his years here or pitched 215 innings this season.
The team has a $5.5 million buyout, which it will obviously exercise. Santana at that point becomes a free agent.
So would the Mets be interested in bringing back Johan on an incentives-based minor-league deal?
The answer is likely yes, since there would really be no consequence if his comeback attempt fails. They’ll be paying him $5.5 million anyway, so maybe the team can squeeze out the final ounces of talent left in Johan.
Even if he only regains some of his once dominant form, he can still wins some ballgames. When healthy, he pitched to a 3.18 ERA in New York.
More importantly, he can serve as a mentor to the unproven guys like Wheeler, Syndergaard and Montero. The Mets will almost certainly need some starting pitching insurance, so what better than having a former two-time Cy Young Award winner in house?
But the problem with all this is that Santana may still be able to earn a guaranteed Major League deal with another team. If that’s the case, he’ll likely choose that over a minor-league deal.
There is no sense of loyalty in the game today. Even though the Mets paid Santana $137.5 million for 46 total wins (about $3 million per win), he probably doesn’t feel like he owes the Mets anything.
As a fan, I can easily sit here and say that Santana owes the organization at least one more year in which he accepts minimum salary to account the for the money he’s earned during all the time he’s missed.
But then I put myself in Santana’s shoes. My talent has diminished since coming to New York. I’m coming off major shoulder surgery and have a very uncertain future. I’m attempting a comeback, and I would have much more confidence if a team showed confidence in me by giving me a guaranteed deal.
Maybe the Twins would step in and reunite with Johan for his last go-around so he could finish his career where it started.
Even so though, odds are the Santana won’t receive a guaranteed deal based on his age and recent string of injuries.
It’s a tricky situation to say the least. Many Mets’ fans probably just want the Wilpon’s to sign the $5.5 million buyout check to Johan and be done with him for good.
Yet, I’m sure many of us wouldn’t mind if he’s brought back (on the right deal of course) to try to give it one last shot in the orange and blue.
And if that’s not the case, then at least he’ll always be etched in Mets’ lore as the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter in franchise history.
The unfortunate thing about it all is that the no-hitter was supposed to only be one chapter in a storied Mets’ career. Santana had a handful of other great moments here, but sadly his injuries will cloud his on-field performance.