Is Johan Santana Becoming A Burden?

With the decline of 2012 New York Mets, many fans have rightfully reset their sights on what the future holds.  Even prior to the trade deadline, when there was still an outside chance of the team turning its free fall around, some fans sought additions for next season, 2014 and beyond.  The notion is sound, but there are multiple situations impeding such moves.  First and foremost, much of the team’s young, previously trade worthy talent, has limped through the past few months and immensely decreased their value.  Then there are the players whose contract make them a fixture in the dugout.  Jason Bay is no doubt the first player who comes to mind, however Johan Santana should be creeping up on that list as well.

To be fair, I would have gladly accepted a twenty start season from Santana when the year began.  Fresh off what is often considered a career threatening surgery, Santana’s season got off to an encouraging start, but peaked with his June 1st no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals.  Since then, by way of fatigue and injury, Santana has been as inconsistent as they come.  In fact, he has not recorded a win since June 30th (only four starts) and given up no fewer than six earned runs per game during that span.  Whether you’d prefer to cite his ankle, his shoulder or fatigue in general, this has been an alarming stretch for the sure future hall of famer.

Deciding whether or not Santana is a burden to the rebuilding process is not as easy as looking directly at his stats.  Its been noted over the course of the season that Jon Niese is under Santana’s tutelage.  Its reasonable to think that the likes of Matt Harvey and eventually Zack Wheeler could benefit from his presence next year.  Also, its reasonable to think that there are still some very effective innings in that left arm.  Santana would remain a valuable member of the organization next season, but does that justify the $30+ million dollars he’ll make over that time?

To a point this argument is futile.  Johan Santana isn’t going anywhere, as the Mets would have to pay nearly all of his remaining salary if they were too offload him to another team.  Furthermore its worth noting that Santana would have to struggle through at least a dozen more similarly ineffective starts before fans could, maybe, approach the level of frustration felt for Jason Bay.  However, should he continue to struggle this season and get off to a poor start next year, fans will eventually grow tired of the situation.

So, maybe the question should be..When would Johan Santana become a burden?  As noted, his presence alone amongst the young starters is valuable, but he’ll need to perform on the mound to fend off the boo birds that will arise in time.  No matter how the remainder of 2012 goes for Santana, and regardless of what happens on the field next year, 2013 will be his last in Flushing.  There is no long term plan for Santana here, as he enters his mid-thirties and continues to decline.  So I suppose the answer to my original question isn’t that Santana himself is a burden, but his contract is.

The money spent on Santana next season could be spent a variety of ways.  In reality, it could be spent on two, three or maybe even four players that could go a long way in rounding out this roster.  Unfortunately that won’t be the case because that payroll for next season, just like the money owed to Jason Bay, is as good as gone.  That should be bothersome to Mets fans because despite the fact Santana is a leader on this team, he is no longer the pitcher he once was and the organization will in effect, be burdened by that contract until the day it ends.  So while its unfair to call Santana a burden to the team itself at this time, his contract, without much better performance going forward is definitely a burden to the future of the New York Mets.

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