Revisiting the Johan Santana Trade

It’s been almost a year since the Minnesota Twins traded ace Johan Santana to the New York Mets for a collection of prospects. The trade probably hasn’t gone as well as the Twins had hoped it would go. Only one prospect, out of four, has had any kind of impact in Minnesota: Carlos Gomez. The 23-year-old outfielder hit .258/.296/.360 with 33 stolen bases in 153 games in 2008.

Beyond Gomez’ contribution, though, the Twins organization has received less-than-expected results from Deolis Guerra and Phil Humber, while Kevin Mulvey showed modest improvements. Guerra was the key prospect in the deal and had an encouraging season in High-A ball in 2007 at the age of 19 for the Mets. He repeated that same level in 2008 and regressed by posting a 5.47 ERA and allowing 138 hits in 130 innings. His command and control also collapsed and he allowed 71 walks and 71 strikeouts. The right-hander’s stuff also lacked its former life. Guerra will likely be back in High-A ball for a third shot in 2009.

Both Humber and Mulvey were advanced pitching prospects and were expected to contribute significantly at the Major League level in 2008. Humber, though, regressed like Guerra. After allowing 129 hits in 139 Triple-A innings in 2007, he allowed 145 hits in 136.1 innings at the same level. His ERA rose from 4.27 to 4.56 and his K/BB ratio dropped from 2.73 to 2.16. On the plus side, Humber improved each month in 2008 after a rough first two months of the year. The right-hander is 26 entering 2009 and has no clear opportunity with the Twins in 2009 unless he makes a move to the bullpen.

Mulvey, 23, appears to have the most present potential of the three pitching prospects at this point. He spent 2007 in Double-A and allowed 145 hits in 151.2 innings with rates of 2.55 BB/9 and 6.53 K/9. The right-hander spent 2008 in Triple-A and allowed 152 hits in 148 innings of work. Mulvey posted rates of 2.92 BB/9 and 7.26 K/9. Barring injuries, the pitching depth in Minnesota will likely keep the right-hander in Triple-A for a second straight season but youth is on his side. The CHONE projection system predicts a 5.21 ERA for Mulvey in 2009, with 130 hits allowed in 114 innings and rates of 3.47 BB/9 and 6.00 K/9.

When you have to trade the best pitcher in baseball, it’s hard to outright win the deal. Although the players obtained from New York have not set the world on fire, Gomez had an encouraging first season in the Majors at a very young age. Guerra is still quite young and has a lot of time to rediscover his stuff, or learn to succeed without it. Humber could provide some innings out of the bullpen in 2009 and Mulvey will be just a phone call away if injuries strike the Minnesota rotation.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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When assessing the deal it is also important to note that Gomez played exceptional defense at a premium position. All the the value below replacement, and more, he gave up with his bat he made up for with his glove.