Fantasy fallout: Johan Santana to the Mets

Sorry for the sparse posts lately, guys. I’ve been working on something that I’ll hopefully have information for you on shortly. With the trade of Johan Santana to the New York Mets, though, I couldn’t continue my absence any longer. As a Mets fan, obviously, I’m thrilled with this trade. As a baseball fan, I’m sure you’ve read about a thousand pieces on this already. For my own satisfaction, let’s quickly examine — completely objectively — the deal from both sides.

Mets get: SP Johan Santana
Twins get: OF Carlos Gomez, SP Philip Humber, SP Kevin Mulvey, SP Deolis Guerra
Quick outlook: Santana gains value. Gomez gains value, but rates will be worse. Humber gains value, but rates will be worse. Mulvey gains value. Guerra is relatively unaffected.
Indirectly affected: SP Livan Hernandez loses value. SP Kyle Lohse loses value. SP Mike Pelfrey loses value. SP Orlando Hernandez loses a little value. OF Glen Perkins gains value. Craig Monroe loses value. OF Jason Pridie loses value. SP Clay Buchholz gains value. SP Jon Lester‘s value remains relatively unchanged. OF Jacoby Ellsbury gains a little value. SP Coco Crisp loses a little value. Philip Hughes gains a little value. SP Ian Kennedy loses a little value. OF Melky Cabrera gains a little value.

Johan Santana was already the consensus #1 fantasy pitcher going into 2008. Going to the Mets, he simply extends that lead. First, he is moving to the more pitcher-friendly National League. That in itself will boost his numbers a bit. He also joins to a team with a far superior offense. We’ll talk about wins sometime in the not-so-distant future, but for the purposes of this discussion you simply need to know that a pitcher’s offense is the single greatest contributor to his win total… even greater than his skill or runs allowed. Johan should approach 20.

Some have said that the move to Shea Stadium will help Johan. According to the Park Indices in the 2008 Bill James Handbook, that might not be the case. Last year, the Metrodome’s home run index was 75. From 2005-2007, it was 85. Shea Stadium was actually a little more favorable for home run hitters at 93 and 90, respectively. Not a big difference, but it needs to be noted, especially considering that Santana is a flyball pitcher (37% GB% in 2007). It won’t make a huge difference, and the move to the NL should compensate for it; my point is simply that you shouldn’t expect his home run rate to drop significantly.

Overall, we should start seeing Johan drafted a few spots higher. I’m still staying away, though. There are too many pitching bargains throughout the draft to waste a first or second round pick on a starter, even if that is where his true value lies. If he falls to the fourth round in a traditional mixed league (which is highly unlikely), pounce.

With Santana in New York, there is no longer is an opening at the back-end of the rotation. Bad news for Mike Pelfrey. It’s also bad news for El Duque. Santana gives the rotation more stability, and might convince the Mets to move Hernandez to the bullpen and sign a guy like Kyle Lohse. Not a move it’d be all that thrilled with (I’d have much rather signed a couple of guys like Octavio Dotel, Mark Hendrickson, or even Jorge Julio), but it’s a possibility. Both lose value, Pelfrey more so.

Because there’s still talk of the Mets signing Lohse, you don’t need downgrade him too much. It’s less likely now that they have Santana, but it’s still possible. As for Livan Hernandez (another guy the Mets could have turned to if they didn’t get Santana), his ship appears to have sailed. He had very, very limited fantasy value anyway, but on the Mets he could have gotten a few wins. He can essentially be ignored now, as I haven’t heard anything since the trade about the Mets still considering him.

That brings us to the other members of the trade. Carlos Gomez gains value because his chances of getting playing time have increased. He might have ended up as a fourth or (more likely) fifth outfielder for the Mets, but now he’ll have a chance to compete for the starting center field job in Minnesota. His presence knocks Craig Monroe and Jason Pridie’s value down a bit. Still, I wasn’t big on Carlos Gomez to begin with (although he can steal a bag), and the move to the American League will only hurt his numbers. Still, he is a worth a shot in AL-only leagues if you get him for a reasonable (read: low) price.

Without Santana, on the surface, it looked like Humber could have competed for the Mets’ fifth-starter job. The more I read, though, the more it seemed like the Mets would have signed a guy like Kyle Lohse or Livan Hernandez (even more reason to like the trade as a Mets fan!) had they missed out on Santana. Now, Humber should have a much greater chance of making a rotation, albeit in a better league where his numbers will be worse. Still, Humber pitched pretty well in Triple-A in 2007, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him starting for the Twins in April.

There was some talk of Kevin Mulvey being in the Mets mix if Lohse or Livan wasn’t signed, so he could get involved in Minny too.

With Santana gone, Humber and Mulvey’s competition also gain some value. Glen Perkins is probably the guy to watch, although I’ve heard from Twins fans that Anthony Swarzak, Tyler Robertson, or Jeff Manship could be in the mix. The latter two haven’t pitched above A-ball, but they could be considered. I’m not entirely familiar with the Twins system, so if you guys think someone else could be involved, feel free to e-mail or comment.

Red Sox
Now that we’ve looked at the Mets and the Twins, let’s check out the guys who were really indirectly affected. In my analysis of Clay Buchholz a while back, I noted that a trade of Santana to the Sox would make it really difficult for him to find some major league innings. There are still six guys around, but it’s better to have one be Jon Lester than Johan Santana. Buchholz gains the most of any Red Sox or Yankees player from this.

As far as Lester goes, his value probably remains the same. A move to Minnesota would have guaranteed him a spot in the rotation and allowed us to put him down for more innings, but he would have lost several wins. Staying with the Red Sox, he might not get as many innings, but the wins will be there. Generally speaking, I don’t think this makes too much of a difference either way.

Jacoby Ellsbury gains a little value. Had he been traded to Minnesota, he would have been all-but guaranteed the starting center field spot. In Boston, he doesn’t have this guarantee. In all truthfulness, I see Boston looking to trade Coco Crisp now, but we have to account for the possibility that they might not.

Still, playing for the Red Sox means more RBIs, more Runs, and a higher batting average. Over the past three year, Fenway has the best park index for left-handed batting average, and the Metrodome has the worst. Using the same indices, it looks like he might lose out on a couple of homers. Overall, though, he gains a little value with the possibility of a trade eliminated.

Coco Crisp probably loses a little value. If Ellsbury was traded, he’s likely the Opening Day center fielder. With Ellsbury around, he’s probably a fourth outfielder or getting traded to who-knows-where. Knock him down slightly and pay attention to the trade rumors.

Mental Health and the CBA
A particular bit of language in the latest CBA could have negative consequences for some players.

Phil Hughes’s value increases a little following the trade, although it became pretty apparent over the last few weeks that he wasn’t going anywhere. Pitching for the Yanks gives him a few more wins.

Ian Kennedy probably loses just a little value. He’s the favorite for the fifth-starter spot right now, but he’ll be back at Triple-A (or traded) once Joba moves in, unless a guy like Mike Mussina collapses. In Minnesota, he’d probably have a spot all year, or until he faltered.

Melky Cabrera gains a little value from this. He’ll be the Yankee’s center fielder (although that means Jason Giambi might not get a lot of at-bats, which will hurt the team as a whole), and hitting in that lineup is good for anybody.

Concluding thoughts

Okay. Maybe not as quick as I thought it would be, but I think that this gives a comprehensive view of the trade from all angles. If you have any questions, or think I forgot someone, feel free to let me know.

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