How Much For Santana?

1196273812The Johan Santana auction is well underway and, not surprisingly, the word is that he won’t come cheap. Not only in terms of players, but also in terms of dollars in a new contract for the lefty. There are apparently four suitors for Santana’s services at the moment: the Sox, Yankees, Mets, and Dodgers. All four have legitimate high-level prospects to offer the Twins, and enough money to sign the man most people believe is the best pitcher in all of baseball.

First, the money. The Times’ Jack Curry writes today that Santana may be looking at the ridiculous contract Barry Zito signed with San Francisco last winter (7 years, $126 million) as a barometer. It goes without saying that the 28-year-old Santana is on another level than Zito, and he has already turned down a 4-year, $80 million extension from Minnesota.

That the other 29 teams would be penalized because the Giants agreed to those terms is unfortunate, but it’s the cost of doing business in the cash-flush world of Major League Baseball. So, figure 7 years at $140 million as a starting point, but expect it to go higher.

The bigger issue, of course, is the prospects. It seems the Twins would want either Clay Buchholz or Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury. The Sox would certainly rather they take Coco Crisp off their hands. The Yankees seem to have offered Melky Cabrera and one of their young stud pitchers not named Joba Chamberlain (that would be Ian Kennedy or Philip Hughes).

The Mets have a surplus of talented outfielders, but they’re pitching prospects (Philip Humber and Mike Pelfrey) are not at the level of the Sox or Yankees. The Dodgers may have more prospects than either of those three teams, but not necessarily the cash to sign Santana to an extension.

If either the Yanks or Sox budge on Chamberlain or Ellsbury, Santana would probably be their’s for the taking.

There is another wild card in the mix; Oakland starter Dan Haren, who would be slightly cheaper in terms of talent and infinitely cheaper in terms of a financial commitment.

The truth is the Red Sox don’t actually have to do anything. Buchholz and Lester have shown exciting glimpses of what they can do at the Major League level, and Ellsbury has superstar written all over him. Plus, the days of playing keep-away from the Yankees are over. That gives Team Theo a little leverage with the Twins.

No question Santana is a once-in-a-generation talent, but would he be enough to tip the scales, yet again, in the never-ending Red Sox-Yankees drama?