I live in St. Paul, and I was mildly concerned when I saw the annoucement. More so because the Twins already spit in his face offering a contract extention to Santana this off-season of $19.5 million over three years, with $4.5 million in the first year, which is less than he figures to make in arbitration, and less per year than the contract they gave Radke.
One important point to note, that no one in the thread mentioned, is that the Twins still have Santana under arbitration through 2006, so he won't be a free agent until 2007, assuming he signs no long term extention between now and then.
I love the Twins, but they are very fortunate to play in the AL Central. The front office has made a whole slew of stupid moves this offseason:
Further alienating the franchise player. In addition to being rediculously lowballed via the contract offer, Santana hasn't forgotten about how he was kept in long relief when he was the team's best pitcher. If you go back to 2002, among pitchers to throw over 100 innings, only the incomperable Big Unit struck out more batters per nine innings pitched.
Giving Jacque Jones $5 million for 2005, which is 8.3% of the team's entire payroll, when Jones' glove in right can easily be replaced by Ford, and his offense easily replaced by LeCroy at DH (which is where Ford is slated to start the year, even though both he and Jones are better defensive outfielders than Shannon Stewart, who is coming off an injury plagued year in which he came down with plantair facitis).
Giving Jaun Castro $2 million over two years. His career batting average is .226, his career on base percentage is .269, and his career slugging percentage is .331. For those of you adding at home, that's a career .600 OPS. And he'll leave Spring Training as the starting shortstop. He's no different than Nick Punto or Augie Ojeda (except they make league minimum), who would only need to hold down the job until midseason when Bartlett is ready to come up from AAA.
Choosing to overspend on the likes of Jones and Castro, while taking a hard line approach to the Koskie negotiations, when the loss at third base is more difficult to replace internally than either right field or shortstop.
Allowing Ron Gardenhire to remain the manager. He doesn't manage. He just follows a script. "Hey, Ron, Balfour is throwing bullets. He sat down six consecutive Yankees, striking out two. His fastball is topping at 97, and New York is looking completely lost at the plate. We're up 5 to 1, what do you want to do?" Ron: "Well, it's the eighth innning, and Rincon always pitches the eighth, so regardless of what is actually happening in the game, we're sending in Juan."
Don't get me wrong, Rincon had a great year for the Twins, but you would hope that what is happening in the game would have some influence on a managers decision. Everyone brings up the call to send Nathan back in for a thrid inning in game two, but that doesn't bother me. What does, is that after Nathan goes out and starts walking people, and it becomes obvious to everyone that he's worn out and his control is gone, that Gardenhire leaves him in. Or all the idiotic baserunning during the series, like getting thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple down by six runs. If Kelly were still the manager, Hunter would have been cussed out to no end when he made it back to the dugout, but Gardenhire defends stupid as agressive (what it really showed was that Hunter had no confidence in his teammates to drive him in).
The front office makes some terrible moves, like leaving Morneau in the minors to start 2004, where he could obliterate AAA pitching for a second season (because the Twins have such a huge surplus of power), citing that he needs to work on his defense. A first baseman! If he could play defense, he wouldn't be at first base. His job is to mash. Better to have Dougie Baseball hit .230 and play solid defense at first. Never mind that when Morneau got called up, he hit more dingers in half a season than Mientkiewicz has in any given year.
This year, the Twins will let Balfour rot in long relief like Santana did, and keep Scott Baker stuck dominating AAA hitters, while the likes of Terry Mulholland, Joe Mays, and Kyle Lohse continue to define mediocrity.
For fantasy purposes, should Balfour ever get a crack at the rotation, he should post an ERA a shade above four and strike-out a batter an inning, though his K/BB won't be all that much higher than two.
I need to move away from the computer. I'm too worked up.