Mark Feinsand, the Yankee beat reporter for the NY Daily News spent some time with me on Thursday talking about what else? Phil Hughes and Johan Santana. It was a long interview that covered a few other topics so I'm breaking it up into two parts. Mark was formerly with MLB.com for many years before joining The Daily News and has been breaking a lot of stories this year, including ARod coming back to the Yankees. He was kind enough to join us on Pinstripe Alley.
Click to listen! Audio Interview mp3
Mark: No problem, my pleasure
John: There's so much to talk about. We could spend two hours on one issue, but let's go right into I guess, the most - by the way, first of all do you have any breaking stories right now that you can announce on Pinstripe Alley for the whole world?
Mark: (laughing) Nothing at the moment. When there is something breaking go check out mydailynews.com and you'll find everything you need.
John: You mean you won't give me a breaking story? You're saving it for your paper?
Mark: I owe my paper that much!
John: Ok, well I guess we'll just start with one of the bigger stories obviously. It's the Johan Santana deal.
Rough transcript under the fold:
Rough transcript: (Both laughing)
John: There's a lot of rumors and a lot of reports going around. Now there's a Minnesota paper reporting (it's in Twin Cities), they're saying that now Boston is in the lead in offering like four players: Jed Lowry, a shortstop; some other pitcher, Justin Masterson and Coco Crisp - I mean, who would want Coco Crisp in this deal?
Anyway, what are your sources telling you? Where are we with the Johan Santana trade?
Mark: Well, I think the Twins are still in the process of gauging interest from all the teams out there. It's pretty much been narrowed down to maybe 4-5-6 teams who have not only the interest but the ability to pay Santana what he's going to want to sign for and a good extension. I think you're going to hear a lot about the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Mets names will be thrown in there, the LA teams. But I don't think you are going to have a resolution one way or the other. You're going to hear a lot of stories over the next few days leading up to the [can't hear/can't understand] meeting about this team's in the lead, or this team looks like they're in the lead. A lot of posturing right now. The Twins are trying to get the best deal they possibly can and that's going to mean in their eyes hopefully setting up some sort of a bidding war between the Yankee's and Red Sox.
John: Well, that would seem to be the smartest outcome because it's always at this point Yankees vs. Red Sox. I was surprised by John Heyman's report on SI.com and he is a very good reporter. He made it seem like it was almost a done deal, that they were going to take Hughes, Kennedy, Melky, and maybe Austin Jackson. That didn't make any sense right away because of there's a lot of good prospects out there and a lot of money available.
Let's go right into Phil Hughes, because I noticed in one of your latest columns you basically said "Do not trade Phil Hughes." What's your reaction to the Yankees not including Phil Hughes in the trade?
Mark: Basically what I write on my blog and you are referring to is I don't think the Yankees should trade Phil Hughes. They spent three years nurturing this guy, developing this guy with the idea that he was going to be a number one type pitcher. And if they honestly believe that, well then you've got a guy who for the next three years is at very little money and is just entering his arbitration years vs. a guy in Santana who, granted, is one of the 1-2-3 best pitchers in the game and is going to be asking for $20 million. Santana is going to be a free agent next year if nobody trades him or signs him. Like I said, there aren't that many teams out there who can afford to sign him. So, I think the Yankees might be better off rolling the dice, take the risk that he's going to get the free agency, knowing that the Yankees money is going to be out there and they can sign this guy next year for $150 million and keep Phil Hughes. I just think right now they have spent so much time developing this guy in particular - I realize that he has fallen behind the Depth Charge, behind Joba Chamberlain who, a year ago nobody except the real die-hard fans had ever even heard of - I just don't know that trading of Phil Hughes right now is the smartest thing. Now, if they could get Santana for a package of Kennedy, Alan Horne and Melky Cabrera I'd do that in five seconds. I don't think they know quite as much of what Kennedy is going to be. But I think Hughes is a guy that if they trade him, they may come to regret it.
John: There's a lot of fans, especially on Pinstripe Alley and the other good blogs, who really love Phil Hughes and they don't want to see him go. But on the flip side, to get a pitcher like Santana you just have to give up something. It seems to me with the changing dynamics of so much money in the league now you're not going to get a Beckett trade or trading a young ace just because you want to dump Lowell's salary. I don't see that happening. So, if the Yankees want to pass and roll the dice on Hughes - who I think is very good. I think the injury set him back except for his relief appearance in the playoffs; before the injury he looked like the number one prospect. Santana holds all the cards. But Minnesota, I don't think they're going to do what the Nationals did with Soriano and turn down ridiculous deals and thought they could sign him. I mean, Minnesota definitely is not going to sign him. If the Yankees don't trade for him now, I think they have no shot to get Santana. I don't think that he'll stay in Minny, and Minny will try to get players. And if he were to wind up in Boston, I just don't see how the Yankees would be able to compete with Boston for five years. What's your take with the Yankees if they were to roll the dice and then Santana goes to Boston? How could the Yankees compete with Boston?
Mark: Here's the thing: I don't think the Yankees can go about their business and make their decisions based on Boston getting a player. If Boston gets the player they're going to pay a big price for him, and I'm not sure Boston would bring Santana in because you're going to have to pay him $20-$25 million a year while Beckett is making $10 million. That's not exactly a good message to send to your current ace who just basically rambled through the playoffs and led you to a World Series Championship. All the sudden Beckett's going to want to renegotiate. It just seems like it's going to cause too many problems, they're going to require too many of their good prospects (whether it's Ellsbury or Buchholz, whether it's Masterson or Lester). Also, they don't need Johan Santana. They just won the World Series twice in the last four years without him and they certainly have the tools to do it again next year with the players they already have. I don't think Minnesota would take Oak or Chris in this deal and honestly I just don't see enough teams out there that are legitimate contenders to get this guy. And if Minnesota gets turned down by the Yankees because they're not giving them Hughes and then goes out there and sees what else is out there - what if Minnesota comes back to the Yankees and says "OK, make it Kennedy and we'll do the deal"? In that case I'd do it right away. But I just don't think there's a rush to trade Phil Hughes this moment to get Santana, because this thing has a lot of time to play out.
John: Yeah, it's like a game of chicken. For a lot of baseball fans this time of year - the trade deadline - is the most fun, especially for the blogosphere. The readership triples and everyone's just so energized. There's nothing quite like trade talk in baseball. You don't find that in any other sport other than baseball. It's such a numbers game. I remember reading the Sporting News when I was a kid when the Yankees traded for Greg Nettles and for Chambliss and you'd read these blockbusters. It always sucked you in. So, it's a great time. For yourself, how is it covering - what's the hardest part of your job at this point? Do the trade deadlines drive you crazy? Or are you guys into it as much as we are?
Mark: Well, we're into it but it does drive us crazy. You know, especially in New York there's loads of competition out there that we're dealing with - I'm dealing with the Post and Times and Newsday and the [can't hear/can't understand] Ledger, the Record and the Current the Journal News and 'mlb.com and WFAN and everybody else out there - we're all trying to get the same news. So, obviously there's enough competition that you're always trying to think two steps ahead. But I agree with you - this time of year, the Hot Stove League, the trade deadline - baseball's the one sport where fans know about the prospects. Fans know about the minor leaguers, they know about the guys who are still a couple of years away from the majors. The NBA doesn't have that, the NFL certainly doesn't have that because their minor league is college football. The NHL has it to some extent, but the NHL just doesn't have the same interest level as major league baseball does. In that aspect it's definitely unique the way the trade season goes, with the fact that people know who Ian Kennedy and Austin Jackson and Jose Tabada are, whereas no other sport you can say that.
John: Yeah, I have to give the blogs a little credit on that because there are so many now. People just focusing at the minor league level, that are doing reviews, that are getting that information out there. Remember, the baseball draft was like a non-entity. It was never televised, nobody knew about it. Don Mattingly was a 180th round pick, you know? Mike Piazza was picked because he was the nephew of some uncle - you know how that story went. And now with the internet I believe the baseball draft is going to have the same sort of effect (with ESPN viewing and fan participation). I think it's great. You're right. And we and yourself, you know the prospect of Austin Jackson, Brett Gardner, Jose Tabada - we'd never even hear about these players before. How do you approach your daily blog, because you also blog now - how do you incorporate that into your daily routine?
Mark: Well, during the season it's easy. I'm at the games and after work I blog about the game or the events of the day, several times a day at times depending on what's going on. Off season it's a little more relaxed; it's not quite every day. When there's news obviously I'm giving my take on it. But I look at our blog at the Daily News as more of a supplement of my coverage in the paper. It really helps things that I can't get in the paper for space reasons or whatever else. It helps me get out some opinion and some other little tidbits and I think it's become a very useful tool and a very helpful place for people to go who are looking for information. The fan blogs out there are all great and I read most of them every day, but they're fan blogs. They don't necessarily - the fans rely on us to give them the information to for them to then form their opinions with. I think for blogs like myself, like Pete Abe, like Tyler Kepner's blog on the New York Times, I think we give the opportunity for fans to see things, to here things from us. We're talking to the people involved in these things and I think that's a useful angle for people.
John: There's a new trade today: Minnesota cut a deal with Tampa Bay. I know you probably know about the trade. What are your feelings about this trade, who does it help, and how does it affect the Santana move?
Mark: I think it helps both teams. Delmon Young, obviously is one of the top young hitters in the game (had some nice work last year, came in second in Rookie of the Year voting). Minnesota needs offense; they have a surplus of young pitching. The Devil Rays - oh, sorry they dropped 'Devil' from their name - The Rays obviously need some pitching; they had a surplus of outfielders. So, I think the deal made sense for both clubs. Delmon Young should hit very well for Minnesota, be a very good addition in the corner outfield spot. He's got a great arm and obviously a great bat and he can run as well which is nice on that turf. And Garza is a nice prospect and the Rays need pitchers like him to try to contend. They're not going to be out there for the big free agents or be able to land the big fish like Santana, so for them to get a guy like Garza (they had to [can't hear/can't understand] ) they may have enough pitching overtake Baltimore in the division. While overtaking a team for fourth place doesn't sound like a lot when you're talking to a bunch of Yankee fans, to the Rays that's a big deal. It's a big deal to them - I think they've only done that once in their history, so I think it made sense.
As far as the Santana deal, I don't it does all that much. Minnesota got a center field prospect but he's not anywhere near close to being ready, so they still need a center fielder. Obviously they still need a pitcher, whether it's Hughes or Buchholz or whoever it may be, I don't think it's going to have all that much impact on the Santana trade other then by trading Richards and Bartlett. It does open up a hole at short which could be filled by Brendan Harris, which could be filled by Lexie Cassia. But it seems like the Mets could say "Well look, you want Jose Reyes, we want him for Santana." I don't think that's what's going to happen, but it certainly brings him more into the conversation.