This morning on Mets Today, it was discovered that the Mets’ club option on Johan Santana for 2014 will turn into a player option if Santana either wins his first National League Cy Young or pitches 215 innings this season. If one of those two admittedly unlikely events occurs, Santana could choose for the Mets to pay him $25 million in 2014, which would hamper the struggling franchise’s ability to spend on free agents.
Although right now it looks like a longshot for Santana to get to 215 innings this season (he would have to average 6.5 innings per start without missing a start), that could change if he’s able to start a game in the first week of April. If Santana and the Mets begin the season playing well, we could be in for some interesting decisions as the trade deadline approaches.
Remember, even with a “lousy” team last season, the Mets were still 46-40 at the All-Star break and just half a game out of the NL Wild Card. If a similar scenario presents itself this season, the Mets will forced to think about selling off Santana, especially if he is on pace to reach 215 innings pitched.
Yes, it is much easier to imagine that the Mets will play poorly despite Santana’s best efforts, and even easier to imagine that both Santana and the Mets will go in the tank by mid-June, but an underwhelming Mets team playing over its head in the middle of the summer isn’t exactly unheard of. And if the Mets are playing over their heads, there’s a good chance that Santana has been a part of it.
Should Santana defy the aging process and keep the Mets in contention through July, the front office will have a very tough decision to make. Keep Santana on the roster and risk paying a 35-year-old pitcher $25 million next season, or trade him away for another close-to-the-majors prospect, knowing that another late summer swoon is all but inevitable?
You never really know how you’re going to feel until you get there, but I have to say that when presented with both choices, I would rather hold onto Santana. You really never know which season is going to be “the season.” That wouldn’t make it any easier to throw away another young asset and $25 million in 2014 payroll.
I’d say that I hope the Mets don’t have to make a decision about Santana, but based on the prospects for the 2013 season, it would be a pretty awesome decision to have to make.
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