Though it may be hard to believe, Johan Santana is entering the final year of his massive six-year, $137.5 million contract, signed with the New York Mets following a February 2008 trade from the Minnesota Twins.

While there is a $25 million team option for 2014, it is clear to anyone who has watched General Manager Sandy Alderson these past three offseasons that the team will not be picking up the option, which leaves two realistic scenarios for 2013:  Santana is traded to a contender in July (probably around the time Zack Wheeler is called up), or Santana finishes out the season as a Met and leaves as a free agent.

The likelihood of either scenario depends almost entirely on two factors: his health and his performance.  Since health is nearly impossible to predict without a medical degree, let’s focus on the second factor.

Pitcher A:  59 IP, 2.75 ERA, 9.15 K/9, 2.43 BB/9, 15:4 K:BB, .219 Opp.Avg.

Pitcher B:  57.2 IP, 7.08 ERA, 8.02 K/9, 3.61 BB/9, 51:23 K:BB, .288 Opp.Avg

In case you haven’t figured this out yet, Pitcher A is Santana before the no-hitter, Pitcher B is Santana after the no-hitter (his stats from the no-no are included in B’s stats).  While the strikeout rate declined slightly (though it still remained solid), the walk rate ballooned by over a full walk per nine innings, and the ERA skyrocketed by over 4.25 runs.

It has been widely speculated that one of the main factors causing Santana’s production to go from David Cone circa 1991 in April and May to Matt Wise circa 2008 from June to August 27, when he was shut down, was the 134 pitches he threw during the June 1st no-hitter, but his June statistics were still very good, which doesn’t support that theory: 7.63 K/9, .180 Opp. Avg., 1.08 WHIP, 2.77 ERA (of course those stats look better because of the no-no).

Blaming the decline on one start where Santana threw too many pitches gives fans hope that he may return to form in 2013, after all, his shoulder has had plenty of time to recover.

The more likely cause of his decline was the sprained ankle that landed him on the disabled list in July and the back inflammation which ended Santana’s season prematurely in August.

If this is the reason for Santana’s struggles, 2013 might end up being a troublesome year for him.  If Santana is unable to stay healthy, as was the case in 2012, the production will not be there and Alderson will have a difficult if not impossible time trying to deal him at the deadline, which this article in The Record seems to imply is the goal of the organization.

If baseball savant Bill James’s algorithm is reasonably accurate, the Mets should have no problems accomplishing that goal.  James’ model projects Santana to make 27 starts, post an 11-9 record, a 3.50 ERA, 7.88 K/9, 2.97 BB/9 in 2013.

This projection may be a little optimistic, but it would not be unreasonable for Santana to have an ERA in the 4.00 range and 11-12 wins when the season is all said and done.

If Santana is on pace for anything reasonably close to that stat line by the July 31st trade deadline, the Mets should be getting plenty of calls from hopeful playoff teams looking to solidify their rotation.

It would be unfair to expect Alderson to pull off another steal of a trade, as he did by trading Carlos Beltran for Wheeler or R.A. Dickey and co. for Travis D’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, and co., but you can bet that if Santana is traded, the team should get some nice talent in return.

The Mets are currently in a rebuilding mode, gearing up for success in 2014 and beyond.  If Santana can return to some semblance of his old self, as he did from April – June of last year, he will play a big role in forming the next young core of players.

It goes without saying that this is a best-case scenario for both Santana and the Mets, and is completely dependent not only on Santana’s health, but his on-field performance.  If he performs poorly, the return in a trade will be diminished or he will be untradeable, and will pitch the rest of the season with the Mets then head out into the free agency market.

There are many questions that surround Santana in 2013, but one thing that is a given is it will be his last season in orange and blue.

8 comments on “What 2013 holds for Johan Santana

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  • Name

    The best case scenerio for the Mets and Santana is that Santana stays healthy AND performs AND will slot in number #4 SP going into the playoffs behind Niese, Harvey, and Gee.

    • Joe Vasile

      First off, thanks for reading and commenting.

      Second, a healthy Santana would easily be a #3 starter and could be a #2 under perfect circumstances (look here for the definition I use of 1-5 starters: This article from Hardball Times is a few years old, but pretty good as well: That being said, I stand by my assertion that it is best for the Mets to trade Santana at the deadline if they can and get hopefully some sort of outfield prospect in return.

      Third, the playoffs are not in the picture for the Mets this year.

      • Name

        By number 4, i meant the Mets #4. And the reason i said that is because that means that we have 3 SP better than Santana(which like you said is a #2/3), which would be the best case scenerio for the Mets.

        “Third, the playoffs are not in the picture for the Mets this year.”
        I bet the A’s and O’s were thinking the same thing last year. I could cite many more examples if needed. “Pundits” and “experts” are wrong more often than they are right.

  • Joe Gomes

    Lets not forget that Santana was coming off surgery last year and in my view, along with the injuries, he simply ran out of gas. In 2013 I fully expect Santana to pitch better and have more velocity in his fastball which will make his change-up more dominant.

    The Mets will be able to trade him around the all star with the Mets getting a nice OF prospect or two while picking up about half of his salary.

    There, that is my prediction for 2013.

  • J

    There’s a third, slightly possible option. Santana has a number of clauses that turn the team option into a player option according to (Cot’s baseball contracts)
    The first two require Santana to win a Cy Young in 2013 and be 2nd or 3rd one other year/be 2nd or 3rd three times during his contract.
    So IF Santana wins a Cy Young (crazier things have happened, like a knuckleballer winning a Cy Young), the option becomes his thanks to a 3rd place finish in the 08 Cy Young voting. The second option of the three 2nd/3rd place finishes is moot.
    He can also get a player option by hitting a certain innings mark. Thankfully (or unfortunately depending on how you want to look at it) his injuries keep him from hitting all but one of those clauses. If Santana pitches 215 or more innings in 2013, the option becomes a player option. This is a little easier to manage than the Cy Young clause, as the Mets can skip a start here or there during the course of the year to leave him at around 200 innings (as a better pr move they should announce they plan on pitching him no more than 200 innings for his health).
    If the option is Santana’s and he declines it he loses his $5.5 million buyout. So there’s no way he would not exercise the option.
    As crazy as it might sound, we need to hope Santana doesn’t have Cy Young season this year (unless Alderson can become the first GM to trade two Cy Youngs in back to back seasons).

    • Joe Vasile

      While that is all true, if Santana is on track to win the Cy Young or even pitch 215 innings, there is no way that he doesn’t get traded. The Mets will not pay Santana $25 million next year. If his options are in risk of becoming player options, mark my words, he will be gone.

    • Name

      Isn’t 2014 the year most people are hyping the Mets up to be major contenders again? In that case, if Santana wins the Cy Young award next year, wouldn’t he be a valuable asset at the top of the rotation in 2014 as well? Think about it. You could possibly a bona fida ace(Santana), a very good lefty(Niese), and 2 developing youngsters(Harvey and Wheeler) and Gee(who is average at worst) most likely as the 5th. That could be a scary good rotation. Of course the downside is that he will eat up a sizeable chunk of our payroll, but by 2014 we should be ready and have the money to spend again.

      Also, if he does win the Cy Young, i could see a scenerio where he does opt out(if he wants long security one last time) in search of a deal sort of to what Jake Peavy got this year, which was around 3 years 45 mil.

      So no, i will not hope that Santana doesn’t have a Cy Young season.

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