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Could We Have a Yankees & Red Sox-Free Postseason?

What would be a better end to this most unpredictable of seasons than to look around when the dust settles and find no Yankees or Red Sox in the vicinity? It could happen, as we enter September with the Yankees all but out of the race and the Red Sox clinging to the wild card by a slim margin. As of last night, the White Sox and Twins are deadlocked at the top of the AL Central, and they both trail the Red Sox by four games in the wild card race.

As a Twins fan, I would be thrilled with an American League playoff slate of White Sox, Twins, Rays and Angels. On the other hand, this would be a doomsday scenario for Fox and TBS, who televise the postseason games. The last time there was a postseason without the Yankees and Red Sox was 1993, which was the final year of the pre-wild card era. Since 1995, which due to the 1994 strike was the next year with playoffs, either the Red Sox or the Yankees have been represented for 13 straight postseasons, and they’ve both made the playoffs in seven of those years. The time has come for a change, people. Yes we can!

Santana Return vs. What Might Have Been

The return that the Twins received from the Mets for Johan Santana earlier this season was lightly regarded at the time, and the passage of time hasn’t changed that interpretation. Of the four players that the Twins received in exchange for Santana, Carlos Gomez has been the only player to appear in the majors this season, and while he’s been exciting and is still only 22 years old, he has also been a below-average hitter, .

Philip Humber is 10-8 with a 4.58 ERA this season with the Twins’ AAA affiliate in Rochester, while teammate Kevin Mulvey is 7-9 with a 3.77 ERA. Deolis Guerra has struggled at High-A Fort Myers, compiling an 11-9 mark with a 5.47 ERA. The Twins’ instructors have been toying with Guerra’s arm angle, and he’s having trouble in the interim, walking 71 and striking out 71 this season.

So, the immediate results of the trade are pretty lackluster, especially since the Twins are in the middle of a tight pennant race and lacking any kind of immediate assistance from the trade.. But what if Minnesota would have taken the competing offers from the Yankees or Red Sox? Were there players that were reportedly offered to them that would help more, both in the present day and the future? Let’s find out:

The Red Sox reportedly offered a package of either outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury or pitcher Jon Lester (but not both), outfielder Coco Crisp, shortstop Jed Lowrie and pitcher Justin Masterson. All five of those players have appeared with the big club this year, with varying levels of success. Ellsbury has taken a step or two back from his electrifying debut last season (.263 batting average, good speed, not much power), Crisp has continued his decline that seemingly began with his arrival in Boston (stats very similar to Ellsbury, except for a big disadvantage in steals), and Lowrie has been a solid contributor in limited action at the big-league level. The pitchers, on the other hand, have been pretty great, as Lester has cemented himself near the top of the Red Sox’ rotation with a 12-5 mark and a 3.41 ERA, while Masterson has pitched in as a spot starter and long reliever, compiling a 3.33 ERA in 76.1 innings.

The Twins should count their lucky stars that they didn’t take the Yankees’ offer of pitcher Philip Hughes, outfielder Melky Cabrera, and a third unnamed prospect who likely would not have contributed to the big club this season. Cabrera has been an older, more expensive version of Gomez this season (sub-.300 on-base percentage), except with less speed, and Hughes, while his long-term future may be bright, has been plagued by injury again in 2008 (9.00 ERA in only six starts).

It’s still too early to make any definitive judgments about the outcome of this trade, but it sure looks like at this point that any combination of players that the Red Sox offered would have been superior to what the Twins got from the Mets. But at least they didn’t order the poo-poo platter that the Yankees had on their menu. It wasn’t ever going to be an A.J. Pierzynski trade-level haul, but it’s hard not to be underwhelmed by the results so far.

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