Ask BA

I’m going to have to offer a dual World Series prediction, because after five innings, Game Seven of the American League championship series is too close to call. If the Red Sox hold onto their one-run lead, I think they’ll beat the Rockies in a seven-game World Series. If the Indians rally for the victory, I’m picking Colorado in six games because C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona look gassed.

    As a Twins fan, I’m very concerned about losing Johan Santana to free agency and only getting a couple of draft picks in return after 2008. If they know they can’t sign him, I think they should trade him this winter by offering him up to the highest bidder. What are some of the fair trade offers that teams could offer (young players and minor leaguers obviously), assuming they could afford to sign him long term? How about this one: Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw and Andy LaRoche from the Dodgers? Is that fair for both teams?

    Bryan Hylden
    Washington, D.C.

New Twins general manager Bill Smith will have to hit the ground running. Not only does he need to re-sign or replace Torii Hunter and try to bolster the American League’s third-worst offense, but he also has to make a decision on Santana, the best starting pitcher in baseball since Minnesota moved him to the rotation in mid-2003.

Does he re-sign him? Will owner Carl Pohlad, who has been stingy with his baseball team despite a net worth of $3 billion, sign off on that move? Does Smith deal Santana now? Does he wait until next July’s trade deadline?

If the Twins trade Santana this offseason, the team that acquires him likely will make sure it can lock him up with a long-term deal. It wouldn’t make sense for a club to give up a ransom for him and then risk losing him after one season. It also figures to cost three quality young players to pry Santana from Minnesota.

Bryan’s Dodgers suggestion is fair. The Twins might want more established players, but they’d be getting a potential No. 1 starter in Kershaw, who’s the best pitching prospect in the minor leagues. Kemp and LaRoche both have the tools to become all-stars in right field and third base, respectively. The hot corner has been a black hole for Minnesota the last two years, as Nick Punto has provided two homers and 70 RBIs combined in 2005-06.

The bigger question is whether Los Angeles would pull the trigger on that trade. Santana figures to command at least five years at a rate of at least $20 million per seasons, and both those estimates are on the conservative side. Kemp is two years away from arbitration, LaRoche is three years away and Kershaw has yet to make his big league debut. Dodgers owner Frank McCourt might not like the financial implications of that deal.

The two teams that could most easily afford Santana, both in terms of spending on him and giving up cost-controlled talent, are obviously the Yankees and Red Sox.

New York probably would have to offer a package that would include one of Chien-Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes; Melky Cabrera (who could replace Hunter in center); and a prospect such as Ian Kennedy or Jose Tabata. The Yankees have been so protective of their new wave of young players’”as teams that discussed deals with them at this year’s deadline know all too well’”that they might not go for a deal like this.

To get a deal done, the Red Sox trio would be something along the lines of Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury and a prospect such as Jed Lowrie (who could solve Minnesota’s third-base woes) or Justin Masterson. Boston might part with that combination, but the Sox probably would prefer to substitute Jon Lester for Buchholz or Coco Crisp for Ellsbury.

I had kicked around this subject as a column topic before Bryant sent in this question, and I may explore it in further depth in an upcoming issue. One thing is certain: Rumors will continue to swirl around Santana until the Twins sign him or trade him.

    I was fairly impressed with what I saw from third baseman Scott Moore in the last few weeks of the season. Was he a top prospect when the Cubs traded him to the Orioles? What kind of player can we expect him to become?

    Andy Conner
    Baltimore

After coming over with Rocky Cherry in an August trade for Steve Trachsel, Moore batted .255/.260/.362 with one homer and 11 RBIs in 17 games with Baltimore. The eighth overall pick in the 2002 draft by the Tigers, Moore is now 23 and was blocked in Chicago by Aramis Ramirez. Had he stayed with the Cubs, they were grooming him to be able to back up all four infield and outfield corners, and he even played some shortstop in the Arizona Fall League last year.

Moore won’t be a cornerstone and he doesn’™t appear to be a regular on a contender, but he could give the Orioles more production than they’re getting from third base (Melvin Mora) or left field (Jay Payton). Moore projects to hit .240-.260 with 15-20 homers a year. He’s a decent fielder at third base, though prone to errors. For the short term, Baltimore has Mora making more than $18 million for 2007-08 and Payton bringing home $5 million in 2007, so Moore may have trouble winning a starting job, even if he deserves a look.

    What is your assessment of outfielder John Bowker in the Giants system? Double-A Connecticut has been a graveyard for San Francisco’s hitting prospects, yet he seemed to get his prospect status back there. Should we give him extra credit for not only jump-starting his minor league career, but doing so in an extreme pitcher’s park? And given that the Pacific Coast League is a hitter’™s league, what kind of numbers will Bowker have to generate in Triple-A Fresno next summer to be consider a legit major league prospect? What is his ultimate major league potential?

    Lyle Bontrager
    Memphis

A third-round pick out of Long Beach State in 2004, Bowker is one of the better position prospects in the Giants system. But that speaks more to San Francisco’s inventory of up-and-coming hitters than it does to Bowker’s true worth.

Bowker had the best season of his pro career in 2007, hitting .307/.363/.523 with 22 homers and 90 RBIs in 139 games at Double-A Connecticut. Though he played mostly right field and saw some time in center, he’s a below-average arm who’s best suited for left field. His bat will have to carry him and the jury is still out on whether it can, because he doesn’™t control the strike zone very well (103 strikeouts vs. 41 walks) and at 24 he wasn’t young for his level.

As Lyle noted, Bowker deserves credit for performing in a tough pitcher’s park. The Defenders posted a .639 OPS and 2.84 ERA at Dodd Memorial Stadium, compared to a .766 OPS and 4.61 ERA on the road. He could put up even bigger numbers in Triple-A, and if he does, the Giants almost assuredly will give him a big league chance in 2008. Like Moore, Bowker is more of a reserve on a good club and not a player of great long-term value.

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Minors | #2007 #Ask BA

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