I wonder if the Twins regret their decision to trade Johan Santana to the Mets. The difference between Santana and waste of $5 million Livan Hernandez is probably the difference between first and second place in the very winnable American League Central right now. None of the four players Minnesota received in return was a sure thing, and the two high-risk/high-reward prospects (Carlos Gomez, Deolis Guerra) and the two potential No. 4 starters (Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey) have done nothing to enhance their status since the deal.
The Twins would have been better off taking their chances trying to win with Santana this season, even if that meant taking two high draft picks in return when he walked as a free agent. In fairness, I'll admit I didn't envision that the Tigers and Indians could struggle as much as they have.
Beckham's quick signing for a draft-record $6.15 million bonus did surprise me, even if the present value was lowered by spreading it over five years under MLB provisions for two-sport athletes. MLB doesn't like above-slot deals being announced early, for fear they will affect other negotiations.
It's still unclear whether the Rays bucked MLB protocol. The commissioner's office did tell teams to draft the best players at the top of the draft this year regardless of their signability, though that didn't necessarily mean to do whatever it takes to sign them. But even if Tampa Bay has ticked MLB by signing Beckham quickly to a lucrative deal, it won't face any sanctions.
Beckham's deal probably won't lead to draft inflation. The players who were going to get lucrative major league contracts, such as Pedro Alvarez (No. 2 to the Pirates), Brian Matusz (No. 4 to the Orioles) and Buster Posey (No. 5 to the Giants), were going to get them whether Beckham signed for slot money or not.
For me, Beckham ranks as the No. 2 prospect in the loaded Rays system, trailing only last year's No. 1 overall pick, David Price. While Beckham could make the majors quicker than most high schoolers—by late 2010 or early 2011—there's no need to start rushing him now. I can see him spending the entire summer at Princeton and much if not all of his first full pro season at Columbus. There's no need to move Brignac off shortstop at this point, but the Rays wouldn't have taken Beckham No. 1 overall if it didn't envision him as their shortstop of the future.
Determining who does and doesn't qualify as a two-sport athlete is the sole decision of the commissioner's office. MLB determined that both Joe Mauer, who had a football scholarship to play quarterback for Florida State, and Lastings Milledge, who didn't play football after his sophomore year of high school, were two-sport athletes.
The commissioner's office has incentive to be liberal in determining two-sport athletes, because it allows clubs to reduce the present value of a bonus deal by spreading it over five years. It's a win-win situation for both sides, because it allows the player and agent to claim more total money than they would in a straight bonus deal.
Eight players have captured MVP awards and nine pitchers have grabbed Cy Young Awards in the seasons after being traded. But none of those deals involved another player who received a single MVP or Cy Young vote in that year, so there never has been anything close to the potential Hamilton-Volquez double.
For the record, the players who won MVPs after trades were Johnny Evers (1914), Rogers Hornsby (1929), Mickey Cochrane (1934), Bob Elliott (1947), Frank Robinson (1966), Dick Allen (1972), Rollie Fingers (1981) and Willie Hernandez (1984). The nine pitchers who took Cy Youngs after deals were Mike McCormick (1967), Mike Cuellar (1969), Steve Carlton (1972), Gaylord Perry (1972 and 1978), Mike Marshall (1974), Fingers, Hernandez and Rick Sutcliffe (1984; he was traded in mid-June that year).