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The best deal they never made

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  September 11, 2010 01:31 PM

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The 2007 Winter Meetings were all about Johan Santana.

The budget-conscious Twins made their ace lefty available and the Red Sox and Yankees entered the bidding. For several days in Nashville, rumors flew about which team was going to get him.

The Twins wanted Jon Lester from the Sox. Or Phil Hughes from the Yankees.

Hank Steinbrenner, the Fredo of the Steinbrenner family, was running the team at that point and calling back every baseball writer in the room to boast about how he would get Santana in pinstripes. It didn't happen.

When the Yankees didn't get him, it looked for a day like the Red Sox were going to land Santana in return for Lester and Coco Crisp. Or Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury.

In the end, the Sox and Yankees let the Mets have Santana with a deal coming before spring training. Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman were actually pretty pleased with the result as they wanted to retain their prospects and only got in the bidding to drive the price up for the other guy. But people in their organization wanted the trade made.

Imagine how happy they are now. Santana needs shoulder surgery and nobody is sure when he will be back. The lefty, whose velocity has been in decline, may never be the same again and the Mets still owe him $77.5 million over three years.

For the Mets, who specialize in disasters, this is a doozy. Meanwhile, Lester and Hughes became All-Stars at a small percentage of the cost.

Epstein and Cashman are good friends and you have to wonder if sometime in the last 24 hours they exchanged text messages or e-mails celebrating the best deal they never made.

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