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Thanks, Johan


Color me jealous – but also thankful – that a superstar player is finally willing to stay at home. This isn’t just any superstar player, either. I’m talking about the crème de la crème of starting pitchers, the reigning Cy Young award winner in the American League, a man who had more leverage than Donald Trump negotiating a business deal with, well, anyone not named Donald Trump.

But Johan Santana chose not to exercise that leverage, and by doing so, he inadvertently scored a major victory for all markets both small and smaller. After all, Santana’s below-market-value four-year, $40 million contract isn’t how the story’s supposed to end. If everything had gone according to script, the 2006 Minnesota Twins were going to feel the Kansas City Royals’ pain, going through an inoperable illness like Carlos Beltran, Johnny Damon, and Jermaine Dye. Remember them? Slender, fast, and very talented guys who once made up the Royals’ outfield of the future? They sure followed the script, because they each left small-town Kansas City and went for the dollars. Damon even got a World Series championship thrown in with his greed.

For the first few weeks of Santana’s negotiations with the Twins, it looked for certain that GM Terry Ryan was heading down the same hopeless path Royals GM Allard Baird did two years ago with Beltran. Back then, Baird gauged just how willing Beltran’s agent, Scott Boras, was willing to go to keep his client in Kansas City. The three-year offer Baird proposed would’ve delayed his star center fielder’s free agency by one year. Boras quickly rejected the offer and countered with something like seven years and $119 million, which is entirely too much for the Royals to take on in both years and dollars. In the case of Santana, Ryan initially offered three years and $19.5 million, which wasn’t even close. It was at that point I became pretty certain that Santana wasn’t long for Minneapolis, and that he’d bolt at the very first opportunity. The similarities between him and Beltran were far too, well, similar. However, the Twins increased their offer to three years and $25 million before caving to his agent’s demands for a fourth year.

And in caving, the Twins gave the Royals at least a glimmer of hope that in five years they’ll be able to re-sign the best of their current young core of players beyond their initial free agency years. Sure, Johan will probably be kicking their rears for the next four seasons, but KC fans shouldn’t forget the precedence that he set by taking less to play with the organization that developed him.
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