NL East Arms race heats up

If you were wondering when exactly the New York Mets were going to make any substantial off-season moves before heading to Florida, then the answer came on Tuesday. USA Today reports that the Mets and Minnesota Twins have agreed on a deal that will send ace left-hander Johan Santana to New York in exchange for highly regarded outfielder Carlos Gomez, starter Philip Humber and minor league hurlers Deolis Guerra and Kevin Mulvey. All that remains is working out a contract extension to Santana’s liking.

The Tom Glavine sized hole that was left in New York’s rotation has been filled by the best pitcher (statistically) in baseball since 2003. Santana has been mowing down American League line-ups since joining the Twins rotation full-time in 2004.

As the Mets and Santana try to iron out the details of that contract extension, the move has already sent ripples across the NL East. Rumblings thus far indicate that we’re talking about $25 million a year for a term of no less than six years, according to Santana’s representation (agent Peter Greenberg). With Santana signed, sealed and delivered, New York has an indisputable ace to lead an already capable four-some of Pedro Martinez, John Maine, Oliver Perez and Orlando Hernandez. Talk about a loaded rotation.

The Braves of course can counter with their veteran trio of John Smoltz, Tim Hudson and Tom Glavine. Throw in a healthy Mike Hampton and a rejuvenated Chuck James and Atlanta could be dog-fighting it out with New York into the month of September.

Both rotations have health concerns. New York’s primarily lie with Martinez and Hernandez while the Braves deal with the ever-present quandary that is Hampton. The moves made by both teams (Atlanta with Glavine and New York with Santana) definitely push the Phillies into crunch time as they make a decision on bringing back Kyle Lohse.

Though Lohse (9-12, 4.62 ERA in ’07) hardly represents the impact of Santana, or Glavine for that matter, he does represent the solidifying of a rotation that will welcome Brett Myers back into the fold and already has young stud Cole Hammels, surprisingly dependable Kyle Kendrick and veterans Jaime Moyer and Adam Eaton.

This move certainly ranks among the biggest of the post-season, as the landscape of the NL East will be decidedly different in 2008. Preview time is nearly upon us.

Till then,

G-Mc

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