Here’s an idea: Mets should trade Santana

By all accounts, the Mets are getting closer to wrapping their

long, desperate tentacles around Jason Bay, but they’re

keeping their options open in case he bolts to the mystery team

that’s (supposedly) offering a five-year deal.

Plan B is Matt Holliday, who’s probably using the Mets

to scare up the Cardinals, his first choice all along.

Plan C? Here’s a suggestion: ask if anyone’s

interested in Johan Santana.

Of course, the Wilpon family will do no such thing. They

invested $137.5 million in the great lefthander and aren’t

about to admit failure. But the current Mets core is beginning Year

5 of a golden era that wasn’t and considering how poorly Omar

Minaya has done this winter, the drought isn’t about to end.

Even if the Mets do sign Bay, he won’t make them as

good as the Phillies, who are a lock to take the East for the third

straight year. The Mets would be better off measuring themselves

against the Braves, who have better pitching and a better manager.

In fact, even the wild card is a long shot right now, so

instead of continuing to over-spend on B-level free agents ($21

million for Bengie Molina? Really?) the Mets need to think about

draft picks again. They need to address their bankrupt minor league

system. They need to take advantage of their current invisibility

and build towards a sensible, three-year reconstruction plan.

They can do it by letting other GMs know that Santana is

available.

It’s true, dealing the franchise’s best pitcher

would be tantamount to surrender. But it would be at least be an

honest admission to fans, who’ve grown weary of the all the

disappointment. One club official recently admitted season ticket

sales are slow, adding. “hardly anyone is showing up for the

tours (of Citi Field).

“There’s supposed to be 50 people (in every

tour), we’re hardly getting 10,” he said. The public is

waiting for a reason to plunk down hard-earned money during the

holiday season. The Mets had one legitimate shot at improving

themselves this winter and saw it vanish when John Lackey signed

with the Red Sox.

Actually, Roy Halladay would’ve been the magic bullet,

but the Mets, with nothing to trade, never got past the velvet rope

with the Jays. Now, the back of the rotation is a billboard of

under-achievement, featuring Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John

Maine.

Santana was supposed to deliver the Mets a pennant when he

signed in 2007, so in a sense he has failed them. But it’s

the Mets who are the guilty party; they’ve sabotaged Santana

from Day 1.

They’ve given him no help with pitchers who’ve

either been injured (Maine), have regressed (Pelfrey) or were never

worth the money (Perez, $36 million for three years).

So the Mets can do themselves (and Santana) a favor by

exploring a trade. This isn’t to say the market would jump at

the chance. To the contrary: Santana is owed $21 million this year,

which means there’s only a handful of teams who could afford

him — the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels — and even they

aren’t willing to spend that much.

What’s crazy is that Santana isn’t even viewed as

the elite pitcher he was two years ago. Despite being two years

younger than Roy Halladay, Santana wouldn’t command the same

contract as the Phillies’ new ace. Not now, not after elbow

surgery cut short his 2008 season. Not after two years of

disappointing results by his Mets’ teammates.

Still, the Mets have to make peace with the idea that the

Santana experiment has failed, just as the Carlos Beltran, Pedro

Martinez and Billy Wagner gambles all turned to vapor. Yet, they

continue to chase The Next Great Star as if this was 2006 and they

were one player away from greatness.

This long, flat road to nowhere will probably cost Jerry

Manuel his job this summer. Minaya is on the hot seat, too. Both

men are victims of Jeff Wilpon’s hyper-sensitivity to the

public’s voice. The Mets have over-paid time and again for

their free agents, leaving the franchise top-heavy, and burdened

with contracts they can’t move.

Actually if the Mets were capable of making a cold business

decision, they’d even dangle David Wright and Jose Reyes.

Wright, in particular, could bring a bundle of prospects in return

— and who knows, he might just welcome a trade since he’s

playing in a new ballpark he obviously hates.

Citi Field is 37 feet deeper in right-center than at Shea,

and ownership made matters worse by announcing the dimensions

won’t change next season.

But the Mets could never part with either Wright or Reyes.

They’re home-grown talent; the emotional attachment is too

strong. Santana’s place in the Met family is cemented only by

cash.

The Wilpons would have to eat some of that money to trade

him, but it’s a scenario worth considering as the Mets keep

pretending it’s still 2006 and winning the World Series is

just a matter of writing one more check.