Santana refutes contract report
Left-hander still waiting to be approached for a deal
MINNEAPOLIS -- Johan Santana knows despite the fact that there are two years remaining on his contract with the Twins, his future remains one of the hottest topics in all of baseball.Speculation regarding his future is one of the things that Santana has come to expect will occur as time ticks down until he's a free agent. But it's the rampant rumors which are being reported that seem to be agitating Santana, as was the case Wednesday. A report that ran on Sports Illustrated's Web site on Wednesday afternoon -- and was due to run in the weekly issue of the magazine -- claimed a league source said Santana had turned down an offer by the Twins for a two-year extension worth about $18 million annually. The article said the deal also included a club option for 2011. It was also reported that the Twins ace had set his deadline for securing a new deal at Opening Day, informing the team's front office that contract negotiations were now off until he becomes a free agent following the '08 season. The person who seemed most surprised by the report was Santana himself. And the pitcher immediately refuted the article on all accounts. "I wonder who said that, because as far I know, I haven't talked to anybody about anything," Santana said. "And I'm pretty sure that you guys [the Twin Cities media] would be the first ones to know, because you're always around, so it doesn't make any sense that somebody outside here is making some of those comments." Santana also made sure to stress that the door is still open for contract discussions to take place at any time. "I'm not closing the door," Santana said. "If I were to be closing doors, then I would have said, 'I want to be out of here.' I've never said anything like that, and I never will say anything like that, so it's always there. It's just I'm not the one who is going to knock at the door." As for the part of the report that said the team had offered a two-year extension, Santana said that he has a deal in place with his agent, Peter Greenberg, that if anything is offered, he will be contacted immediately. And, as of now, Santana is still waiting for the team to approach him with any sort of deal. "We haven't talked about anything," Santana said. "So that's why I'm surprised [by this]. I don't negotiate through the media. I know there will be a lot of rumors going on, and that's part of the situation that I'm in right now." Greenberg said that his agency would not comment on the SI report. Santana has become one of the hottest contract topics, in much part due to the type of money that has been offered to other starting pitchers. The deal that made it appear like Santana's asking price could skyrocket higher than first imagined was the seven-year, $126 million deal that Barry Zito received from the Giants this winter. All spring, Santana's statement regarding his contract situation was the sooner the Twins approached him with a potential deal, the better off they would be. The Twins have expressed their interest in inking Santana to a long-term deal despite the fact that no talks have begun as of yet. As for when those talks might happen, Twins general manager Terry Ryan reiterated the team's policy of not commenting on contracts during the season. Exactly what it will potentially take to keep Santana in Minnesota appears to be a deal that extends longer than the reported two-year offer reported by SI. As for whether he would be willing to take a hometown discount for such a deal, Santana admitted he hasn't ruled it out, but he said that it would depend on the length of the potential contract. "It all depends on how many years they are willing to offer, too," Santana said. "I would definitely like to do something longer than [the two years], but I guess the question here is durability. I feel pretty good, so I'm not even thinking about that or worrying about that." One thing that Santana brought up is the fact that the Twins have made it a policy not to discuss contracts during the season. But it seems that the team has meant that more in terms of talking openly about those discussions in the public and not actual contract negotiations. The Twins have negotiated extensions during the regular season previously, including two deals in 2006, as they signed backup catcher Mike Redmond and left-handed reliever Dennys Reyes each to a two-year, $2 million deal. The Twins' payroll set a record high in '07 at just $71 million, and it's become a question as to whether the team will be able to afford the type of money that Santana likely could command on the free-agent market. With all the factors that are in place, including the Twins wanting to sign other players like first baseman Justin Morneau and closer Joe Nathan, Santana knows that remaining in Minnesota might not be the likeliest of possibilities. "This is business, and that's the sad part of all of this," Santana said. "You get so comfortable on a team, and then sometimes everything has to go away. You have to be a professional, make adjustments and stand up for whoever you are going to defend." But even while making it clear that he understands the way the business works, Santana reiterated his desire to remain in a Twins uniform if things could work out the way he hopes. "I will be honest with you, I'd like to stay here forever," Santana said. "Now it's: 'How many years do they want to do?' Hopefully, I can do lifetime -- that's what I would like to do. But I guess in these days, it doesn't work out that way."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.