SI.com first reported Friday that the Twins were holding firm on their desire to acquire Hughes, 21, in any deal for Santana. The Yankees' original pitches for Santana revolved around outfielder Melky Cabrera and right-hander Ian Kennedy, but since the club had termed both Joba Chamberlain and Robinson Cano off-limits, little traction was made.
That could all change if Hughes, the club's first-round Draft pick in 2004, is on the table. Widely regarded as one of baseball's top pitching prospects, Hughes made his Major League debut in April and was working on a no-hitter through 6 1/3 innings in a May 1 start at Texas before straining his left hamstring, an injury that derailed his rookie season.
While on rehab in Tampa, Fla., Hughes rolled over his right ankle while performing conditioning exercises, further setting him back and -- some believe -- curtailing his velocity later in the season. Hughes completed the year 5-3 with a 4.46 ERA, earning the Yankees' only victory in the four-game American League Division Series loss to the Indians.
New York's decision to offer Hughes did not come easily. The New York Daily News reported that spirited debates took place among top organization brass, including general manager Brian Cashman, senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner and superscout Gene Michael.
Though a club source would not tell the newspaper who was in favor of offering Hughes and who was not, the specter of Santana possibly going to the Red Sox instead may have been enough to convince the Yankees to push forward with full force.
Boston, like New York, has been discussing opportunities with Minnesota GM Bill Smith for days, but the Red Sox have reached a similar dilemma. They have reportedly offered left-hander Jon Lester and outfielder Coco Crisp for Santana, but Minnesota has asked for promising outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and right-hander Clay Buchholz, players the World Series champions have been reluctant to trade.
The Dodgers and Mets are also believed to be players for Santana to varying degrees, though the Dodgers might not be as willing to part with their young talent, and the Mets might not have enough.
Santana has a full no-trade clause, which could potentially wrench any deal, and it is anticipated the two-time AL Cy Young Award winner would ask for a six- or seven-year contract -- potentially ranging into the $25-million-per-season range -- in order to waive those rights and join a new club. Minnesota opened its offseason by trying to woo Santana with a four-year, $80 million extension, which was rebuffed.
On a recent conference call with reporters, Yankees manager Joe Girardi outlined his pitching rotation for 2008, saying that he would have little issue with starting all three of the club's top under-25 talents -- Chamberlain, Hughes and Kennedy -- in some order as part of a starting five that also included Chien-Ming Wang and Mike Mussina.
Those plans are pending a final decision from Andy Pettitte, as the 35-year-old left-hander continues to watch from his Houston area home and consider his plans. Pettitte was a horse in the Yankees' rotation in 2007 after being talked out of retirement, winning 15 games for manager Joe Torre, but he is again considering shutting it down despite the Yankees' standing $16 million invitation to suit up for 2008.
Regardless of Pettitte's decision, catcher Jorge Posada spoke bluntly as he addressed his new contract with the team, perhaps still stinging over the club's third consecutive first-round elimination.
No one would disparage Wang, who has won more games since the beginning of the 2006 season -- 38 -- than any other Major Leaguer. But two of the playoff losses were absorbed by the right-hander, and Posada wasn't shy about stating that Santana would give the Yankees a force they need to get over the hump.
"It is a need in October, no question about it," Posada said. "When you look at the past World Series champions, they were able to have a No. 1 throw in at least two of the games to win the title."
For the Yankees, Santana could very well be that guy. But no one ever said it would come cheaply.