BOSTON -- The battle for Twins ace left-hander Johan Santana is gaining more intrigue by the day. The latest wrinkle is that the Red Sox might now be willing to include top center-field prospect Jacoby Ellsbury in their offer to Minnesota as a response to the Yankees recently putting stud pitching prospect Phil Hughes in their package.
ESPN.com -- citing sources -- reported Sunday that Boston had backed off its refusal to include Ellsbury. But if Ellsbury is to be in the deal, the Red Sox will pull back left-handed starter Jon Lester.
With the Winter Meetings set to begin in Nashville, Tenn., on Monday, the Santana sweepstakes figure to take center stage.
The Twins will have to weigh which offer entices them more: Hughes, center fielder Melky Cabrera and an additional prospect from the Yankees or Boston's offer, which could include Ellsbury, Minor League shortstop Jed Lowrie and a pitching prospect such as Justin Masterson or Michael Bowden.
There are other teams who are also in the mix, including the Angels, Dodgers and Mets, although at this point, the Red Sox and the Yankees -- rivals always -- seem to be the most heavily involved. The Yankees told Newsday that they have set a Monday deadline to complete any deal.
The Yankees and Red Sox -- who traditionally have the two highest payrolls in the Major Leagues -- would also seem to be in the best position to sign Santana to a contract extension if a trade can be worked out.
Santana, who will be 29 next season, has a no-trade clause and is all but certain to seek a contract extension before agreeing to be moved.
Several reports have stated that Santana could seek as much as $150 million over six years.
Ellsbury rose to prominence for the Red Sox down the stretch in 2007, filling in for the injured Manny Ramirez and hitting .361 in September. Beginning with Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, Ellsbury supplanted Coco Crisp in center field and the Red Sox didn't lose another game. Ellsbury stepped up in the World Series, going 7-for-16.
The Red Sox were trying to trade Crisp instead of Ellsbury, but the Twins repeatedly rebuffed those attempts.
At the end of the day, the Twins could always mull over all the offers and decide they are better off keeping Santana.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.