Late last week, the Yankees reached the decision internally to supplement their pitch for Santana with right-hander Phil Hughes, the club's first round draft selection in 2004 and widely considered one of baseball's top pitching prospects.
New York's latest -- and, with Steinbrenner's statement, apparently final -- offer for Santana is believed to consist of Hughes, outfielder Melky Cabrera and a mid-level Minor League prospect that Minnesota would select from a group.
Time could be of the essence to Minnesota, especially with new developments arising daily. FOXSports.com reported Sunday that Santana has informed the Twins he would not consider waiving his no-trade clause during the season, creating more of a sense of urgency.
Through his agent, Peter Greenberg, Santana authorized the Twins to begin shopping him for an offseason trade after rebuffing a four-year, $80 million contract extension. A free agent after the 2008 season, Santana could fetch as much as a seven-year contract extension from a new organization, worth as much as $25 million.
Whether that club would be the Yankees remains to be seen, as Boston's involvement continues to provide an intriguing secondary option. The Red Sox pitched offers involving either outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury or left-hander Jon Lester in various combinations, but not in the same trade. Boston has tried to interest the Twins in outfielder Coco Crisp as well.
Meanwhile, initial proposals to Minnesota coming out of New York included Cabrera and right-hander Ian Kennedy, who made three starts for the Yankees in September. Yet Hughes is considered a more tantalizing piece because of his higher velocity and projection, and the Yankees will not trade Hughes and Kennedy in the same deal.
"I'm not going to be played against the Red Sox. That's not something I'll do."
-- Hank Steinbrenner
Hughes, 21, was 5-3 with a 4.46 ERA in 13 starts for the Yankees in 2007, debuting with the club in April after a rash of injuries to New York's starting rotation. In Hughes' second Major League start, he joined the ranks of the walking wounded, straining his left hamstring while working on a May 1 no-hitter at Texas.
Hughes would later sprain an ankle while on rehab at Tampa, Fla., and numerous baseball people believe his velocity was impacted down the stretch by the dual injuries, masking his true promise. Hughes did earn the Yankees' only postseason victory in 2007, winning Game 3 of the AL Division Series against the Cleveland Indians.
The Yankees have insisted for months that they would prefer not to trade any of their young pitching talent, including not only Hughes but also Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain, the dominant setup reliever who is projected to join the rotation in 2008. But with consideration to Santana, temptation has been large.
Santana, who will be 29 by Opening Day, represents the dominant ace atop the rotation that some believe the Yankees have lacked, accounting in part for three consecutive ALDS exits. In New York's latest postseason appearance, 19-game winner Chien-Ming Wang suffered two of the club's four losses to the Indians.
That could change with Santana, who was 15-13 with a 3.33 ERA in 33 starts for Minnesota this year. Over the last four seasons, the left-hander has won 70 games while losing 32, striking out 983 batters in 912 1/3 innings.
Steinbrenner said that the Yankees, who are setting up shop for this week's Winter Meetings at the sprawling Gaylord Opryland resort, have not set a specific time for when the club's offer would be withdrawn from Minnesota's consideration.
But if it does come to that, the Yankees could investigate other options to upgrade their starting rotation, including eyeing Oakland's Dan Haren.
"We'll see how it goes, but this is not an act. It's not a bluff. It's just reality," Steinbrenner said. "Because as much as I want Santana, and you can make that clear -- for his sake, to know that I do want him -- but the fact is that I'm not going to play the game.
"We've made them the best offer. And at this point, it's not going to get any better. So they can decide. At this point, it's up to them. I don't think they want to lose us in this thing, obviously. Nobody wants to lose the Yankees in a negotiation."