Just the other day, a wise man pondered, “if (Barry) Zito can command a contract of such size and length, what™s Johan Santana going to be worth on the open market?”

OK, that’s not exactly what I asked. But either way, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Patrick Reusse can read the writing on the wall.

Johan Santana became a full-time starter halfway through the 2003 season and has been baseball’s best since then. He will turn 28 in March. If he continues that excellence through 2008 and then becomes a free agent, he will be the first $200 million pitcher.

Goodbye, Twins. Hello, New York City.

There will be two options for General Manager Terry Ryan: A) Trade Torii Hunter this summer, no matter where the Twins are in the standings; or B) keep him for a potential pennant race, then allow Torii to leave as a free agent.

If Ryan goes with B, that would create an anguished scene for Twins followers during the next offseason. Hunter would be signing elsewhere at the same time Ryan was taking offers for Santana.

You can let Hunter leave as a free agent and get away with it. You can’t possibly do the same with Santana, perhaps the most valuable individual commodity in the game at the moment.

Johan will be dealt before the Twins report to spring training in 2008. That became a given when the Giants presented $18 million per year to Zito.

Darren Dreifort just muttered something about today’s starters being wildly overpaid.