Image courtesy of SI.com

Welcome Back Sergio Santos: White Sox Trade Closer to Blue Jays


When the winter meetings kicked off yesterday, Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos hinted that he might leave with a closer before the week was over.

He got one in a swift move this afternoon, effectively putting an end to the countless offseason rumors. And in trademark fashion, he caught everyone by surprise by shipping standout pitching prospect Nestor Molina to the Chicago White Sox for Sergio Santos in a top-secret deal.

As most Jays fans know, it’s a homecoming of sorts for Santos, who returns to Toronto after being obtained by the Jays along with Troy Glaus when they shipped Orlando Hudson to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2005. Then, Santos was a minor league infielder, whereas now, he’s one of the top relief pitchers in the game. Anthopoulos has said that Santos will definitely be his closer, so wondering who will receive ninth-inning duties is now no longer a concern.

In Santos the Jays get a hard thrower whose fastball sits right around 95 mph, but his out pitch is his filthy slider. Actually, the mid-80s pitch is so good that Santos uses it almost exclusively in two-strike counts, and it’s considered the best strikeout pitch in baseball.

Santos is aggressive on the mound and gets ahead in counts, which is exactly what a team wants in their closer. After averaging almost 10 strikeouts per nine innings last season, Santos struck out 92 batters in 63 innings this season for an absurd 13.1 K/9 and a 35.4 strikeout percentage. One year after allowing 53 hits in 51.2 innings in 2010, he allowed just 41 in 63 frames in 2011 (5.8 H/9) and finished the year with a 3.55 ERA (2.87 FIP). Plus, this past season marked his second consecutive campaign with a 43% ground ball rate, which should play out nicely at Rogers Centre.

The main draw with Santos was his very team-friendly contract, which could span up to six years. He’ll make just $1 million in 2012, before seeing his salary increase to $2.75 million in 2013 and then to $3.75 million in 2014. After that, there are three club options that could be exercised as well — $6 million in 2015, $8 million in 2016, and $8.75 million in 2017, all with $750k buyouts.

In Molina, the Jays gave up one of their fastest-rising pitching prospects and one of my personal favorites, well before he was a starter. A converted position player just like Santos, I ranked Molina at No. 47 on our top 50 prospects list at the end of the 2010 campaign largely because he was a reliever. But all signs pointed to him becoming a starter in 2011, as mentioned in that scouting report from last year:

Normally, using a four-pitch repertoire to throw strikes as a reliever seems excessive. According to Blue Jays minor league pitching coordinator Dane Johnson, the Jays have really used Molina as a reliever only because his arm hasn’t been built up and he’s coming over from being a position player. Johnson also says that Molina’s  pitch arsenal makes him think that he could be a starter, and that it’s not out of the question for next season.

The 2011 season arrived and shortly into it, Molina became a starter; building all of his value in the process. After managing 115 strikeouts to 14 walks in 18 starts with Hi-A Dunedin, Molina was even more dominant in five starts with Double-A New Hampshire, striking out 33, walking two, and allowing just one earned run in 22 innings.

Despite talks of Molina’s erratic delivery, the plan seemed to be to extend him even further as a starter to an innings total of around 160 in 2012, and most of those innings could have come at the big league level. Instead, the Jays managed to get their closer of the future for Molina, who could very well be a good pitcher for the White Sox for years to come.

And that’s where the debate is with this trade. The fact that Molina could be a good pitcher in the Windy City.

As electric as Molina’s minor league numbers were, there’s always the chance that they might not translate at the Major League level. The Jays moved Molina at the peak of his value to fill a hole on their big league roster with a pitcher who has already proved he can be effective and overpowering in the Majors.

While the White Sox could have likely received more than one prospect for Santos, they received a very good one in Molina. Reactions to him among scouts were mixed, though, as some feel his future is in the bullpen, while others, like the White Sox obviously, view him as a key cog to their rotation going forward. If Molina’s future is in the ‘pen, then this trade looks even better for Anthopoulos and the Jays.

When you factor in the kind of power pitcher Santos is, the revolving door of inconsistent closers that the Jays have had in recent seasons, and the years of control that the club has on Santos, it’s clear that the Jays made a very good trade.

- JM

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Tags: Chicago White Sox Nestor Molina Sergio Santos Toronto Blue Jays

  • Mylegacy

    Jared

    Well, while the Jay’s had a dozen or so high end starters in the minors it was widely accepted in particular they had FIVE very high end YOUNG starters: Hutchison, Syndergaard, Nicolini, Norris, and Molina. They’ve just traded the oldest, Molina (22), for a closer with the “best slider in the show” over whom they’ll have 6 years of control!

    AA continues to be – without question – the master of the dance, the Silent Assassin! He is clearly reading from a play book other GM’s didn’t even know exists.

    AA’s plan has ALWAYS been to get more prospects than we can use and spin some for pretty trinkets – as he has done here. After the 2012 June Draft that particular strategy will have ot end because of the new CBA – HOWEVER – for a t least the next three or four years AA will have more shiny bits of sparkle to trade than most every other team in the game.

  • Mylegacy

    Jared

    Well, while the Jay’s had a dozen or so high end starters in the minors it was widely accepted in particular they had FIVE very high end YOUNG starters: Hutchison, Syndergaard, Nicolini, Norris, and Molina. They’ve just traded the oldest, Molina (22), for a closer with the “best slider in the show” over whom they’ll have 6 years of control!

    AA continues to be – without question – the master of the dance, the Silent Assassin! He is clearly reading from a play book other GM’s didn’t even know exists.

    AA’s plan has ALWAYS been to get more prospects than we can use and spin some for pretty trinkets – as he has done here. After the 2012 June Draft that particular strategy will have ot end because of the new CBA – HOWEVER – for a t least the next three or four years AA will have more shiny bits of sparkle to trade than most every other team in the game.

  • juanguzman

    my first reaction to this trade was of dismay, but after reading your article i have changed my mind. yes, i was looking forward to seeing molina pitch in the bigs soon, but this trade seems to be a very good one. mylegacy also pointed out some solid points. hopefully santos will be the next tom henke for the jays.

  • juanguzman

    my first reaction to this trade was of dismay, but after reading your article i have changed my mind. yes, i was looking forward to seeing molina pitch in the bigs soon, but this trade seems to be a very good one. mylegacy also pointed out some solid points. hopefully santos will be the next tom henke for the jays.

  • juanguzman

    ok, now go get greg holland from kc to set up santos. i think a rasmus/pitching prospect deal may get it done. that gives the jays a solid bullpen with carreno, litsch, janssen, carlos v., etc. now fill the centerfield void by signing cespedes. with that kind of lumber, they could afford to play mike mccoy at 2b.

  • juanguzman

    ok, now go get greg holland from kc to set up santos. i think a rasmus/pitching prospect deal may get it done. that gives the jays a solid bullpen with carreno, litsch, janssen, carlos v., etc. now fill the centerfield void by signing cespedes. with that kind of lumber, they could afford to play mike mccoy at 2b.

  • JaysinSask

    I think starting pitching has to be the priority before much else gets done. No chance this team competes as is without one more “proven” starter.

  • JaysinSask

    Can’t say I am ready to give up on Rasmus yet either although Holland would look real good in Jays blue

  • JaysinSask

    The more I think about it, I would like to see what it would cost the Jays to get Edinson Volquez. He is the classic buy low case that AA seems to love and has the potential to be a top 3 starter if he can find what he had early in his career (2008). He would come fairly cheap I imagine after Tommy John Surgery in 2009 and a 50-game suspension in 2010. He seems to be another guy with an attitude problem (Escobar, Lawrie) that we could attempt to turn around. The arm and off-field issues scare me a bit but depending on what the Reds are looking for he could be a cheaper option and is only 28.

    The more I actually research Volquez the less likely I would be to try and work something out but he would be an intriguing option if we could get him for something reasonable. Reds are looking for SP though so not sure this is even an option. Food for thought…

  • JaysinSask

    I think starting pitching has to be the priority before much else gets done. No chance this team competes as is without one more “proven” starter.

  • JaysinSask

    Can’t say I am ready to give up on Rasmus yet either although Holland would look real good in Jays blue

  • JaysinSask

    The more I think about it, I would like to see what it would cost the Jays to get Edinson Volquez. He is the classic buy low case that AA seems to love and has the potential to be a top 3 starter if he can find what he had early in his career (2008). He would come fairly cheap I imagine after Tommy John Surgery in 2009 and a 50-game suspension in 2010. He seems to be another guy with an attitude problem (Escobar, Lawrie) that we could attempt to turn around. The arm and off-field issues scare me a bit but depending on what the Reds are looking for he could be a cheaper option and is only 28.

    The more I actually research Volquez the less likely I would be to try and work something out but he would be an intriguing option if we could get him for something reasonable. Reds are looking for SP though so not sure this is even an option. Food for thought…

  • gnor

    The Blue Jays projected Molina to be a middle of the order starter, but they have a ton of horses at his level, like Jenkins and McGuire that can eat innings in the middle of the rotation. Given the fact that there is a big squeeze coming as these guys move into AA and AAA, this is a great way to relieve some of the pressure.

  • gnor

    @JaysinSask The man formerly known as Julio Reyes? People have been banned from baseball for less. When you look at his immigration issues, and the PED suspension, there is a pattern of dishonesty here that I don’t think would play well for The Blue Jays. Scouts assess a player’s “makeup” which includes character, work ethic, teamwork, etc., and this is very important for The Jays. From what I see here, there is a pattern of cheating that may not play out in the long run. Escobar, Lawrie, and Rasmus had “percieved” attitude problems that turned out to be wrong. This guy has had some real issues that don’t belong in The Jays’ clubhouse. I mean, how about a 100 game PED suspension in the middle of the season? Not a good buy at any price.

  • gnor

    @juanguzman What’s Janssen, chopped liver? If the Jays’ starters can log more innings this year, the pen should be able to hold up their end. Besides, Rasmus is at a low ebb in value right now, so it may take more than that to get Holland. What makes you think KC is going to give up a pitcher like that that’s entering his first year of arbitration and they pay next to nothing?

    Let’s let Colby show us what he can do before we ship him out.

  • juanguzman

    well for one it was stated on many websites that kc has interest in rasmus. secondly, it took 12-15 ab’s before he even got a hit. i heard how wonderful his defense was. i’m not impressed with his below average arm. cut ties with him now while there are still some takers.

  • gnor

    The Blue Jays projected Molina to be a middle of the order starter, but they have a ton of horses at his level, like Jenkins and McGuire that can eat innings in the middle of the rotation. Given the fact that there is a big squeeze coming as these guys move into AA and AAA, this is a great way to relieve some of the pressure.

  • gnor

    @JaysinSask The man formerly known as Julio Reyes? People have been banned from baseball for less. When you look at his immigration issues, and the PED suspension, there is a pattern of dishonesty here that I don’t think would play well for The Blue Jays. Scouts assess a player’s “makeup” which includes character, work ethic, teamwork, etc., and this is very important for The Jays. From what I see here, there is a pattern of cheating that may not play out in the long run. Escobar, Lawrie, and Rasmus had “percieved” attitude problems that turned out to be wrong. This guy has had some real issues that don’t belong in The Jays’ clubhouse. I mean, how about a 100 game PED suspension in the middle of the season? Not a good buy at any price.

  • gnor

    @juanguzman What’s Janssen, chopped liver? If the Jays’ starters can log more innings this year, the pen should be able to hold up their end. Besides, Rasmus is at a low ebb in value right now, so it may take more than that to get Holland. What makes you think KC is going to give up a pitcher like that that’s entering his first year of arbitration and they pay next to nothing?

    Let’s let Colby show us what he can do before we ship him out.

  • juanguzman

    well for one it was stated on many websites that kc has interest in rasmus. secondly, it took 12-15 ab’s before he even got a hit. i heard how wonderful his defense was. i’m not impressed with his below average arm. cut ties with him now while there are still some takers.

  • JaysinSask

    @gnor

    I agree. The more research I did the less i liked him for the Jays. Just doesnt seem like a smart move. He was just a guy that popped into my head so I did some research but started writing my post before I really got into the research

  • JaysinSask

    @gnor

    I agree. The more research I did the less i liked him for the Jays. Just doesnt seem like a smart move. He was just a guy that popped into my head so I did some research but started writing my post before I really got into the research