Last offseason the biggest trade the Toronto Blue Jays made was trading starting pitching prospect Nestor Molina to the Chicago White Sox for closer Sergio Santos.
The Blue Jays bullpen blew 25 games in 2011 so they needed a closer badly. Santos was not just a temporary solution either. The contract he signed with the White Sox had him under guaranteed control until the end of the 2014 season, making a total of 8.25 million with options on his contract every year from 2015 – 2017. The Blue Jays also had not had the same closer to count on every year in a very long time.
It was the perfect trade. A good closer you could have for a long time with cost certainty.
Unlike other positions in baseball, relief pitchers are known to be very volatile and it’s a lot easier for them to lose their role than any other position. Sergio Santos made a handful of appearances in April, struggling in most of them, before getting injured and missing the remainder of the season.
While Santos was injured, Casey Janssen saved 22 games in 25 opportunities. Even though Alex Anthopoulos or John Farrell never said anything about Janssen being the closer for 2013, fans and media people in Toronto are already saying he should and will be.
The only player with a guaranteed contract that could possibly lose their role because they were injured or had a bad season is a closer or a reliever. Adam Lind has been one of the worst hitters in baseball since 2010 and he’s had injuries while David Cooper has filled in well for him during his injuries. No one has ever said “Cooper hit well while Lind was gone so I guess he’s the new first basemen.”
Brandon Morrow, J.P. Arencibia, Adam Lind, and Brett Lawrie all got injured this season but when they returned, they went back to their regular position. Jose Bautista, Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek, and Travis D’arnaud all went through long term injuries this season. Yet despite how long their recoveries are taking, they’ll all return to the same position. If Hutchison and Drabek end up in the bullpen instead of being starters, it’ll be because of what happened to their body during the injuries and not just because they happened to be injured.
Casey Janssen has 31 saves in his entire career which is just 1 more save than Sergio Santos got in 2011. Even though Santos has a guaranteed contract, he’ll have to audition for the closer’s spot in Spring Training or have to settle for a different role in the bullpen.
Unlike all other positions in baseball if you’re a reliever and you get injured your job isn’t safe, waiting for your return.