Ryan Madson and Francisco Rodriguez were among those hoping the Blue Jays would spend liberally on a closer. Instead, those two got a nasty surprise today, as Toronto acquired Sergio Santos from the White Sox for top pitching prospect Nestor Molina.
Santos, once a member of the Toronto farm system as an infielder before he made the move to the mound, has a 3.29 ERA in 115 innings since debuting with the White Sox in 2010. He took over the closer’s role in Chicago early last season and finished with 30 saves in 36 opportunities. He recently signed a three-year, $8.25 million deal and he’s under control through 2017, so he’s a valuable property indeed.
To get him, the Jays parted with one of their best prospects, albeit one who hasn’t gotten a whole lot of attention yet. The 22-year-old Molina went 12-3 with a 2.21 ERA and an outstanding 148/16 K/BB ratio in a 2011 season spent mostly at high-A Dunedin. He did move up to Double-A in August, and he went 2-0 with a 0.41 ERA and a 33/2 K/BB ratio in 22 innings there. Like Santos, he’s a converted infielder, and given that he was primarily a reliever in previous seasons, there’s some fear that he might be a one-year wonder. However, his stuff is legitimate (92-94 mph fastball, excellent splitter, average change) and he would seem to have No. 2 starter potential.
Since Santos will make $1 million next year, this does nothing to cut into the Jays’ financial flexibility, meaning they could yet make a run at an established closer if they’re so inclined. That has to be a lower priority now, though. The White Sox, on the other hand, might be on the hunt for a bargain closer to join Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain and Jason Frasor in the pen. Picking up one as part of a John Danks or Gavin Floyd deal is a possibility. They could also reverse course and put rotation-bound Chris Sale back in the pen, but it seems doubtful they’d go that route.
Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.
Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:
The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a FanGraphs.com metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.
In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.
This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.
Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.
Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:
We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP