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.
In light of the Astros’ deal for veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Yankees are thought to be intensifying their pursuit of free agent Edwin Encarnacion, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees never made an official offer to Beltran, but remain in need of a DH/first baseman to give them a little more power outside of a Tyler Austin–Greg Bird combo in 2017.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, are reportedly withdrawing their interest when it comes to the Encarnacion sweepstakes. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they will look for a hitter to beef up their lineup without taking a “big plunge” on the 34-year-old.
Encarnacion enjoyed another All-Star run with the Blue Jays in 2016, hitting at a .263/.357/.529 clip with 42 homers and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 PA. He’s expected to command a significant contract in free agency, and agent Paul Kinzer said that a potential deal is unlikely to be finalized before the Winter Meetings as Encarnacion is not close to agreeing to any offer. Interested teams include the Blue Jays and the Astros, though Beltran’s signing appears to have effectively taken Houston out of the running for the slugger.
The Nationals are trying to go big this offseason, and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes that they are still in trade talks for White Sox’ left-hander Chris Sale and Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Both players figure to command a big return, as Sale delivered another Cy Young-worthy performance in 2016 and, despite a downturn in his production rate, McCutchen is still one of the more coveted sluggers in the National League.
In 2016, Sale led the league in complete games, with six, and turned in a 3.34 ERA and 5.2 fWAR in 226 2/3 innings. While teams have been sniffing around the White Sox’ ace since the trade deadline, the club is expected to maintain a high asking price — so high, said FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, that it may keep the left-hander in Chicago for the foreseeable future.
According to Heyman, four other teams are reportedly in the mix for Sale, including the Red Sox, Astros, Rangers, and Braves, though parts of Rosenthal’s tweet hinted that the Red Sox were maintaining their interest in hopes of striking a more affordable deal. Should the Nationals pursue a deal for Sale, it’s likely that they’d have to move shortstop/center fielder Trea Turner, which they appear reluctant to do.
McCutchen, meanwhile, is also drawing interest around the league after batting .256/.336/.430 with 24 home runs in 675 PA during 2016. He didn’t appear to lose much power in his eighth season with the Pirates, but took considerably fewer walks and struck out at a career-high clip.
The Nationals were said to be in the lead for McCutchen on Thursday, and there was some expectation that the club would wrap up a trade for the center fielder by the non-tender deadline on Friday. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi pointed out that the Rangers were also talking to the Pirates, however, and no deal has come to fruition as of yet.