Blue Jays nab their closer, acquiring Sergio Santos from White Sox

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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.

Astros vs. Dodgers is a match made in heaven

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A lot of people who work at the league office or who take paychecks from the Fox network probably wanted to see the Yankees and the Cubs in the World Series. They won’t admit it, of course, but I suspect that many did, as the ratings for a Cubs-Yankees Series might’ve broken modern records. If they are at all disappointed by the Astros and Dodgers winning the pennant, however, they should let that go because they’ve been gifted by a wonderful matchup from a purely baseball perspective. Indeed, it’s one of the best on-paper matchups we’ve had in the Fall Classic in many years.

Before the Dodgers went on their late-August, early-September swoon, this was the potential World Series pairing most folks who know a thing or two wanted to see. At least I did, and I don’t think I was alone. It was certainly the matchup which represented the teams with the two best regular season records and storylines at the time. While Cleveland ended up winning more games than Houston did, for the first time since 1970 we have a World Series pitting two 100-win teams against each other.

Like that Orioles-Reds series in 1970, which featured Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson and a host of other All-Stars, the Dodgers-Astros provide us with an embarrassment of big names and future Hall of Famers. Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw and Astros DH/OF Carlos Beltran are destined for induction already. Astros ace Justin Verlander may very well join them, especially if his late 2017 surge is evidence of a second career peak. Houston second baseman Jose Altuve‘s first seven years and Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen‘s first eight are the stuff upon which Cooperstown resumes are made as well. People will be arguing Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley‘s Hall of Fame case for years once he retires.

Youth is served as well in this matchup, with each club featuring a handful of the game’s best young players to accompany their big name veteran stars.

The Dodgers will bat their no-doubt N.L. Rookie of the Year first baseman Cody Bellinger second or third in the lineup every game. 2016 Rookie of the Year Corey Seager, who sat out the NLCS with a bad back, is expected to be activated for the Series where he’ll be the Dodgers shortstop. The Astros are actually an old team on paper — Verlander, catcher Brian McCann, starter Charlie Morton, first baseman Yuli Gurriel, outfielder Josh Reddick and DH Evan Gattis are all over 30 while Beltran is 40 — but young players are essential to their attack as well. Shortstop Carlos Correa just turned 23 and he’s one of the game’s brightest stars. Third baseman Alex Bregman, also 23, made the play that may very well have broken the Yankees’ back during Saturday night’s pennant clincher. Age aside, the Astros are the product of a major, multi-year rebuild and many of their players are making their first national splash this postseason.

Beyond just the names and resumes, though, the Dodgers and Astros represent a fantastic strategic matchup. The Dodgers attack this postseason has featured admirable plate discipline, with third baseman Justin Turner, right fielder Yasiel Puig and center fielder Chris Taylor all letting balls out of the zone pass them by while abusing pitches left out over the plate. Astros pitchers not named Justin Verlander, however, have lived by getting the opposition to chase bad balls. Game one starter Dallas Keuchel did this by relying on his very fast sinker. Lance McCullers pitched well starting Game 4 of the ALCS and pitched spectacularly closing out the final four innings of Game 7 mostly by virtue of his curveball, which Yankees pitchers could simply not lay off. Indeed, his final 24 pitches of Game 7 were all curves, many of them low and away. Who will give in first in this series?

On the side of things, Dodgers relievers have made a living by pumping in strikes. Particularly strikes high in the zone from Jansen and Brandon Morrow. There may be no better fastball hitter in all of baseball than Jose Altuve, however, and the team as a whole was one of the best in the bigs in dealing with gas in the zone. This was a big reason why the Astros struck out less than any team in baseball this year while simultaneously boasting the best offense in the game. The Dodgers throw strikes. The Astros make you pay when you throw them strikes. Again, something’s gotta give.

Maybe the suits in New York wanted the Yankees and Cubs. But everyone else is getting exactly what we want: a matchup of the two best teams in the game. A matchup of strength against strength. What is, from a purely baseball perspective, the best World Series we could’ve possibly hoped for.