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.