Hot Stove: Sergio Santos Traded to Toronto
Tuesday December 6th, 2011
After struggling through a committee of ninth inning options in 2011, this week the Toronto Blue Jays acquired a legitimate closer in White Sox righthander Sergio Santos . In exchange for Santos, Chicago received 22 year-old minor league pitching prospect Nestor Molina.
Santos tallied 30 saves for the White Sox in 2011 and, despite a rough stretch of outings in the final month of the season, posted a 3.55 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 92 strikeouts in 63 1/3 innings (good for an impressive 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings ratio). The trade was a somewhat surprising one, considering that the White Sox recently inked Santos to a three-year deal that included several club options past that period.
The 28 year-old California native began his baseball career as a shortstop in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization and had stops in Toronto and Minnesota's farm system before joining the White Sox. With Chicago, he made the move to relief pitcher in 2009 and quickly advanced to the big leagues the following season. While his skills are still somewhat raw, his mid to high-90s fastball and strong mid-80s slider have dominated at times and he appears to have the talent to be a top-tier closer. Prior to his difficulties in September last year, Santos had a 2.63 season ERA. Furthermore, he allowed just 41 hits in his 63 1/3 innings last season and, if he can reduce his walk numbers, he could find himself among the game's elite relievers.
Starting pitcher Nestor Molina, coincidentally, is also a converted infielder who wasn't a particularly highly-regarded prospect prior to last season but caught some attention by posting excellent numbers during higher-level trials for Toronto's High-A and Double-A affiliates. In 130 1/3 total innings in 2011, Molina struck out 148 hitters and posted a 2.21 ERA and 0.997 WHIP with a 12-3 record in 26 games (23 starts). He'll likely open 2012 in the high minors and could see big league service during the season, though his performance will certainly determine when that happens.
From a fantasy perspective, this is essentially a lateral move for Santos. On one hand, he should improve and develop as he harnesses his command more and gains more experience on the mound, but he will also have to face dynamic offenses like the Yankees and Red Sox more as a member of an American League East division club. Still, he stands a very good chance of finishing 2012 as a top-fifteen or possibly a top-ten big league closer, assuming he stays healthy, gets plenty of save opportunities, and continues to post great strikeout numbers.
Overall, this could be an excellent move for the Blue Jays, who were sorely in need of a stable clear-cut ninth inning man after suffering through injuries and ineffectiveness in their relief corps last year. For the White Sox, sending their recently re-signed closer away for a prospect is a mark that they are rebuilding their club and looking past the immediate future, which could signal that more deals to send veterans away for youngsters are on the way this winter.
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