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

Dec 6, 2011, 12:53 PM EDT

Sergio Santos Getty Images

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.

  1. phillychzstk2012 - Dec 6, 2011 at 12:56 PM

    for Nestor?!?!..aight

  2. theonlynolan - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    Anyone have a scouting report on Molina?

    • Ari Collins - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:06 PM

      He’s very good. John Sickels (one of the most well-respected prospect mavens) named him the 2nd best Jays prospect.

      “2) Nestor Molina, RHP, Grade B+: Although Molina hasn’t received as much press as some of the other guys, his performance was impeccable, I think his stuff is underrated, and he’ll get to the majors sooner than the others. Despite his season, he is still underrated by a lot of people.”

    • cur68 - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:11 PM

      Yeah. First off, he’s a Molina. Can’t tell you how important that last name is on a team. Second, great arm; check out this link,

      http://theondeckcircle.net/2011/08/25/holy-hell-nestor-molina-prospect-watch/

      Kid’s an ‘effin BEAST.

      However: WE GOT A CLOSER NOT NAMED FRANK FRANCISCO! WOOOOoooooo!

      • proudlycanadian - Dec 6, 2011 at 7:19 PM

        The White Sox got a prospect whom I had thought was untouchable. Molina caught the attention of a lot of scouts last season. The Jays still have 3 other prime pitching prospects who finished last season in Double A.

  3. pkers - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    Are those walk totals for real? Wow.

    • baseballisboring - Dec 6, 2011 at 3:37 PM

      Knowing what we know about him now this deal doesn’t look so good for the Jays…I don’t think they’re close enough that a good closer is gonna put them over the top.

      • paint771 - Dec 6, 2011 at 3:44 PM

        Not sure why you say that – Blue Jays won 80 last year, 85 before that, with a very young core team and an AL East that looks a bit shaky at present. They buy 10 wins out of replacement players, new hires, and a few of the young guns coming into their own (Lawrie, Morrow, Alvarez, etc.), and they’re already over the top. And that’s even before the second wild card comes into effect.

  4. CJ - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    Must be a typo. Everyone knows you can’t be a Molina unless you’re a catcher.

    • baseballisboring - Dec 6, 2011 at 3:38 PM

      2.21 must be his catcher’s ERA or something. The 148/16 K/BB ratio looks about right though.

  5. Ari Collins - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:07 PM

    White Sox are selling off. Maybe my Red Sox can get Floyd/Thornton for Lavarnway/Renaudo/Iglesias? Perhaps Middlebrooks or Bogaerts would have to be in there, though I’d hate to see either go.

    • rsnorth - Dec 6, 2011 at 2:07 PM

      I’d hate to see any of those Red Sox guys go for Thornton whom the White Sox want to move badly and for the mediocre Floyd. Lavarnway is backing up Salty in ’12, Iglesias may back up Scutaro if Lowrie gets dealt and Middlebrooks will eventually replace Youk. Not a good deal for the Sox.

  6. Kyle - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:08 PM

    Interesting. It seems like the Jays would just go dumpster diving for a one-year closer.

  7. Francisco (FC) - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    They way the title is phrased makes it sound like kidnapping. AA was out on a binge with Jose Batista in a limo, then they spotted Santos, AA turned to Joey and said: “Look, look, look, it’s Sergio! We need a closer! Quick! Nab him!”.

    • cur68 - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:44 PM

      Sergio Santos stats: 6′ 2″, Weight: 230 lb.
      Jose Buatista: 6′, 185
      Alex Anthopolous: Pillusbury Doughboy.

      I’ll take Sergio in that scuffle and bet that Anthopolous waved money (deferred and incentive laden) to get Sergio into the trunk.

  8. paint771 - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:44 PM

    A good signal to Jays fans, I think. The big question has been whether the Jays are going to push contention in the next few years, or keeping trying to build and build based on long-distance prospects, draft pics, etc. Nothing wrong with that, but as a native of Kansas City and Pittsburgh I can tell you that clubs can spend DECADES “building” but never quite pull the trigger successfully to push them to major league success.

    Molina is a fantastic prospect, but he’s a 2014 guy. Santos is a next year guy. Dealing the next year guy for the 2014 guy shows me the Jays are serious in trying to build those extra 10 wins to earn a playoff berth. And with the Red Sox, Tampa Bay, and New York in varying states of decay/disarray, and with a once-in-a-generation anchor like Bautista, the time to pull the trigger is now.

  9. Chris K - Dec 6, 2011 at 1:46 PM

    I’ve been a fan of AAs moves so far, and he still has a free pass from me for a few years for getting rid of Wells, but this is the second questionable move he’s made to get a closer.

    The upside on Molina seemed higher compared to a 1 inning guy…but maybe it’s offset that we can control Santos for the next 5 seasons? OR….maybe AA is going to turn Santos into a starter? haha

  10. rambodiaz - Dec 6, 2011 at 2:23 PM

    And the Pirates aren’t trading Hanrahan… why, exactly?

  11. cyanocittacristata - Dec 6, 2011 at 2:28 PM

    The silent assassin strikes again! Really this is almost a trade of the same player only in difference of age and experience.

    Molina best projects as a stopper tho he may become a very good starter. Santos was the one that got away from the Jay’s nest.

    Cost wise, Santos looks like a steal in a cheap and club friendly contract.Compared to what Papelbon and Bell cost, this is going to put AA on FBI’s 50 most wanted list for robbery.

  12. dirtyharry1971 - Dec 6, 2011 at 2:29 PM

    Now i am 100% convinced the Jays have locked up 4th place!! Maybe if Bud adds 6 more wild cards the jays will actually make the playoffs with this roster!!!

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