Jon Morosi is reporting that the Toronto Blue Jays have acquired Sergio Santos from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for highly rated pitching prospect Nestor Molina. The move represents two clear and different directions for both clubs, with the Jays moving forward to improve their roster and the White Sox beginning their rumoured rebuild in earnest.

Before we look deeper at Santos numbers as a pitcher (he was formerly a shortstop in the Blue Jays orgnaization), we have to mention his incredibly team friendly contract. Santos signed an extension with the White Sox this September that will guarantee him a paltry $8.25 million over the next three  years, with three club options after that. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • 2012: $1 million,
  • 2013: $2.75 million,
  • 2014: $3.75 million,
  • 2015: $6 million club option,
  • 2016: $8 million club option,
  • 2017: $8.75 million club option.

Each option has a $750,000 buyout.

This contract is the very definition of risk mitigation, and it’s a good thing, because as good as Santos’ 95 miles per hour 4-seam fastball might look and as good as his 2.97 career FIP in 115 innings pitched might appear, there is an issue with control and command.

The bad news is that the 28 year old right hander has a high 11.1% walk rate in two seasons. The good news is that he also has a 29.9% career strikeout rate, including the fourth highest strike out rate (35.4%) in the league last season. The good side of relievers like this is David Robertson, Carlos Marmol and Jonny Venters. The bad side of relievers like this is Kevin Gregg, Jose Veras and Miguel Batista.

Fortunately for Blue Jays fans, Santos’ increasing swinging strike numbers have more in common with the good side of that equation than the bad. When you’re capable of striking guys out, the impact of walks isn’t as bad as when you’re pitching to contact.

In order to acquire Santos and fill an immediate need, the Blue Jays give up prospect Nestor Molina, another shortstop converted to pitcher that some fans were prematurely suggesting might be a closing option for Toronto in 2012.

John Sickles of Minor League Ball was especially high on Molina suggesting that:

Ranking the Blue Jays pitching prospects is quite difficult. 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.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats manager Sal Fasano also had this to say:

Nestor is an unbelievable athlete. When he’s on the mound it’s like having a shortstop that’s pitching, which is great. Obviously his numbers speak for themselves– he absolutely dealt when he was with us– but what he is is, he’s a control guy, and he throws strikes, and he’s got a really good split-finger. What he does is, he works so fast, to the point where the hitters are always uncomfortable. So it’s kind of like the old adage of, you know, work fast, throw strikes, and expand the strike zone, and he does it to a T. He does a tremendous job with it, and I’m really excited to see how the competition moves up in Spring Training, and maybe he will have an opportunity.

High praise, indeed. Here’s video of the soon to be 23 year old throwing:

Overall, it appears to be a good deal for both teams, although I’m leaning slightly toward the Blue Jays. Toronto needed bullpen help and as the free agent options grew less and less appealing, the Blue Jays somehow managed to acquire an elite or potentially elite reliever that wasn’t talked about a whole lot as being available.

It hurts to lose a prospect as highly regarded as Molina, and one who completely dominated the Minor League competition he saw at Single A and during his brief 22 inning audition at Double A last season. However, it takes good players to acquire good players, and to some degree, Blue Jays fans have been spoiled with Alex Anthopoulos’ trades to date which haven’t exactly followed that old adage. This one does, but it’s no less of an accomplishment for either side of the trade.

It’s worth mentioning that just as players at the big league level can be traded at the height of their value, so too can prospects. Molina is coming off an incredible season statistically in the Minor Leagues. Progression isn’t always linear though, and domination at one level one level doesn’t mean more domination the next year at a higher level. Having said that, it’s entirely possible that Molina becomes a very good starting pitcher for the White Sox in the future.

The Blue Jays maintain their build up to sustained success and the White Sox now begin their rebuild in earnest. I give the Blue Jays a slight edge for two reasons: 1) the terms of Santos’ contract are outstanding; and 2) the relatively young Santos has only been pitching professionally for three years and the results, already pretty spectacular, appear to be improving.

Comments (45)

  1. Excellent…

    (said while sitting slouched over tapping my fingers together a la Monty Burns)

  2. i hope not Molina is a top prospect and santos has only been pitching for a couple years

    • this post is funny given that Molina also has only been pitching for a couple of years (he’s a converted SS too).

      • Except Molina just turned 22 …

        • Except Santos has already proven he can dominate batters at the MLB level…

        • I’m not saying there’s no risk in this deal. Just saying that particular argument above doesn’t really factor.

          Molina might become a great MLB starter, in which case we lost this deal. He might also become Sergio Santos 2.0… he might also flame out.

          AA took a risk. Presumably he did it based on a lot of scouting information and knowledge that I don’t have… so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt (and reserve the right to bitch about this a year from now if it doesn’t turn out) :)

          • At the end of the day, the team that got the better player won. Right now, Santos is that player. Down the line, maybe not. Hindisight is 20/20…

  3. I think for now we may have to file this one under “what the fuck?”

    • But, Santos has some great numbers… still squirmy about giving up Molina, but hey, who knows.

    • I file this one under – exactly what AA said he would eventually do: leverage a surplus of prospects to acquire young, controllable major league talent.

  4. Ooh! Good, olde fashioned challenge trade. Interesting.

  5. I love how all the beat writers’ and bloggers’ Twitter accounts exploded with the news, and then all went silent as they (I imagine) all frantically try to write their stories for this trade.

    I hope they finish soon, because I have no idea how I feel about this. Playoffs??/?

  6. To me…this says that didn’t think Molina could be a starter and you a trading a bonafied closer with a great contract for another potential closer with years of control.

    • Yup. that’s how I’m seeing it.
      It’s a gamble (trades always are), but I suspect AA and co know what Molina could be and made a more educated decision than any of us “common folk” ever could.

  7. In thinking about this a bit more, if Molina was made a reliever, a hopeful projection for him would be Santos, right? So does this effectively mean we’ve traded Molina now for who we all partially hoped and partially expected him to become?

    • That’s the way I’m looking at it. Seems like most people were saying he would be a great reliever but with that violent delivery know way of knowing if he would have ever made it (Injuries).

    • It makes sense – trade the potential for the now – a good move since both could end up the same.

  8. Cool. Did we get Troy Glaus again in the deal too?

    IDK… 31 career saves doesn’t sound “proven”.. ;)

    • I wouldn’t say proven…but 30 of those were last year. So he certainly put up at least 1 good season. More proven than Molina.

      • Sorry, couldn’t find the “sarcasm font” for the proven closer comment…

      • As proven as Madsen if I am not mistaken….. Only for $30mil for 6 years vs. $40mil for 4 years or so.
        Tough to give up Nestor (I was excited to see him pitch for the Blue Jays), but its not Matt Capps so I am OK with it.

  9. Beauty trade. As stated above, it certainly looks like AA has traded Molina for what he projected Molina to hopefully become, an arm such as Santos.

  10. Santos will only be 29 this July, does not have a lot of work on his arm because he switched to pitching so late and did so as a reliever, is on a very good contract and is already an excellent reliever.

    If the Jays think that Molina projects as a very good reliever rather than a very good starter then this trade makes sense to me. They’re giving up a guy who they hope will be Sergio Santos for Sergio Santos.

    If they think that Molina will be a very good starter then it is harder to understand though.

  11. isn’t this the purpose of having highly touted, mid to low minor league players? you can deal them for MAJOR League players before “others” know exactly what you have … who cares about having the BEST system .. it’s about getting major league talent .. in AA WE HAVE TO TRUST!

  12. I was hoping Drew would write this post. He loves those big ChiSox relievers.

  13. Technically, this is the worst move since the Jeff Mathis trade.

  14. I think its an alright trade. Even if Molina had a ceiling as a middle of the rotation guy, 1) we have many people in the organization with that type of ceiling or higher and 2) that’s his ceiling and no matter how close they are to the big leagues you always take on more uncertainty with prospects.

    Also, the scouting reports have been mixed on Molina, which means if your going to trust anyone you trust the Jay’s judgment on their own player, and in their opinion he wasn’t worth more than Santos.

  15. With all the depth that the jays farm system has right now, in terms of pitching, I can’t say I mind losing one prospect especially when we get control of a great arm until 2017 in santos.

  16. This leads to the question… do the Jays sign Prince now??

    Haha, I had to……

  17. I think people are underestimating Molina’s ceiling. I think he’s pretty similiar to Henderson Alvarez, already has two plus pitches and at a young age. Just needed to continue refining his pitching repertoire. Trading him for a guy with one season of closing success, who walks over 4 per 9 innings doesn’t sit well with me. Surely signing Madson to 3/30M is a better deal for the jays in the short term and long term than this. If Nestor Molina is a fair price for Sergio Santos, I shudder to think of what the price would have been for Andrew Bailey or Greg Holland.

    • @Josh if you discount IBB he’s at 3.7%

    • If you think spending $10M/ year is a better deal than $2.6M/ year then sure.. Madson is a better deal.

      • If they’re not going to spend that saved $30M on another player, then yeah, I’d have preferred Madson while keeping Molina.

      • Over the first 3 years of the Santos contract if all goes well we may reap 10-15M in surplus value, if the alternative was to sign Madson at 3/30. Are you suggesting this surplus value is more than the value we’d reap from 6 cost-controlled years off Molina. If Molina completely flops your right, but if he even achieves half of his potential, we will reap MUCH more value than we will get from Santos over the next 3 years. So uh yeah, I do think spending 10M a year is a better deal than 2.6 in this case, especially when your talking about a guy who has several dominant seasons at closer compared to a guy who has 1. Your point is invalid.

        • Madson has pretty much had 1 closer season. It was old Lidge there most of the time and Madson was the setup man.

        • Madson has only one season as the full-time closer. “Several dominant seasons?” Not sure where you’re getting this.

          Your argument makes a lot of assumptions about Molina. Even if all of them are correct, the Jays have a surplus of starting pitching in the minors, a number of whom project higher than Molina, Sickels recent evaluation notwithstanding.

          Santos is a very good pitcher, with filthy stuff. I like him far better than Ryan Madson as a closer in the AL East. And then there’s the contract.

    • This looks to me like one of the following is the case:
      1) The White Sox think that Molina has a future as at least a good starting pitcher while the Jays are pretty convinced that he’ll wind up in the bullpen. They prefer to get the upside on him now in the form of Santos even if it means spending a bit more money on that piece.
      2) The Jays are convinced that they can win soon and think that Santos can be one of the last few ingredients that they need. They like Molina, possibly even as a starter, but would rather have Santos now, especially given that they have a lot of depth in terms of minor league arms.

  18. For what is worth he’s walk rate is down in 2011 to 4.1/9 from 4.5/9, so it is possible that his control is getting better. Given his incomplete development as a pitcher, it sounds plausible. On the other hand, it could be small sample.

  19. Er I meant 3.7 BB/9

  20. The Jays do fine here on value. There are a lot of questions about Molina’s potential and value in the majors and they are giving him up for a pretty damn good reliever (who could actually get better). I hope this is only the first of many prospect-for-MLB player deals for AA.

    The one issue is that the Jays could have conceivably have signed a closer like Francisco, KRod, or Cordero (guys would have given you more or less the same production as
    Santos) and moved Molina in a different deal for a more valuable player.

    If they don’t use the money that they’re saving on another guy this offseason…it will come off looking pretty cheap of them. Guess we’ll have to wait and see, though.

  21. I like this deal for both clubs, I still think the Jays will get Fielder, and then trade lind to the A’s for Bailey. Johnson will be returning as our 2nd baseman. I like what I see, AA has done an excellent Job. In AA we trust. I guess I should be signing in as a Blue yoshi just for AA.

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