December 06, 2011
DALLAS — The dismantling of the Chicago White Sox appears to have begun at baseball's winter meetings.
The White Sox traded closer Sergio Santos(notes) to the Toronto Blue Jays for minor-league pitcher Nestor Molina on Tuesday. White Sox general manager Ken Williams said his team is starting over after going 79-83 in 2011 and letting go of manager Ozzie Guillen.
"It is the start of a rebuilding," Williams told reporters in a hotel suite. "And you guys know I have not used that word in 12 years. But it is the start of a rebuilding. Now, is it the start of falling domino rebuilding? No. Absolutely not."
Regardless, new manager Robin Ventura is going to have an ... interesting first season, especially if Williams also moves starting pitchers John Danks(notes) and Gavin Floyd(notes), along with reliever Matt Thornton(notes) and outfielder Carlos Quentin(notes), as has been rumored. At least some of that seems certain now.
Williams is trading a 28-year-old closer, who has been one of the better relief pitchers in the AL since his rookie season in 2010, for a 22-year-old top prospect. Both players began their careers as position players but later were converted into pitchers. Santos was a shortstop as recently as 2009 but quickly showed an amazing aptitude for pitching. The lack of wear and tear on his arm is one of the many dimensions that appeals to Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos.
"We didn't want to move one of our better prospects like Nestor unless it was for a chance at a guy who fits the profile of an elite closer," Anthopoulos said. "Santos has electric stuff. And not a lot of miles on his arm."
Williams repeatedly had said no to Anthopoulos' demand for Santos, who had 92 strikeouts and a .181 opponents' batting average — to go with 30 saves — in 2011. He obviously relented, acknowledging the hand he has dealt himself.
"We both swallowed hard," Anthopoulos said. "We also had some heated internal debates. It makes sense for us because he's under team control, salary wise, for up to six more seasons."
That's part of why the deal makes so much sense for Toronto, which sees itself on the verge of contending — like the Tampa Bay Rays have done — in the ultra-competitive AL East. Santos, with his great fastball and ridiculous slider, will do the job in the ninth inning.
"He's the closer," Anthopoulos said.
What Williams is doing might make it seem like nuclear winter has come to Chicago's South Side, but making this deal is probably the right thing. Williams has made too many mistakes — think Adam Dunn(notes), Alex Rios(notes) and Jake Peavy(notes) — to have any payroll flexibility in coming seasons. Improving enough to win a World Series in the next few seasons, based on the current roster, is not realistic. So into the future they go.
Molina has a 2.27 ERA with 277 strikeouts and 47 walks in 292 career innings. His best skill is control, though Williams says he throws from 90-96 mph (kind of a wide range). Perhaps he's a Javier Vazquez(notes) type of pitcher?
Though he is from Venezuela, he doesn't appear to be related to the other baseball-playing Molina brothers. That would seem to answer the other big question to this deal: No, Molina doesn't have to convert to catcher once he makes the major leagues.
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