White Sox Kickstart Rebuild, Ship Santos To Blue Jays

The Deal
The rumored White Sox rebuild sprung to life with Chicago’s trade of dominating, cost-controlled closer Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays for 22-year-old righthander Nestor Molina, who finished the season with five starts in Double-A. Molina collected 9.3 strikeouts for every walk in 2011, and just two qualified minor league pitchers notched a higher ratio—lefties Tom Milone of the Nationals and Robbie Erlin of the Padres.

White Sox general manager Ken Williams opted to first trade Santos, instead of starters John Danks or Gavin Floyd, because he said he valued Toronto’s offer of Molina. Relievers Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain and 2011 rookie Chris Sale all move up a peg in Chicago’s bullpen hierarchy with the trade of Santos, whom the White Sox signed as a minor league free agent in January 2009 and shrewdly converted from light-hitting shortstop to flame-throwing reliever. Just as shrewdly, they kept Santos in the big leagues in 2010 rather than risk losing the out-of-options pitcher on waivers. He had run up a 8.16 ERA and 1.99 WHIP in 26 minor league appearances in 2009, while walking 20 in 28 2/3 innings during his first year on the mound.

The Blue Jays employed Santos once before, acquiring him and Troy Glaus from the Diamondbacks prior to the 2006 season. Santos batted just .208/.246/.285 in 621 at-bats over parts of three seasons for Triple-A Syracuse, however, and Toronto lost him on waivers to the Twins in May 2008 when they tried to outright him off the 40-man roster.

Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos shows off his deft touch once more, acquiring promising talent at reasonable cost. In addition to Santos, recent trades have yielded Brett Lawrie (almost a year ago to the day), Yunel Escobar and Anthony Gose (both in July 2010) and Colby Rasmus (near the 2011 trade deadline).

 
White Sox Acquire
Nestor Molina, rhp
Age: 22.
Born: Jan. 9, 1989 in Valencia, Venezuela.
Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Blue Jays, April 6, 2006.

Club (League) Class W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Dunedin (FSL) HiA 10 3 2.58 21 18 0 108.1 102 37 31 8 14 115 1.07
New Hamp. (EL) AA 2 0 0.41 5 5 0 22 12 2 1 0 2 33 0.63
Total 12 3 2.21 26 23 0 130.1 114 39 32 8 16 148 1.00

The Blue Jays have an enviable amount of depth in their farm system and could afford to trade Molina, even though he was on the verge of pitching in the big leagues. Molina originally signed as a third baseman in April 2006. He moved to the mound in 2007, throwing just one inning in the Dominican Summer League. He returned in 2008 and made 20 appearances, completing the transition. Prior to 2011, Molina had made just 77 career appearances, four of which were starts. Toronto had their sights set on giving him a chance to start, assigning him to the high Class A Dunedin rotation. He flourished in the move, throwing 130 innings between Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire while striking out more than a batter per inning and walking about one per nine. Molina has above-average command of a fastball that ranges from 88-93 mph. He originally tried to turn his slurvy breaking ball into a slider, but he has shifted to using a curveball now. Molina has a legitimate out-pitch in his splitter, and he also shows feel for a straight changeup. His secondary stuff doesn’t jump off the page, but his fastball command helps it play up. He profiles nicely in the back of a rotation and will likely make his big league debut in 2012.

 
Blue Jays Acquire
Sergio Santos, rhp
Age: 28. Remaining Commitment: 3 years, $7.5 million, then either a $750,000 buyout or individual club options totaling $22.75 million for 2015-17.
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Club (League) YEAR W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Chicago (AL) 2011 4 5 3.55 63 0 30 63.1 41 25 25 6 29 92 1.11
2-Year Totals 6 7 3.29 119 0 31 115 94 43 42 8 55 148 1.30

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