It looks like it’s case closed for the Toronto Blue Jays as they finally landed a relief pitcher for next season. The Jays announced on Dec. 6 that they had received right-handed reliever Sergio Santos from the Chicago White Sox in a deal that saw Minor League pitcher Nestor Molina head to the Windy City. Santos had a decent year with Chicago by saving 30 games in 36 opportunities and posting an ERA of 3.55 to go along with a won-loss record of 4-5. He also struck out 92 batters in 63.1 innings.

Alex Anthopoulos, the Blue Jays general manger, said finding a closer was one of his top missions during the off season since his club blew 25 saves in 2011, tied for the worst in the American League. He said it was hard trading Molina, but didn’t really have a choice because the team definitely needs some help in the bullpen. He added that there were some heated debates in the organization regarding the trade, but felt in the long run the move makes sense.

Anthopoulos has already handed the closer’s job to Santos by saying the ninth inning belongs to him. The deal was made at the winter meetings in Dallas when the Jays and White Sox got together to discuss potential deals. Anthopoulos asked about Santos since he had appealed to them ever since signing a three-year deal with Chicago in October which will pay him $7.5 million for the next three years. He also has three option years which are worth $22.75 million in total. However, each one of those years would cost just $750,000 to buy out. The GM said it’s hard to find quality closers who are under contract for that many years.

Molina was one of Toronto’s top prospects who played with Double-A New Hampshire and Class A Dunedin last season. His fastball is about 92 mph tops and has a good changeup and slider. However, scouts feel that the splitter is his best pitch, but are divided on whether he’ll be a starting pitcher or reliever for the White Sox organization. The Blue Jays used him as a starter and he had an ERA of 2.21 last year with a record of 12-3 and pitched 130 1/3 innings.

The trade was risky for both clubs since the White Sox traded away somebody who had a very affordable contract and could turn into an elite reliever. The Blue Jays on the other hand have lost one of their best Minor League arms in the deal. It’ll probably be a few years before the winner and loser of the trade can be judged. But the Jays get the immediate bullpen help that they so sorely need.

Right-handed reliever Frank Francisco was the Jays save leader last season with 17. Toronto offered him salary arbitration, but Anthopoulos figures he’ll probably turn it down and sign elsewhere during the off season. Without him, the Jays would have had a huge gap in their bullpen. Field manager John Farrell said he’s very happy the team was able to acquire the 28-year-old Santos since he could possibly be with the team for the next six seasons, but was sad to see Molina go.


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