Three observations about the insanity, the carnival, and the chaos that is the 2011 MLB Winter Meetings.
1. Sergio Santos returns to the flock
Santos, a former first round draft pick by Arizona in 2002, was traded to the Blue Jays as part of the Troy Glaus deal in 2005. At that point in time he was a shortstop. Despite hitting 20 HR in double-A New Hampshire, he struggled in Syracuse (where he played behind Ricky Romero), and was eventually lost on waivers to Minnesota, before winding up with the White Sox. Chicago converted him to a pitcher, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Santos took over as closer for Chicago after Matt Thornton imploded at the beginning of last season, and quickly emerged as one of the best in the game: 30 saves, a 3.55 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, and an incredible 92 strikeouts in 63.1 innings. That 13.07 K/9 ratio was the 6th best in all of baseball (3rd best in the American League) for relievers with at least 40 innings pitched. That is good – really good.
Yes he might walk a bit too many batters (his K/BB ratio was 40th in baseball under
the same criteria), but as has been said by many analysts before: walks by a strikeout pitcher hurt much less than walks by a contact pitcher. More good news is that his K/BB and BB/9 numbers have improved from 2010.
Even better news? His contract, a team friendly deal for three years, including three option years for 2015, 2016, and 2017. The total owed for the next three years? $8.25-million….for three years. Jonathan “The Self Cleaning Anus” Papelbon just signed a deal that pays him $12.5-million…each year. For four years.
I like the trade. But here’s what shocked me yesterday. There were an unbelievable number
of Jays fans who HATED the trade. Why? Were these not the same fans who were begging AA to get a closer? The same fans who felt that Toronto couldn’t win without a solid 9th inning guy? And were these not also the same fans who were begging AA to NOT overpay for a guy like Heath Bell, Ryan Madson, and SCA Papelbon? So what gives? You didn’t spend a lot of money and you got a guy who (statistically) is on par or better than those guys. Plus he already knows many of the core Jays from his time spent with them in the minors. Added bonus!
But no – fans are outraged that Nestor Molina went the other way. Yes, Molina is a solid prospect, and very well might blossom into an ace one day. But, and it’s a HUGE but – Nestor Molina has thrown zero career MLB pitches. He is just as likely to turn into the next Todd Van Poppel as he is the next Roy Halladay. Hell, wasn’t it only last year that Toronto had the next best pitching prospect in baseball? Remember Kyle Drabek? Well, he didn’t really pan out. (I still have hope).
The best part of the whole debate is that I bet 95% of fans who are so upset about losing Molina had never even heard of him until a few months ago, when he started being heavily promoted as a number-one prospect. Perhaps the promotion was meant to do one thing: raise his value so the Jays could get a near-elite level closer for a guy who has never pitched in the big leagues.
Job well done.
2. Bye bye Rauch and Frankie
What must be going through the minds of New York Mets fans right about now. Man oh man. First you lose your best player Jose Reyes – to a division rival no less. Then you lose one of your more productive players over the past few seasons (Angel Pagan) in a trade with the Giants. Then, to put salt in the wounds, you sign Jon Rauch. And Frank Francisco. That’s right. BOTH Jon Rauch AND Frank Francisco.
These two teamed up last year to be the 8th and 9th inning guys for the Jays, and were TERRIBLE. So what is the best thing that a GM could do? Well, obviously, try it again! Amazing.
To be fair, Francisco did have a nice second half of 2011, and should perform well in the NL East. But Rauch? Not so much.
The Jays get two draft picks out the deal as compensation, which is an added bonus because not having those two in the bullpen next year is compensation enough.
3. What’s Next?
Obviously Prince Fielder is still available, but AA’s reluctance to go past a 5-year deal means he will likely sign with whatever team fails to land Pujols. (Speaking of Pujols, what the eff has got into the Marlins? Stupid.) The next big decision for Toronto is what to do with second base. Incumbent 2B Kelly Johnson has until midnight tonight to decide whether he will accept arbitration. One would think with the market for middle infielders going through the roof that Johnson would definitely decline and test the open market. But the fact that he hasn’t yet might show that the Jays are still in the mix.
If not, AA has some decisions to make. Sign somebody else? Try to swing a trade (Brandon Phillips maybe)? Stick with Luis Valbuena? Or maybe try a position switch and see if Brett Lawrie, or Adeiny Hechavarria, or Yunel Escobar, or maybe Eric Thames can handle the position?
Who knows. All I know is that the Jays haven’t had a natural second baseman since Orlando Hudson in 2005 (Aaron Hill was a converted SS remember). With backup catcher and closer off the list, it’s now time to find one.
Slowly but surely, the 2012 Jays are coming together.
One step at a time.