Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos accomplished at least three things with Tuesday's re-acquisition of closer Sergio Santos: He didn't throw big money at a proven stopper — at least in the short term — has a strikeout pitcher and one under team control for several seasons.
Attending baseball's winter meetings in Dallas, Anthopoulos picked up Santos from the Chicago White Sox for fellow right-handed pitcher Nestor Molina.
Santos, 28, converted 30 of 36 save chances in 2011 while posting a 4-5 record, 3.55 earned-run average and striking out 92 hitters in 63 1/3 innings pitched. He ranked third among American League relief pitchers last season with 13.07 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
Santos was golfing when Anthopoulos called to tell him about the trade. The deal caught the hurler by surprise — a few days after the season ended, he signed a three-year, $8.25-million US contract with the White Sox.
Santos said he's "glad to be back" with the Blue Jays.
"I'm excited to be moving to a new team and [one that's] going in the direction that Toronto is going in," Santos said on a conference call.
Santos will earn $1 million in 2012, $2.75 million in 2013 and $3.75 million in 2014. There are also three club options from 2015 through 2017, totalling $22.75 million.
There is a $750,000 buyout if the option years are declined.
The Blue Jays first acquired Santos in 2005 from the Arizona Diamondbacks, who drafted the player 27th overall as a shortstop in 2002. He converted to pitcher in 2009 while in the White Sox organization and made his big-league debut the next year.
No interest in pitching
Anthopoulos was the Blue Jays' assistant GM when Santos was in their organization. The team asked Santos if he wanted to take a try on the mound, but he wasn't interested.
"He didn't want to pitch. He believed in himself as a shortstop," Anthopoulos said.
Santos made it as high as AAA as an infielder. He was a career .248 hitter with 72 home runs in the minors, starting out in 2002 in the Arizona system.
'He's got the ninth inning for us. We think he's got a chance to be an elite closer.'— Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos on Sergio Santos
In two major league seasons as a pitcher, the California native is 6-7 with 31 saves and 3.29 ERA.
Anthopoulos said Santos's contract situation and "electric stuff" made him especially attractive, given his arm hasn't endured a lot of wear because of his late switch to pitching.
Toronto's saves leader last season was Frank Francisco with 17. Santos immediately inherited the role.
"He's got the ninth inning for us," Anthopoulos said. "We think he's got a chance to be an elite closer."
Chris Sale was second on the White Sox last season with eight saves. Chicago had planned to move him into the rotation next year.
Asked who would be the Chicago closer in 2012, new manager Robin Ventura wasn't sure.
"I knew yesterday," he said. "But obviously, you know, right now you're going to wait and see how the rest of this week goes and figure it out from there."
Molina, 22, split his time with AA New Hampshire and single-A Dunedin, going 12-3 with a 2.21 ERA in 26 games.