14 months later after it premiered, it's still hard to dissociate Sergio Santos from the teary-eyed version of himself on The Club, overcome with emotion at having made the team at the back of the bullpen.
It was pretty sympathetic moment. Then a 26 year-old man, Santos had been watching his professional prospects dwindle for the last 5 years, to the point where he had been backed into the desperate move of switching to pitching. Somehow (plus velocity and wicked stuff helped) it worked, and Sergio seemed as much shocked by his great fortune as anything.
Now, two seasons later, that guy is a millionaire after signing a 3-year, $8.25 million extension with a whopping three years worth of club options tacked on.
It's not as if Sergio is world's different since that day. There's still a great deal of rawness to his approach. His control still has lapses, his once promising change-up took a backseat in 2011, and he often looks like he's just trying to find somehow, some way to get ahead in the count so that he can use his one invincible tool. That murderous slider.
And with that thoroughly in-progress skill set, Santos struck out just over 13 batters per 9 IP, and put together a 2.69 xFIP. His end results for 2011 included a 3.55 ERA and 6 blown saves in 36 opportunities, but the potential is more than there., which is what makes this signing such a smart one.
Santos has 4 more years before he's eligible for free agency. He was due for an incremental raise from his $435K salary, before three arbitration years where he'd earn raises based on performance.
For a glimpse of what talented closers can fetch in arbitration, take a look at Bobby Jenks' salary progression, and keep in mind that four years of inflation occurred between his first full year and Sergio's.
2006 - $340K / 2007 - $400K / 2008 - $550K
Then arbitration hit
2009 - $5.6MM / 2010 - $7.5MM
At which point the White Sox decided they'd just as soon get off the ride before they got sick. They passed on Jenks' final year of arbitration, and let Boston overpay for the worst year of his Major League career.
With Sergio, the Sox secured smaller guaranteed raises for a player who has every indication of breaking out...
2012 - $1MM / 2013 - $2.75MM / 2014 - $3.75 MM
...and only have to ever pay Santos like an elite reliever if they want to, with a $750K buyout for all the following years:
Club options: 2015 - $6MM / 2016 - $8MM / 2017 - $8.75MM
While the deal is inherently club friendly, it does provide Sergio the useful nugget that he could never throw an effective inning in baseball again, and still make $8.5 million over the next three seasons. For someone who spent most of their 20s working their way toward becoming a Major League regular, and probably pondered a new career a few times in the past couple years, this is no small detail.
It's hard to even draw conclusions about Sergio's future or the direction for 2012 based on this contract. A deal like this only increases Santos' potential trade return. While the White Sox are obviously high on him and desperately in need of more above-average players at below-market prices, proven closers remain overvalued (since, hell, apparently you can just make them out of infielders nowadays), and locking up Sergio could just be smart business, removed of a set agenda.
Good day for all. Save for the 'not-being-in-the-playoffs' part.