Santos trade signals beginning of new, fairly grisly rebuilding period

Santos trade signals beginning of new, fairly grisly rebuilding period
Probably best you're not around for this anyway, buddy // Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune

Deep Blue Sea is a pretty awful movie.  Murderous CGI sharks given super-brains for stupid reason does not make very good Oscar-bait.

However, it does contain of the more memorable "This just got real" moments in film, when one of the murderous CGI sharks with a super-brain rips Samuel L. Jackson in half right after a big motivational speech or something.  Nameless mercenary dude?  LL Cool J playing a chef?  Sure, one of those guys seemed ripe to get eaten, but the last capable actor on set?  Dead with 45 minutes left?  That signaled a bit of a change in tone.

Occupying a similar role is Sergio Santos.  A reliever with a world of ability signed to an affordable deal, Santos was the most valuable trade chip the Sox had, but possibly one too good to use.  Danks, Quentin, Thornton, and even Floyd all existed as assets that would merit purging first.

Surely Santos would only be sent off if a full gut-rehab was planned.

Welp, Sergio got dealt first out of everyone, so that should make things pretty clear.

This should make things more clear.

"It is the start of a rebuilding," said Williams

This should make things less clear.

"Retooling, I think is the same -- I think you can use that same word," Ventura said.

And this is just gibberish.

KW: "Now, is it the start of falling domino rebuilding? No. Absolutely not."

What follows from Kenny Williams in that linked-to Scott Merkin piece is a varied series of doubletalk about being turned off by the current market for his starting pitchers to the point of writing off trading them, while also acknowledging that he changed his mind on trading Santos over the course of three days...or less.  Spontaneity!  This particular multi-million dollar organization loves spontaneity.

If there's any lingering uncertainty over whether the White Sox are rebuilding, look no further than the return for Santos.

For the pleasant, alluring company of Sergio, the Blue Jays sent over RHP Double-A pitcher Nestor Molina, who will turn 23 before Spring Training.  There's pretty much no way he's ready to contribute to the 2012 team in a significant way, which is notable.  What he does do, is immediately become the top starting pitching prospect in the White Sox system.

How notable that is, is a matter for debate.

Molina just came off an absolutely wondrous breakout season in his first year as a starter, throwing 130.1 innings between High-A and Double-A, and posting a 2.21 ERA with 10.2 K/9, and an incredibly low 1.1 BB/9.  Listing the combined totals isn't even deceptive, as he was better after his promotion.

He was originally signed by new Assistant to the GM Marco Paddy when he was with Toronto, and undoubtedly comes along with his giddy recommendation, and signals Williams willingness to listen to Paddy and invest in minor league talent.

That would be the good part.  The part where Molina is the type of high-ceiling starting pitcher prospect who would make trading a proven major-league commodity with a great contract straight-up for a kid in Double-A starts to make sense.

The (inevitable) bad part is that the rest of the scouting world is more mixed on him, with Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus projecting him as a middle-rotation type, and others pointing to Molina only having two reliable major-league level pitches at the moment as a sign of a future in the bullpen.  While that would be better than Molina's arm getting severed during clubhouse shenanigans, a career-reliever would be a pretty disappointing turnout.

Obviously, the White Sox disagree if they're swapping off a commodity like Santos, but it begs the question of whether or not they could have gotten a prospect whose value as a starter was not unique to their assessment.  Reports that Toronto valued Molina highly are encouraging, but there's a significant risk factor here, as there is in relying on any single pitching prospect to produce.

It'd perhaps be more comforting if the White Sox had pulled off the rumored deal for Matt Thornton to Atlanta (which was hilariously debunked), because it would allow for a larger view of the rebuilding efforts, rather than a snapshot of the front office having tunnel vision on one kid.

Perhaps it's for a good reason we're left in limbo.  Rumors have Williams brushing off initial offers from the Orioles and Red Sox for Quentin, and still commanding something in the neighborhood of 'a private island with talking dolphins for butlers' in exchange for John Danks, and it appears the process is being slowed by his insistence to wait out the market.  For those that endured the hurried dash to drop-kick Nick Swisher to New York, and the bailing out on Dan Hudson after three starts (one of which was great), this is welcome news.

If the departure of Santos and his sweetly mesmerizing slider, talks of Gordon Beckham being on the block, and the possibility of the worst outfielder of all-time getting time in the outfield are any indication, the White Sox are willing to let this rebuilding process get every bit as ugly as it needs to be.

Ugly means Buehrle in another uniform, ugly means uninspiring retread veterans to fill space and pass the time, ugly means empty summer nights in U.S. Cellular Field, throwing 2012 to hell and severely testing Reinsdorf's commitment to Kenny Williams.

It also probably means a September call-up start for Nestor Molina.  So that should be fun*.


*Ugly could also mean a lot of Zach Stewart (/bites off fingers)

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  • If this is rebuilding, it seems a strange definition, for all it appears from the above description is trading a closer (not Thigpen, but a closer) to rebuild the Birmingham Barons with one pitching prospect. That doesn't sound like getting value in the trade.

    Then the reference to Dunn in the OF. If he couldn't even stretch to get a ball at 1B, how is he going to move in the outfield?

    It doesn't sound like rebuilding or retooling, but getting a field full of 1959 Edsels.

  • In reply to jack:

    Yup, there's no reason why Kenny shouldn't have been able to pick up an additional player for the purpose of building organizational depth. A fringy Low-A guy, a wild, bullpen arm, something. Trading a major-league closer straight-up for a prospect just doesn't jive with the market for relievers.

    Dunn in the outfield borders on tanking for a draft pick. It's not worth finding out if Dunn is a better hitter if he plays the outfield, because he cancels out all the worth his bat could provide. He's THAT bad out there, and that's based on his play from two years ago. Maybe they reeeeeeeally don't care about 2011, maybe they figure so long as they get his bat to come back he becomes movable in a trade, maybe they think fans will find this bizarrely entertaining.

    The mind reels.

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    It looks like we agree on this one. With regard to the bizarrely entertaining, it was elsewhere pointed out that after opening day, they basically can't get Sox fans to go to the park until June. If things tank, especially with Dunn, it won't be entertaining after June, either.

    As far as tanking for a draft pick, my impression is that baseball isn't the Suck for Luck contest, apparently now won by the Colts, or even tanking in the NBA, and somehow miraculously getting the lottery ball to draft Rose, with an immediate impact. Odds are, the draft pick is going to be in the minors for a while.

  • In reply to jack:

    I wouldn't seriously suggest any team does that, especially not the White Sox. There is a big gulf though, between the polished, top-flight college players in the top of the round (your Chris Sales) and elite talents (Bryce Harper), and the "toolsy with a lot developement needed) types found later on (Jared Mitchell, Keenyn Walker). It can be the difference between a franchise cornerstone and simply a valuable contributor.

    Of course, the high bust rate makes it not worth the effort a lot of the time, and there are some drafts where Luke Hochevar is the top pick.

  • Pretty fickle James: a month ago you're on Kenny for undervaluing prospects, now you're hackin on him for overvaluing them?

    I like the trade. Or at least it doesn't bother me. I don't sweat closers, and as fangraphs Eno Sarris points out, Molina only has to be better than Paul Malholm for the Sox to get the better end of this deal (no guarantee but seems more likely than not)--( I could understand how one would be disappointed because the market for closers with long term affordable contracts seemingly would be higher, but none of the teams that have been shelling out for free agent closers have been paying in prospects. It's a different, but related market.

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    Well, ideally he would properly value them, but I get what you're saying. He invested in youth, and I should be happy, and if he pulled off a reliever-for-starter deal, it's a win. I feel he should have got a more certain prospect, or a throw-in to protect agains the possiblity of a bust. He obviously REALLY likes Molina, and that's reason to be encouraged, I just worry that he let the Blue Jays take advantage of that.

    It's not a bad trade, it clearly has potential to be a very good one. Perhaps it's all a matter of perception. I like Santos....aaaaaa lot. I like his stuff, I like his contract. If the White Sox could have gotten through the rebuild process and kept him, it would have been sweet. That doesn't mean anything about anything, because he's a reliever, and you know, screw relievers, but it's in my head. To trade him first of anyone seems like an attempt to get big value out of one of their best trade chips before the word is out about a full rebuild being in the works, so I would have expected more of a home run, especially since they said they'd need to be blown away to move him a few weeks ago.

    Molina for Santos seems like a deal they could have swung at any point, if for no other reason than they never needed to trade Sergio.

    It's not a bad deal, but it certainly ain't perfect, and I am bigtime in the nitpicking/overthinking/dead horse-beating business.

    Also, the 2012 Sox are going to stink like holy hell and I'm not enthused about it. Mostly that.

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    At least we have Jason Frasor to pick up the slack in the 'pen. (Sorry, I just can't let it go.)

    While the market for closers has mostly been established this offseason, the market for prospects really has not to my knowlege. Street and Slowey were both traded for players to be named. I can't think of another deal involving prospects off the top of my head. Am I wrong? If a prospect package better than Nestor Molina gets traded for a player package less than Santos, I'll be inclined to agree with you.

    My sense is that high-ceiling prospects are now worth more than their weight in gold (and gold is rising!).

    White Sox Baseball 2012: Enjoy the Hellish Stench

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    I didn't really want anybody worth anything, though. I wanted somebody like who was a part of the Ozzie Guillen deal. I want a future utility infielder, or a failed prospect. The next Brent Lillibridge!

    When I think of hell, I think of fire, coal, etc. Kinda sounds not that bad, right? A smoky mesquite aroma, perhaps? Mmmmmmm. I'm already dreaming of overpriced USCF brisket sandwiches, which is good, as it will be the highlight of most games.

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