San Diego Padres Pick Up Potential Heir Apparent At Closer In Fautino De Los Santos

By Thom Tsang
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego Padres already have a more-than-capable pitcher in the closer’s chair, but at the price of $7 million committed to Huston Street over the next two seasons (and a team option in 2015), it comes as no surprise that the team is making moves to set the table for his successor.

One of those moves were made today, as the team has picked up 26-year-old Fautino De Los Santos off waivers for the Milwaukee Brewers.

That’s a name that fans of the Oakland Athletics will likely have heard before, as De Los Santos was considered the A’s closer-of-the-future after the departure of Andrew Bailey, and even went into Spring Training in 2012 as a darkhorse to win the job outright. Of course, Grant Balfour had something to say about that, and De Los Santos entered the season as one of the team’s set-up men, with an eye for potentially taking the role later in the summer.

It didn’t happen, as Fautino made just six appearances over three innings with the team in 2012, failing to record a single out in his last three appearances can was capped off by a two-run, three-hit outing.

The A’s determined that he wasn’t ready, and sent him down to the minors for more work on his control. A few months later, they shipped him off to the Brewers for George Kottaras, and the team went on to win the AL West with the likes of Balfour, Ryan Cook, and Sean Doolittle.

And now, De Los Santos is in the Padres system, where he could immediately become the heir apparent for Street’s job. Like recently-converted starter Andrew Cashner, De Los Santo can throw a plus-plus fastball in the high-90s, combining that with an overpowering slider to get strikeouts by the bucket load. That’s a skill he’s been able to translate to the big leagues, as a 11.39 K/9 over 36.1 innings will tell you, but the 4.95 BB/9 walk rate has thus far kept him from taking the next level.

He’s a fly ball pitcher who gives up his share of home runs, which should play well at Petco, and should immediately provide the team with another set-up man to go along with Luke Gregerson.

Street will have the ninth, of course, but the team did consider trading him last summer, and would likely not hesitate to do so again, especially if he can play up to his $7 million per year contract that would give his team control up until the 2015 season.

In the even likelier event that Street gets hurt before that? Well, the Padres are unlikely to go to Gregerson as the closer, as they’ve been determined to keep him in the eighth inning before. The failed Dale Thayer experiment is a reminder of that.

That’s where a little-known waiver-wire pickup could come in. Despite not getting much of a chance last season, De Los Santos is a MLB-ready setup man with prototypical closer stuff who should be able to contribute to the Padres as soon as 2013. The righty will have to earn his job, but it would not be a surprise if he got the chance to close out a few games in 2013.

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