How Does Sergio Santos Figure Into Toronto Blue Jays' 9th-Inning Plans In 2014?

By Thom Tsang
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a school of thought in sports that says an incumbent shouldn’t lose their job outright based on injury, especially if they can still deliver results.

If that’s the case, what should the Toronto Blue Jays do about Sergio Santos?

Acquired from the Chicago White Sox ahead of the 2012 season, the big righty (and former bluebirds shortstop) was supposed to be the one-stop answer to the team’s ninth-inning woes — he had the build, he threw hard, and he had a devastating slider that helped him to a 13.07 K/9 in a 30-save 2011.

In short, he was supposed to be the guy. In fact, the 30-year-old might still be the guy as far as the pure stuff is concerned.

… well, that is if you can ignore the fact that he’s only thrown five total innings in six appearances for the Blue Jays in 2012, giving up four walks and five runs in the process prior to being shut down due to a shoulder injury that led to surgery, to more setbacks this season, and so on.

That ‘s not a problem anymore, however — at least the team hopes, anyway.

Since returning from a triceps injury on August 1, Santos has simply been delivering what you might call expected results. Over 11 relief outings in August (the most he’s ever thrown without landing on the DL for the Blue Jays!), he’s allowed runs in just two of them.

It gets better from there, though, as seven of his outings have been perfect. He has struck out nine batters in that span, with opponents hitting just .167 off him; and best of all, his 2.53/0.75 ERA/WHIP over the 10.2 innings of work is punctuated by the fact that he’s walked just two batters, good enough to give him an excellent 1.69 BB/9.

It’s a small sample, I know; but since when do relievers deal in large ones?

As far as an audition for a closer job goes, it’s been a very impressive one so far — he looks healthy, and if he should stay that way, you’d thing that the Blue Jays should let him do what he was brought in to do in 2014.

Except they’ve got yet another problem — what do you do with the guy who wasn’t supposed to have the job, but took and and ran with it to totally unexpected heights?

Though it’s a conundrum that I’m sure the team loves to have, the reemergence of Santos puts Casey Janssen in a tough spot. As this point, given the latter’s track record, I would think that Toronto would have a hard time simply removing him from the role; but with just a very reasonable $4 million team option left for 2014 on this contract, would the Blue Jays be better off to trade him?

After all, the team also potentially has control over Santos until 2017 (three team options from 2015-2017), and Janssen’s value as a trade chip will likely never be higher. Unorthodox as he might be as far as the “traditional” closers go, his $4 million salary in 2014 should prove to be quite attractive on the trade market.

Should he be moved, the team would alleviate the log jam in the bullpen and keep Steve Delabar where he’s at, and move Brett Cecil into Darren Oliver‘s role. Santos, of course, would be the closer as he was always intended to be when he arrived.

That scenario may not come to fruition into the offseason, and may not until the 2014 trade deadline.

That said, Santos has shown that he hasn’t missed too much of a step, and as long as he can stay healthy (easier said than done), you’d think that the Blue Jays will find room for him in the late innings in 2014 — even if it means saying goodbye to a fan favourite.

Thom is an MLB writer for Follow him on Twitter @BlueJaysRant, or add him to your network on Google

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