For the Chicago White Sox, Hector Santiago was a dual-purposed weapon: capable of coming in both as a reliever and starter and pitching effectively (well … the latter more so than the former), his minor 1.5 fWAR 2013 was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing season for the Pale Hose.
So for a pitching-needy team like the Toronto Blue Jays, what kind of role would he play?
It’s perhaps looking forward a little bit, yes, but as Scott Merkin and Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com have suggested that the Blue Jays and White Sox were viable dance partners in a trade that would involve both former top prospect Gordon Beckham as well as available pitchers like Santiago and John Danks, it’s something interesting to think about.
Barring a significant bullpen piece or two going back the other way, you’d have to think that the answer is pretty simple — Santiago was more effective as a starter in 2103 than he was a reliever, and starting pitching is what the bluebirds are looking for; so it’s a natural fit, yes?
That would probably be the case … if he’s good enough to be guaranteed a job in the starting rotation, anyway.
See, despite a rather good 3.51 ERA through 130.2 innings as a starter through 130.2 innings, whether the lefty would actually represent a significant upgrade than the number of depth pieces that the Blue Jays have is fairly questionable.
Santiago definitely has good stuff in those arms, as evidenced by his 8.40 K/9 and a workable .240 BAA. However, you don’t have to look too far past his 1.39 WHIP and 4.27 BB/9 to see that there are some serious issues there, and that his ERA might have been a little generous given his 4.49 FIP.
This was much more evident in the second half of the second, where he want downright saved by the baseball gods, recording a 3.94 ERA through 61.2 innings (11 starts) despite a not-so-good .270 BAA, a 4.82 BB/9 that was paired by his K/9 dropping to 6.71, and a dangerously high 1.62 WHIP. He survived disaster for the most part, yes, but not without setting alarm bells along the way.
And really, given what the Blue Jays are looking for next season in terms of bolstering their rotation, is that kind of Jekyll and Hyde road one that they want to go down? There’s no doubt that the upside is there, but at least in the short term, you’d think that the upside game isn’t one that Alex Anthopoulos and co. ought to be playing when it comes to the starting rotation.
So while he’d definitely be an useful piece as far as his versatility as a swingman goes, the screwballer is unlikely to do much to resolve the Blue Jays’ problems when it comes to starting pitching. As beaten down and broken as the starting five is, Santiago would simply join the likes of Todd Redmond, Esmil Rogers and Kyle Drabek as more rotation depth, as an encore of his impressive 2013 is anything but a certainty.
Besides, it’s not like the last time that the Blue Jays swung a deal for a White Sox pitcher worked out all that well, you know?