Blue Jays pry Santos from White Sox

Chicago White Sox's Sergio Santos pitches to the Toronto Blue Jays during the ninth inning in their...

Chicago White Sox's Sergio Santos pitches to the Toronto Blue Jays during the ninth inning in their American League MLB baseball game in Toronto, May 26, 2011. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:32 PM ET

DALLAS, TEXAS - Alex Anthoupolos ran off tackle, hit the hole, and scampered into the end zone ... untouched.

Less than 48 hours after saying he felt the Blue Jays were on “the five-yard-line” in regards to a deal for a closer, the general manager obtained closer Sergio Santos from the Chicago White Sox for minor-league right-hander Nestor Molina.

The Jays examined the free agent market — talking to the Seth Levinson, agent for both Jonathan Paplebon and Heath Bell — with no luck.

Then, when it was expected they’d deal for either Andrew Bailey of the Oakland A’s or Huston Street of the Colorado Rockies, along came Santos.

The same Santos, who signed a club-friendly, three-year $8.25 million contract with three option years. He’s under the Jays control for the next six seasons.

TOUCHDOWN!

Anthopoulos laughed when asked again about his five-yard line analogy saying “baseball doesn’t had a red zone.”

Tony LaCava, the Jays’ assistant GM, and Anthopoulos met in White Sox Kenny Williams’s Dallas hotel room to finalize the deal.

In his first year closing Santos, who walked 29 and struck out 92 in 63 1/3 innings converted 30 of 36 save chances (83%). He was 4-5 with a 3.55 ERA, and a strike-out pitcher average of 13.9 pitches per inning — which is under hall of famer Whitey Ford’s ideal pitch count of 14 for an inning.

“We didn’t know Santos was available,” said an opposing GM, looking for bullpen help. “If we had, we’d have been on him. We knew the White Sox were trying to drop $10 million but we thought it would be John Danks ($6 million) and Matt Thornton ($5.5 million).

“Everyone knows they can’t get rid of Adam Dunn ($14 million), Jake Peavy ($12 million) and Alex Rios ($12 million).”

Who do the wise folks at baseball-reference compare Santos to? Tom Henke.

It’s one of the few trades we can remember where a converted position player was traded for a another converted position player.

Signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks as a shortstop in 2002, Santos first joined the Jays at triple-A Syracuse in 2006 and hit 20 homers at double-A New Hampshire the next year.

“He was slow, didn’t move well, his bat wasn’t quick enough to hit major-league pitching,” said one evaluator recalling a New Hampshire-Trenton series in the summer of 2007.

Anthopoulos said that the Jays asked Santos to switch to the mound and he was not interested.

Santos moved to the White Sox in 2009 and they converted him. After 26 games in the minors, he was in the Sox bullpen.

Molina was an outfielder who made his debut in 2006. Two seasons later he was on the mound and this past season he grew into one of Jays’ best.

Molina was 12-3 with a 2.21 ERA and 148 strikeouts in 130 innings between class-A Dunedin and double-A New Haven, averaging 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in his first full season starting.

Baseball America had Molina, 22, ranked 18th in their preliminary listing of Jays prospects.

Scouts from other teams, those we spoke to last week and at the Anatole Hilton Hotel, ranked the Jays’ pitching prospects in this order: Aaron Sanchez, Drew Hutchison, Noah Syndergaard, Justin Nicolino, Deck McGuire, Chad Jenkins and Molina.

“We didn’t want to move one of our better prospects unless it was for a chance at a guy who fits the profile of an elite closer,” Anthopoulos told reporters. “Santos has electric stuff, not a lot of miles on his arm.

“We said no to the deal, Kenny said no, probably about 85 times each. We had a split camp.”

Some Jays scouts wanted to keep Molina, others thought the need was too great for a closer at the major league level.

We know which side of the campfire won.

“It took time to wrap our heads around it,” Anthopoulos said. “There were a lot of heated debates in our room. Ultimately, we felt with everything that we have going on, this made sense for us. He’s got the ninth.”

John Farrell wakes up a wiser man today, no longer having to try to decide between Jon Rauch or Frank Francisco, who will likely sign elsewhere now.

Now, if the snap from centre is on line and the hold is good, they’ll try for the convert.


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