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Rebuilding White Sox trade Santos for prospect

From all in to all out.

One year after spending big and marketing big on a season that was disappointing in the standings and at the gate, the White Sox admittedly are looking to rebuild this offseason. GM Kenny Williams used the R word after making his first major move of the offseason today, dealing closer Sergio Santos to Toronto for 22-year-old minor-league pitcher Nestor Molina.

Good starting pitchers are certainly more valuable than good relief pitchers, so the move makes all kinds of sense if the former is what the Sox think Molina will become. There are some indications he'll get there. His strikeout-to-walk ratio of 148-16 during a season split between the A and AA levels in 2011 was fantastic. As Fangraphs notes, analyst John Sickels rated Molina a B-plus prospect. Ken Rosenthal tweeted earlier that the Blue Jays view Molina as a potential mid-rotation starter.

Rosenthal later tweeted that a rival scout views Molina as a reliever, not a starter. I've seen the same a couple of other places since. If the case, you might infer that the Sox just traded a closer who accumulated a WAR of 1.6 last season, per Fangraphs, for a guy that might turn into that type of player. Might. While Santos is 28, the former position player's arm has very few miles on it, and he's got a team-friendly contract will pay him $8.25 million through 2014 and has options that would allow the Sox, or now the Jays, to keep him under control for the next six seasons.

I will say that I do agree with Williams' decision to rebuild. The Sox have an aging, expensive team that doesn't appear capable of contending without additions they can't afford. Their farm system is consistently rated among the worst in baseball. I'm all for Williams trading current assets for future gains.

But I don't like the move. If it was Santos for a bona fide starting pitching prospect — I realize that Santos wasn't going to net Julio Teheran, but still — it would make sense. For a guy that most scouts think will end up in the bullpen? Not so much.

Rebuilding traditionally entails trading your veterans for youngsters. Santos has all of two years of big-league service time, and his contract means he could still very realistically be closing for the Sox after a rebuilding process is complete and they're ready to contend again. Maybe Molina will be a key member of the team's bullpen at that point — maybe he'll even be the closer, or maybe he'll even make it as a starter. But there's also the chance, and the odds are a lot greater than zero, that he never turns into anything.


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