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Goodbye Sergio Santos, we hardly knew ye

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Brian Blanco

Perhaps one of the moves that flew under the radar this past weekend was the Blue Jays expected buyout of Sergio Santos for $750,000, instead of picking up his $6 million option. While his poor 2014 season sealed his fate as an obvious buyout candidate, there was once a time not too long ago when Santos was the closer on this team with a whole lot expected of him. Although he could still end up with the Blue Jays next season, in all likelihood he'll be signing with a different team for a much cheaper contract than the $3.75 million he made this past season.

As you'll recall, the righty was originally acquired by Toronto in the offseason before the 2012 campaign in exchange for righty starter Nestor Molina. Most people seemed to have liked the move since Santos was considered to be a future shutdown closer with his nasty fastball and wipeout slider combination. Molina never put it together with Chicago and has become a below average reliever in the White Sox farm system so nothing of much value was lost in the deal. Prior to being traded, Chicago signed Santos to a three-year $8.25 million contract which looked to be a possible steal if he did indeed become the high-leverage bullpen guy that everyone expected him to be.

Unfortunately, the thing that really killed any hope of Santos succeeding in Toronto was a long list of serious arm injuries. His first season with the Blue Jays in 2012 saw him make just six appearances in April before going down to right shoulder inflammation which later led to season-ending surgery. That was a big blow for Santos as he started the year in the closer spot and ended up being replaced by Casey Janssen who would obviously go on to make that role his own.

There was a still lot of optimism (or maybe it was just me) that Santos would come back in 2013 and nail down a back-end of the bullpen role, but it just wasn't in the cards. After just making five appearances in April where he looked quite good, Santos went down to a triceps strain which later led to surgery on his elbow which took him out of action until August. At this point most people were beginning to think that Santos was damaged goods and the Blue Jays might have got tricked into trading for a pitcher who didn't have an arm that worked like most arms are expected to work.

When Santos returned in August he pitched extremely well and held down the eighth inning role perfectly. In 24 appearances he allowed runs in only three of them and racked up 22 strikeouts over 21.1 innings. He was doing a whole lot of this to end out the 2013 campaign:

This got everyone with a fastball and slider reliever fetish (that would include me) mighty excited about what was going to come from Santos in 2014. The baseball gods decided to cut him a break at the end of Spring Training as well, when Casey Janssen went down with a back injury handing the closing job back to Santos. It was 2012 in reverse and Santos looked to have taken advantage of his opportunity in early April when he recorded four saves to start the year before being hit with a loss in an ugly appearance against the Twins. The train started to go off the tracks after that game as he started walking guys and giving up hits left and right. The end of April saw another very ugly appearance by Santos against the Royals in one of the worst games of the whole season for the Blue Jays. A few days later Santos had another three-run blown save and his time as the Blue Jays closer was officially over.

Not long after he lost his closer job, Santos hit the disabled list with more arm problems eventually returning to the team in mid-June with his eye on reclaiming the eighth inning role that he was demoted to before being injured. He pitched quite well before the train left the tracks again at the beginning of July and this time the train was derailed for good. He got DFA'ed and didn't return to the big league squad until late August where two bad appearances led to another DFA and demotion to double-A New Hampshire (he did not report).

The $6 million option seemed like it would possibly be picked up at the beginning of the season, but it became pretty clear midway through the season that Santos wouldn't be coming back to the team in 2015. Over the three years that Santos was a Blue Jay, he appeared in just 51.2 innings making $7.5 million plus the $750k buyout. This story could have had a different ending if the righty had been able to stay healthy during his time in Toronto because he clearly had the stuff to be a major league closer. Unfortunately for people like myself who enjoy nasty sliders, the past week has seen fan favourites in Brandon Morrow, Dustin McGowan, and the aforementioned Santos all leave the team never reaching their full potential. The chances of Santos returning to the Blue Jays are slim, but a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training would be a chance worth taking for Alex Anthopoulos if the opportunity arose. Unfortunately there is probably a handful of teams in the league willing to take a more serious gamble on Santos' health and we'll have to watch from afar to see if Santos can ever stay on the field and put it all together.