TORONTO – The Blue Jays made a roster move of some significance prior to the start of an important four-game series with their division rival Red Sox, designating for assignment struggling reliever Sergio Santos.
It was a move of some time in the making.
“He hasn't thrown well, clearly some guys are being used more than him right now and the only way to get out of this funk is to pitch,” said general manager Alex Anthopoulos. “But it's hard to find a spot for him right now, certainly not a long guy, and he's not going to be used late in the game.”
That much is true. Santos had fallen out of favour with manager John Gibbons and had lost the confidence of other members of the coaching staff. In his last four outings, the most recent of which was July 12, Santos allowed five earned runs on seven hits and four walks in just 2 1/3 innings.
He hadn't been used by Gibbons since the club returned from the All-Star break. Long man Todd Redmond had taken the role once reserved for Santos. After his July 12 outing in Tampa Bay, in which he allowed two runs in one inning, Santos alluded to difficulty harnessing his slider due to a lack of work.
It became clear, then, that the two sides were at a crossroads. The manager had no faith in the pitcher and, therefore, wasn't using him in critical situations. The pitcher knew he was on the outs and his performance reflected that doubt.
There's also the business of the game.
First, the Blue Jays: Santos makes $3.75-million. That's a team-friendly number. The contract, as a whole, is club-friendly because the guaranteed portion expires at the end of the season. Santos has club options for three years, through 2017, at these escalating numbers: $6-million, $8-million, $8.75-million. If in any year Santos's option is declined, he'd be due a paltry $750,000 buyout.
If Santos is claimed on waivers, the deadline for a team to do so is Wednesday and the remainder of his salary would be off the Jays' books. It's not a lot of money, but it's something, if the club is working on a strict dollar in-dollar out policy as the trade deadline approaches.
Anthopoulos reacted to the contrary. The plan, he said, is to keep Santos in the organization.
“Like we told him, he's certainly not the first talented, good player to go through this before whether it's the Linds or the Encarnacions,” said Anthopoulos. “The way to get things worked out is to go throw some innings. He was put on waivers today, Wednesday, we'll find out if he gets claimed or clears. Then, he would be active down there to pitch. We told him, hopefully, this is an Encarnacion scenario, go down there, throw a lot, he'll be a priority guy, get back on track and be that dominant reliever we know he can be that we saw at the end of last year, that we saw at the beginning of the year before the rough trip with the Twins.”
It's interesting that Anthopoulos references the “rough trip with the Twins.” Santos was part of that eighth-inning implosion the night of April 17. It was the back end of a doubleheader. The bullpen coughed up a late lead, allowing six runs on just one hit, eight walks and three wild pitches. Santos was responsible for three of the runs, three of the walks and all three wild pitches. Some believe he never recovered from the experience on that frigid night.
Second, Santos's perspective: He surely knows the Jays are unlikely to pick up that $6-million option for 2015. It would be best for him to move to another organization, get a fresh start and, in the best-case scenario, find command of his wicked slider and finish the year strong. If that option isn't going to be picked up, at least a good final two months could result in a bump in next year's salary.
Santos wasn't happy. A source close to the pitcher told TSN.ca, he'd recently made his feelings known to the organization.
Anthopoulos said Santos did not request a trade.
“No, no, not at all,” said Anthopoulos. “He's a very accountable guy. He knows he hasn't pitched to his ability. He knows he can be a dominant closer, set-up guy, whatever is needed. Like anybody, he has all the belief in the world in himself, he'll be fine. He'll get it back. He has way too much talent.”
Chances are Santos gets it back somewhere else.