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Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Sergio Santos traded for Nestor Molina

By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com

DALLAS -- Chicago White Sox general manager Ken Williams said Tuesday that he hasn't used the word "rebuilding" in 12 years, so describing the trade of Sergio Santos to the Toronto Blue Jays as the start of a rebuilding process hammered home the magnitude of the transaction.

The White Sox dealt Santos, who had 30 saves, for minor league pitching prospect Nestor Molina.

"It is the start of a rebuilding," Williams said. "You guys know I have not used that word in 12 years. It's the start of a rebuilding now. Is it the start of a falling-domino-type rebuilding? No. Absolutely not.

"Because as we currently sit, I do not like what is currently being offered for any of our valuable veteran pieces. I'm of the mindset that while we may do a couple of more things, as we sit right now we'll probably keep the rest of the pitching intact and we'll focus on some peripheral things to kind of continue to get a piece here or there that will help us in 2013, 2014. But as I sit here right now I don't see any deals for any of the other pitchers."

Williams does expect to say goodbye to free-agent left-hander Mark Buehrle, who's been a mainstay in the Sox rotation for 12 seasons.

"I hear he's a very popular man, and he's going to be richer than he is," Williams said. "Mark and I had a good conversation last week in which I expressed to him once again how much he is valued in Chicago.

"At this point, it's strictly finances over a desire not to have him. Who wouldn't want this guy? He'll be missed unless something happens that's unforeseen right now."

WilliamsIt is the start of a rebuilding. You guys know I have not used that word in 12 years. It's the start of a rebuilding now.

-- Ken Williams

Santos said he got the surprising phone call from Williams while playing golf on Tuesday.

"(Williams) just said that with where the White Sox are this is an offer he couldn't refuse," Santos said on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "It was an offer that he couldn't quite turn down. I understand. It's a business. He has to do what's best for the White Sox and that was the decision that they went with."

In September, Santos signed a three-year extension that could be worth as much as $30 million. The guaranteed part of the deal is for three years and $8.25 million. Santos will make $1 million next season, $2.75 million in 2013 and $3.75 million in 2014.

"I had a couple of conversations with my agent, and he said, 'Look, once you signed that deal, it's a team-friendly deal and you're going to hear your name come up in trade rumors quite a bit, but don't look too much into it,' " Santos said. "I know that some teams were interested, and that's always nice to feel wanted and have teams that really want you. But it surprised me. It kind of blindsided me."

Santos was in Toronto's minor league system from 2006-08 as a shortstop. He converted to pitching in 2009 while in the White Sox organization and made his big league debut the next year.

Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos was the Blue Jays' assistant GM when Santos was in their organization. The team asked Santos if he wanted to take a try on the mound, but he wasn't interested.

"He didn't want to pitch. He believed in himself as a shortstop," Anthopoulos said.

Santos made it as high as Triple-A as an infielder. He was a career .248 hitter with 72 home runs in the minors, starting out in 2002 in the Arizona system.

Anthopoulos said Santos' contract situation and "electric stuff" made him especially attractive, given his arm hasn't endured a lot of wear because of his late switch to pitching.

Toronto's saves leader last season was Frank Francisco with 17. Santos immediately inherited the role.

"He's got the ninth inning for us," Anthopoulos said. "We think he's got a chance to be an elite closer."

The 22-year-old Molina went 12-3 with a 2.21 ERA and 148 strikeouts in 130 innings between Class-A Dunedin and Double-A New Haven. He averaged 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in his first full season as a starter.

"We are very happy we were able to acquire him," Williams said. "He was on a short target list to get some way shape or form. I did not anticipate it would take Sergio to do it. I was thinking more along the lines of starting pitching. But the opportunity presented itself, and fortunately for us it's an area where we have a lot of depth."

Williams mentioned Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain and Addison Reed as possibilities to succeed Santos as closer, although Thornton's name also has been mentioned in trade rumors.

Chris Sale was second on the White Sox last season with eight saves. Chicago had planned to move him into the rotation next year.

Doug Padilla covers the White Sox for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.