Four seasons ago, Hector Santiago was the White Sox piece of a three-team challenge trade netting the club Adam Eaton (who begat Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning). Thus punching Santiago’s bus ticket out of town lit the fuse on GM Rick Hahn’s most successful succession of deals.
Santiago returned to Chicago on Wednesday, signed by Hahn to a minor-league deal con invite to camp (yep, that’s 67 players and counting).
Skinny on the signing:
- The delightful ex-screwballer, worst case: Can’t shake his 2017 injury woes.
- The delightful ex-screwballer, reasonable case: Provides a lefty long man.
- The delightful ex-screwballer, best case: rotation stand-in for Carlos Rodon and/or functional No. 5/6 starter workmanliking 30 starts, 50 game scores.
And in any case, count on dozens more custom uniform requests.
There was a brief time when swapping Santiago for Eaton wasn’t the solar-plexus punch it became. While Eaton did hit the ground running in Chicago, there was initial concern he might Pete Reiser or Bump Bailey himself out of baseball. Meanwhile, Santiago was no slouch; through 2015, the southpaw had a 3.55 ERA in 532.2 innings, pitching on one All-Star team and compiling 6.8 rWAR.
As many who find themselves stranded in Minneapolis suffer, the lefthander’s output wilted after his midseason 2016 trade to the Twins, getting routinely shelled in his 11 starts after the swap.
Things got worse in 2017, as Santiago struggled with a back injury, making just 14 starts and amassing a career-worst 5.63 ERA and 6.02 FIP. Velocity has become a significant issue for Santiago in the Twin Cities, and a precipitous drop in his K-rate seems to back that: He’s dropped from a White Sox/Angels career K/9 of 8.0 down to 6.0 in Minny.
Hahn seemed to downplay any worry over Santiago’s injury woes, declaring him 100 percent healthy and ready to compete for a long relief or spot starter role with the club.
“We saw first-hand how valuable he can potentially be in various roles, whether it’s in the rotation or the bullpen,” Hahn told the gaggle in Glendale. “[His] versatility certainly had an appeal to us and as a player we drafted and helped develop. We have a special fondness for Hector. He’s a tremendous, tremendous individual and a great fit in the clubhouse.”
Santiago has been a burr in the White Sox’s Hanes since leaving town, going 5-1 with a 1.59 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 45.1 innings over seven starts. Even last year, when the lefty was ailing, Santiago was brilliant vs. the South Siders, going 1-0 with a 1.32 ERA in two starts.
Hahn likens Santiago to fellow returnee Miguel Gonazalez, specifically in the context of great “glue” guys for the clubhouse. That assessment is spot-on, as Santiago’s natural good vibrations and gregarious nature may provide sweet salve to some of this spring’s bitterest pills. Off the field, Santiago is the ideal “good veteran”: a player still young enough to reasonably contribute, yet a vet who should have no qualms with taking the piss out of a tense time or a struggling novice under his wing.
DulcetTones found Bump Bailey’s enormous ego every bit as off-putting as Mr. Blonde’s blunt psychopathy.