Some version of Hector Santiago is backKeith Allison / Flickr

Some version of Hector Santiago is back

Injuries, high-effort approach to pitching lower expectations for return to White Sox

Even after the White Sox released their list of non-roster invitees, their spring training cattle call looked a little short on spot starters.

If everybody who is currently healthy makes it to Opening Day in full working order, Carson Fulmer would be the fifth starter on paper, which is fine. He finished last year with a string of great starts. Even if that success wasn’t sustainable, something will be gained from failures.

That scenario has Fulmer occupying starts that would’ve been made by Carlos Rodon. (Rodon was throwing on the first day of pitchers and catchers in front of Don Cooper, so he’s already in better shape than last year, even if he won’t be ready by Opening Day.)

If Rodon were the only health question mark, the Sox could get by with less immediate depth. The rub is that Rodon wasn’t the only pitcher who spent significant time on the disabled list in 2017. In fact, of the White Sox’ top five starters, Lucas Giolito was the only one to make it through the entirety of the season without hitting the shelf.

Even if we account for Michael Kopech busting down the wall like the Kool-Aid Man, the Sox will still need a few spot starters during the first half of the season. Chris Volstad came back, and T.J. House is in the house, but there isn’t much recent MLB success or projectability there.

So that’s one thing Hector Santiago addresses in his return to the organization that drafted him in the 30th round and raised him to be worth Adam Eaton in a trade. The White Sox signed him to a minor-league contract on Wednesday, and it’s a popular move for a popular guy.

Santiago pitched poorly for Minnesota, posting a 5.61 ERA in 26 starts over 1½ seasons following a midseason trade between the Twins and Angels. Rick Hahn set the stage for a comeback by pointing to a back injury:

“He felt he got it resolved around mid-September, but it was too late in the season for it to really show on the field,” Hahn said. “He feels like everything’s resolved and our doctors are fairly comfortable with the diagnosis and prognosis going forward.”

It was described as upper thoracic back pain last season, and the two-month stay on the disabled list — his second of the season — more or less capped off a frustrating time in Minnesota. Prior to that DL stint, he had butted heads with Paul Molitor over a quick hook and defensive shifting.

While he was a fan favorite in Chicago, those watching the Twins weren’t enamored with him, especially those who thought they could have non-tendered him before the 2017 season.

That context sounds a lot like the one accompanying Mike Pelfrey last year, even down to the dollar amount. The difference is that Pelfrey had been let go from the Tigers in the second year of a two-year deal, but the disenchantment is just about the same.

That’s where I’m starting my level of expectations, because even when Santiago was younger and healthier, he had to work hard to make his brand of pitching successful. His approach is based on deceptive velocity and nibbling, which gives him a chance to beat his FIP on a regular basis by stranding a ton of runners. The trade-off: He sported one of the highest averages of pitches per plate appearance, costing him an inning a start at times.

I didn’t expect that approach to age well, which is why I liked the Eaton trade even though I liked Santiago. Consistency in logic dictates that I shouldn’t expect much from the 30-year-old version.

That said, he isn’t returning with high expectations. Hahn is free to pitch a comeback because there aren’t yet any ramifications for having Santiago around. He doesn’t cost any notable sum of money, he’s not yet on the 40-man roster, and while there’s a clear path to the 25-man as a left-handed swingman, the full 40-man means he’ll have to barge his way in by proving himself healthy.

If Santiago can get there, he’ll help even by just throwing two or three innings a couple times a week. Shooting higher, if he can somehow regain his past form as a starter who could prevent runs for five to six innings at a time, then it’s a bit of flexing for Hahn akin to Kenny Williams’ magical yo-yo act with Freddy Garcia. He sold high on Garcia to Philadelphia after the 2006 season for Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez, then re-signed the crafty veteran version of Garcia for 200 decent back-end innings over the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

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34 Comments on "Some version of Hector Santiago is back"

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PauliePaulie
Member

With our current rotation, getting a few innings from the left side a few times a week would be great.

Trooper Galactus
Member

At this point, any arm that can soak up innings is a net positive, even if the overall results are sub-par. There’s a lot of young arms that need to be protected in this organization.

katiesphil
Member

Would love to see Hector on the SS again. Beyond him being fun and a seemingly very good guy, watching 30th round guys make good helps keep some of the “prospects! Prospects! PROSPECTS!” stuff in perspective.

Malkatraz
Member

Hector Santiago traded for Adam Eaton… Adam Eaton traded for Lucas Giolito, Dane Dunning and Reynaldo Lopez… Hector Santiago signed by the White Sox.

All right.

Brett R. Bobysud
Member

I was going to bring that up.

Now Santiago has the opportunity to join a staff that’s going to include, barring injury, 2 of the 3 guys the Sox eventually turned him into.

StockroomSnail
Member

The White Sox have always been into recycling.

That’s why I know Ozzie will be back.

Reindeer Games
Member

I fucking loved Sweaty Freddy.

karkovice squad
Member

It’s good to know and be comfortable with your kink.

Glover Not a Fighter
Member

He really “tatted-up” since we last saw him. Will that make his screwball hang less for hitters? Only time will tell…

Question: Do you think, given Santiago’s trade tree ends with (at the moment) Sox getting Giolito, Lopez and Dunning that Hahn’s success here is greater than his Tatis/E. Johnson for Shields deal?

Glover Not a Fighter
Member

Meaning: The degree of failure of the Padres deal?

karkovice squad
Member

Let’s revisit this when Tatis, Jr. is a first ballot hall of famer.

Glover Not a Fighter
Member

But, Karko, in the now, that is a glaring mistake…

tedsox31
Editor

It’s an easy mistake to identify in hindsight, as most are. At the time, that trade was defensible. Tatis wasn’t a heralded prospect at when the trade went down and the Sox must have thought they saw something that would help Shields regain form. It’s probably been said before, but it’s more concerning to me that the major league scouts mis-evaluated Shields than it is that they traded a prospect they had no way of knowing would break out like he has.

Hatchetman
Member

there were many hollering about it at the time. That wasn’t hindsight 

tedsox31
Editor

Tatis is hindsight. That was my point at Glover. Bad as the trade has been, Tatis as a prospect was not something that could be predicted.

karkovice squad
Member

And it’ll look that much worse when Tatis is a hall of famer.

Anohito
Member

Isn’t what Shields has done to us so far and (who knows what’ll come in 2018 especially if he’s the opening day starter) already enough to mark how bad the trade was? We could have given the padres a sack of baseballs and it still would go down as one of the worst trades of all time.

StockroomSnail
Member

But who else could command the TANK this well???

StockroomSnail
Member

We’ll all be in jail for murdering Hahn when that happens.

Though it would take a heartless judge to give us a harsh sentence.

polishwith
Member

I will never forgive this trade.

zerobs
Member

You should. The Sox got Shields + $30M, which they used to sign Luis Robert. So it was essentially Shields for Johnson (an expensive wash perhaps) and Tatis Jr. for Robert.

PauliePaulie
Member

It would appear we’ve settled on what the ’18 version of Danks/Flowers dead horse is gonna be.

Anohito
Member

Only the horse ain’t dead yet and it’ll be giving up home runs come opening day…

Patrick Nolan
Editor

I legitimately forgot that Freddy Garcia came back to the White Sox. My memory is continuing to go to mush.

joewho112
Member

Same here

steely3000
Member

This is a great move only if it will be because he won’t pitch against the White Sox. In 2017 he pitched his largest number of innings against the Sox, 13.2, with an ERA of 1.32. He struck out 12 and allowed 0 HRs.