However, in the short term, it's best that Casey Janssen continues to breathe down the 29-year-old reliever's back and give him extra motivation.
If the Jays are smart, they'll want to make sure the door stays open to both Santos and Janssen for a good portion of this season before any decision is made on who closes in 2013. Riding the hot hand on a team loaded with potentially big egos like the Jays is a good way to make sure that Santos, who has been an All-Star and is recognized around the league already, doesn't begin to feel any sense of entitlement.
Financially speaking, the Jays are obviously rooting for Santos to pull through as soon as possible so they can get rid of Janssen's contract. They don't want to be spending money on two potentially effective closers.
Santos' contract situation lines up more favorably with the Blue Jays in the next two years than Janssen's does. Janssen is promised to make $4 million next season if the Blue Jays pick up his team option.
Santos will end up being far more expensive in the long run, but next season, the only money he's guaranteed is $3.75 million, and they have until the end of the 2014 season to decide if he's worth paying $6-8 million a year from 2015-17.
Therefore, it's in Santos' best interest to prove himself early on so that there is little question about his extension at the end of next season.
Santos has learned a lot about competing for roster spots throughout his baseball career. He spent much of the past decade in the minor leagues as a position player, even finding some success as a hitter, winning the Double-A Eastern League Home Run Derby in 2007.
However, after not making it to the big leagues for many years, he made the permanent change to the pitcher's mound and found his way to the Chicago White Sox bullpen. Santos' record shows that he'll find any way he can to succeed and maintain a major league roster spot, as long as injuries don't get in the way like they did last season.
If Santos was hoping to lock down the role of team closer early on for the Toronto Blue Jays, he got off on the wrong foot Wednesday night against the Cleveland Indians.
Santos said he felt no lingering pain from his surgery. The earned run was all on him, he said.
"Poorly located pitch," Santos told the Toronto Star. "Tough. Two strikes, I've got to put him away there. I felt fine, just didn't make a pitch when I needed to."
Should Santos becomes an effective closer before the trade deadline this summer, Janssen should be kept around for insurance this coming season, barring any injuries in the lineup that could result in a trade for utility player.
The Blue Jays ownership spent a lot of money this offseason to build their all-star roster, but the bullpen will always require depth in order to sustain the leads that starters like R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson will be walking off the mound with in the seventh or eighth inning.
Keeping Janssen around until the end of the season will be smarter than trading his rising salary away. Janssen should not be dropped or dealt until it can be shown that Santos can be consistent through the next season.
If the Jays get what they want, Santos will prove he can perform consistently through next season, and Janssen will be in another uniform to free up money.
However, in the short term, general manager Alex Anthopoulos and manager John Gibbons should be glad that, though they haven't secured their closer position for the beginning of this season, they have two horses who have the potential to compete neck and neck until the finish line, where a decision is made.
Keeping the carrot dangling in front of Santos will only make him perform better.
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