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Trade Option: Matt Thornton

After taking a look at some free agent relievers, we present another reliever who may be a viable option, this time via trade. Matt Thornton, a late-blooming, flamethrowing lefty from the White Sox, would be a solid addition to the relief corps, especially if they deem the price on the better free agents to be too high.

Thornton, who debuted with the Mariners in 2004 at age 27, was a nearly anonymous figure for the first four years of his career. Spending two years in Seattle before being traded to the White Sox for super-bust Joe Borchard, Thornton pitched 200 innings on the nose through 2007. He racked up 191 strikeouts in those 200 innings, but also walked 114, limiting his effectiveness.

In the last three seasons, though, something seems to have clicked with Thornton. Pitching 200.1 innings since the start of ’08, Thornton has elevated his impressive strikeout numbers – 245 of them, in fact – while drastically improving his control and walking just 59 batters. Let’s reiterate that in a cleaner fashion:

2004-07: 200 IP, 191 K, 114 BB, 1.515 WHIP
2008-10: 200.1 IP, 245 K, 59 BB, 1.028 WHIP

That’s a tremendous difference, and it makes Thornton a valuable commodity under contract for just $3M in 2011. Among pitchers who made at least 80 percent of their appearances in relief and logged 150-plus innings since 2008, Thornton ranks highly among some impressive company.

  • 4th in K/9 (11.01)
  • 18th in BB/9 (2.65)
  • 4th in K/BB (4.15)
  • 14th in HR/9 (0.58)
  • 3rd in WAR (7.2)

The long and short of it is this: sometime around the 2008 season, Thornton flipped the switch and turned into an elite reliever. He’s affordable, potentially a Type B (or better) free agent after the season, and left-handed. It’s worth noting that Thornton not only held lefty batters to a measly .175/.221/.278 line in 2010, he also stifled righties to the tune of .203/.296/.288, so Thornton’s clearly no situational lefty reliever.

As for the likelihood of a deal, well, that’s another thing. There were whispers in July about the Phillies being linked to Thornton, but no real movement on that front thus far this winter. It’s entirely possible that the White Sox will hold on to Thornton as they look to contend in the¬†perennially¬†up-for-grabs A.L. Central, only listening to him if they fall out of contention this summer.

Whatever the case, Thornton is unlikely to cost premium talent (like Dom Brown, in spite of Thornton’s impressive numbers), and his presence would be a major boost to the Philly ‘pen; that much doesn’t seem to be in contention. The possibility of Thornton’s availability and Amaro’s interest in acquiring him, on the other hand, definitely appear to be in doubt. The fit is there, and the Phillies have what it would take to acquire Thornton, but this is a match that appears far, far away. Let’s give this a 3/10 on the Amaro Head Scale.

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Geoff

    November 24, 2010 at 10:52 am

    First

  2. Geoff

    November 24, 2010 at 10:53 am

    Now…this guy is excellent, if he is available this is a no-brainer move, you give them what they want for him and move ahead.

  3. George

    November 24, 2010 at 11:04 am

    “Thornton is unlikely to cost premium talent.”

    Please give one good reason, given Thornton’s great numbers, low salary, and the fact that the White Sox aren’t too confident in their current closer, why you believe this to be the case. The Sox front office isn’t stupid, and I’m sure it’d require a premium prospect to get Thornton, if he can even be gotten.

    There were whispers in July about lots of team’s interest, not just the Phils’, and still he didn’t get moved.

  4. bsizzle

    November 24, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Thornton would be a great addition, but yeah, he’d cost premium talent.

  5. Bacardipr05

    November 24, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Don’t know to much bout the guy but his numbers are imrpessive. Doub the Phils will bite. RAJ likes to focus on guys that are towards the end of their careers and hope to rejuvinate them.

  6. Paul Boye

    November 24, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    In our case, no premium talent means it wouldn’t cost Dom Brown.

    Top prospects are never dealt for relievers.

  7. Chuck

    November 24, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    I’d say….IF it can be done…..then do it. The pen needs help…..and this guy could make a difference.

  8. The Original Chuck P

    November 24, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Major injury concerns with Thornton… not sure if I go that route knowing that it’s going to cost prospects and $3 million which is cheap only if he’s healthy.

  9. Chuck

    November 24, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Yeah, but look at his numbers the last 3 years. They don’t lie.

  10. Andrew from waldorf

    November 24, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    buy

  11. brooks

    November 24, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    Trade option?
    How about a rh power hitter with a .320 lifetime batting average, RH and plays the outfield.
    I understand that Vlad is back on the market. At 35, he hit .300, had 29 hrs and had 115 rbi.
    Werth taking a shot at?

  12. Chuck

    November 24, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    That’s not the first time I heard that about Vlad.

    Love his bat. Love his power. He can’t field woth a lick..

    BUT….

    A one year deal might be “werth” a shot…

  13. psujoe

    November 24, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Could you imagine an OF with Raul and Vlad. No way. Upton or Werth. RAJ has to get it done.

  14. Lefty

    November 24, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    ” it makes Thornton a valuable commodity under contract for just $3M in 2011.”

    If a valuable commodity is not worth a premium player, what is the cost?

    What non premium players do we have that they need? Francisco, Mayberry, Schneider, or Gload?

    Anyway, sure- if that player exists, I absolutely make the deal.

  15. brooks

    November 25, 2010 at 7:21 am

    Happy Thanksgiving PN!

  16. PhxPhilly

    November 25, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    If I were the WSox I would want at least a starting type player for Thornton or a young player projected to be a starter. I would be thinking a Ryan Ludwick or Vance Worley type. I may not get that but for a possible closer type / excellent loogy that is what I would ask for.

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