Matt Thornton Rumors

NL Notes: Bryant, Garcia, Villanueva, Nats, Mets

The Cubs‘ impending decision about whether to have Kris Bryant start the season in the minors has players around baseball talking about service-time rules, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune writes in a story that collects responses to Bryant’s situation from players from several teams. “Hey, we have a chance to make a lot of money in this game, but the rules are the rules,” says Yankees reliever Andrew Miller. “If that works in the Cubs favor, and the Cubs are a better team for that, they’re entitled to (use the rule to their favor). We negotiated that. It’s the reality of what our collective bargaining agreement says.” Here’s more from the National League.

  • Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia will miss his start due to a shoulder issue, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports. Garcia likely will not be in the team’s Opening Day rotation. Garcia had impressed the team in camp and might well have made the Cardinals’ rotation, particularly since having him start rather than Marco Gonzales or Carlos Martinez would have been the best way for the Cards to protect their assets — they could have easily just optioned Gonzales to the minors, put Martinez in the bullpen and kept all three pitchers. Instead, it’s yet another injury for Garcia, who’s dealt with plenty of them in the past few seasons. There is, however, reason to hope it won’t be serious — GM John Mozeliak (via Langosch on Twitter) characterizes the injury as fatigue and the missed start as “more of a pause than anything.”
  • Pitcher Carlos Villanueva, who’s on a minor-league deal with the Cardinals, can opt out of that deal Monday, Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch notes (via Twitter). Villanueva has gotten fairly good results in camp and has a track record of providing solid performances in a swingman role, so the Cardinals could try to find space for him on their roster.
  • Intentionally or not, the Nationals, who have lefty relievers available, gave the lefty-starved Mets a look at Jerry Blevins Saturday, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. (Blevins struck out Curtis Granderson but gave up a triple to Lucas Duda.) The Nationals have Blevins, along with Xavier Cedeno and Matt Thornton, and all are out of options, so they could end up trading one.

NL Notes: Thornton, Dodgers, Young, Neshek

Nationals lefty Matt Thornton has exceedingly rare velocity for his age, as Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post writes. Now 38, Thornton joins former closer Billy Wagner as the only 35-and-up southpaws to sustain a 95+ mph average fastball over an entire season. Thornton’s method of maintaining his velo is rooted in a somewhat non-traditional workout program and commitment to an early but gradual build-up each offseason. The Nats have benefited thus far from picking up the veteran on a waiver claim last August, thus taking on his $3.5MM salary this year, and he is arguably the club’s top left-handed pen arm heading into 2015.

More from around the National League:

  • The new Dodgers front office is finding its hands tied somewhat in putting together a final roster, as Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register writes. While the organization likely would prefer to open the year with recent acquisitions Chris Heisey and Enrique Hernandez on the bench, the contracts of Andre Ethier and Alex Guerrero make that difficult. Both Heisey and Hernandez have options, creating some flexibility, and will presumably start out at Triple-A unless the team swings a trade.
  • Eric Young Jr. is the early leader for the Braves center field job out of camp, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Manager Fredi Gonzalez says that the club feels comfortable with Young’s ability to play the position defensively in spite of his limited experience.
  • Reliever Pat Neshek says he was somewhat disappointed, but understanding, of the Cardinals‘ decision not to pursue him after his breakout year with the club, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Neshek ultimately landed with the Astros for two years and $12.5MM. In discussions during last season, GM John Mozeliak told Neshek that he held a “lottery ticket” and that the team would not be able to compete with the offers Neshek would receive on the open market. “In one sense it was kind of disappointing,” said Neshek, “but he knew it. He saw better. He could do something cheaper and try to get better. I see where they’re coming from. It was a good run. It worked out for everybody.”

NL Notes: Brewers, Thornton, Cuddyer, Anderson

The Brewers‘ recent struggles could lead to firings in Milwaukee, Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel writes. The Brewers fired Ned Yost after an ugly two-week stretch in the midst of a contending season in 2008. Now, after spending the majority of the season in first place, the Brewers run the risk of missing the playoffs — they would just miss the second Wild Card if the season ended today. It’s not clear if the Brewers’ skid might cause owner Mark Attanasio to want to make moves involving GM Doug Melvin or manager Ron Roenicke. Here’s more from the National League.

  • Matt Thornton has come up big in the Nationals‘ bullpen since the Nats claimed him from the Yankees, Tom Schad of the Washington Times writes. Thornton has pitched 9 1/3 innings for the Nats so far, striking out eight batters, walking one and allowing no runs in his first stint as a National Leaguer. “Haven’t faced a lot of these guys, so it’s kind of all new,” Thornton says. “But at the same time, they haven’t faced me. So I’m using that to my advantage.” MLBTR readers recently ranked Thornton the fifth most impactful August addition of any team, behind Adam Dunn, Jacob Turner, Jonathan Broxton and Josh Willingham.
  • Rockies manager Walt Weiss would like to see the team re-sign Michael Cuddyer, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. “I would like to see him back here,” says Weiss. “I just think he means so much to our club, in ways that go beyond the stat sheet.” Cuddyer has suffered through an injury-plagued season and will be 36 by the time next season starts, but he’s hit very well with the Rockies, posting a .331/.380/.546 line in 142 plate appearances in 2014 that’s similar to his output over a full season last year.
  • It’s unclear whether the Rockies will pick up Brett Anderson‘s $12MM option, Saunders writes. The option contains a $1.5MM buyout. Anderson has been effective this season, but injuries have limited him to just 43 1/3 innings so far, and he hasn’t topped 100 innings in a season in 2010. The Rockies need to try to figure out if Anderson’s injury troubles are likely to continue, and whether they might be able to lure a better pitcher to Coors — never easy to do — with that $12MM.


Nationals Acquire Matt Thornton From Yankees

1:54pm: The Nationals have in fact acquired Thornton after placing a claim, reports Heyman. It’s not yet clear whether or what the Nationals will send in return other than taking on salary, says Heyman. MLB: New York Yankees at Oakland Athletics

1:44pm: The Nationals have claimed Matt Thornton off revocable waivers from the Yankees, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. Washington was awarded its claim on Thornton, which indicates that every club in the American League clubs and all National League clubs with a worse record than the Nats passed on the opportunity. (Be sure to read this primer on August trades if you have not done so already.)

This means that the Nationals have 48.5 hours from the point that the claim was awarded (which remains unclear) to work out a deal. If a trade cannot be arranged, the Yankees will have to decide whether to allow the Nationals to take on Thornton’s contract without compensation. (Having placed the claim, the Nats would be obliged to accept it.)

Thornton has been excellent this year, pitching to a 2.55 ERA with 7.3 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9 over 24 2/3 innings. He signed a two-year, $7MM deal over the offseason, under which he is promised a $3.5MM annual salary in each season. The Nationals have been said to be looking hard to add a southpaw pen piece, though it would be somewhat of a surprise if the Yankees moved a player who has been a fairly valuable contributor.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Yankees Sign Matt Thornton

3:50pm: Thornton will earn $3.5MM in each year of the deal, and his contract does not contain any bonuses, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (on Twitter).

3:15pm: More than three weeks after the initial agreement was reached, the Yankees have officially announced their two-year deal with left-hander Matt Thornton. The longtime White Sox hurler will reportedly receive a $7MM guarantee. Thornton is represented by Diamond Sports Management.

Thornton-Matt

Thornton, 37, pitched to a 3.74 ERA with 6.2 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a 50.2 percent ground-ball rate in 43 1/3 innings for the White Sox and Red Sox in 2013. Opposing left-handers hit .235/.267/.370 in 89 plate appearances against Thornton last season. Though Thornton's once-blazing fastball has been in a steady decline since 2010, he still averaged a healthy 94.2 mph on his heater in 2013.

The Yankees were in need of a lefty reliever after losing Boone Logan to free agency. Logan inked a three-year, $16.5MM contract with the Rockies, meaning the Yankees were able to secure his presumable replacement for less than half the price. The Yankees' bullpen will have a new look to it in 2014, with David Robertson currently in line to take the ninth-inning reins from Mariano Rivera and the departures of Logan and Joba Chamberlain.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has been heavily active on the free agent market, signing Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann to mammoth contracts, re-signing Hiroki Kuroda and also adding veterans like Thornton, Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts and Brendan Ryan to low-cost contracts.

Jack Curry of the YES Network first reported the contract and the terms (on Twitter).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Red Sox Decline Matt Thornton’s Option

The Red Sox have declined their $6MM club option on left-hander Matt Thornton, the team announced. Thornton, who was acquired from the White Sox in early July in exchange for outfield prospect Brandon Jacobs, will receive a $1MM buyout and hit the free agent market.

Thornton, 37, pitched to a 3.52 ERA in 15 1/3 innings with the Red Sox following the trade and posted a 3.74 ERA overall in 43 1/3 innings between his two teams. The flamethrower's velocity has begun to drop in recent seasons; he averaged 96.1 mph on his heater in 2010, 95.8 mph in 2011, 95.0 mph in 2012 and 94.2 mph in 2013. It's not a big surprise to see that along with his velocity, Thornton's once sky-high strikeout rate has dipped. Thornton posted a 12.0 K/9 in 2010, 9.5 in 2011, 7.3 in 2012 and 6.2 in 2013.

Despite the dip in velocity, Thornton was solid against left-handed opponents, holding them to a .235/.267/.370 batting line in 89 appearances. He'll join a strong free agent crop of lefty relievers that includes Javier Lopez, J.P. Howell, Boone Logan and Tommy John reclamation project Eric O'Flaherty.


East Notes: Beltran, Yankees, McCann, Thornton

Yesterday we learned that the Yankees and Carlos Beltran are expected to have mutual interest in a union this offseason.  Today, David Lennon of Newsday weighed the pros and cons of that for the Bombers and noted that acting quickly – as the Tigers did with Torii Hunter – could help their efforts.  Here's a look at the latest from the AL and NL East..

  • Braves catcher Brian McCann could receive $100MM in free agency, a GM tells Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York. Marchand also notes that the Yankees feel that if Alex Rodriguez's PED suspension holds (meaning the Yankees would not have to pay his $25MM 2014 salary), they might be able to sign McCann in addition to Robinson Cano. McCann ranks fourth in Tim Dierkes' latest 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, and MLBTR predicts that McCann will receive a five-year, $80MM deal.
  • Red Sox reliever Matt Thornton won't retire after the season, CSN Chicago's Dan Hayes reports. Boston has a $6MM option with a $1MM buyout on Thornton's services for 2014, but it looks unlikely they'll pick it up, given that they left him off their ALCS roster. "I don’t feel like I’m anywhere near being done in my career,” says Thornton. "I feel like I have plenty left in the tank physically." The Red Sox acquired Thornton from the White Sox for minor-leaguer Brandon Jacobs in mid-July, but he missed time down the stretch with a strained oblique and did not pitch much in September.
  • Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues looks at the Yankees' upcoming 40-man roster crunch.  At this moment, the Yankees have 47 players on their 40-man roster.

Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.


Cafardo On Cano, Angels, Rangers, Cruz

In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that there is growing resentment towards the one-game playoff.  “I would like to see it changed to two of three,” said the Red SoxJonny Gomes. “At least then you feel as if you lose, you had three games. I like the fact the two wild cards play, that part is fine, and I understand the drama of the one game, but it’s not fair. You see what’s happening now. These teams are fighting and clawing to get one of those two spots, then let the teams who make it have a fair chance to advance.”  Here's more from Cafardo..

  • Most industry sources believe the Dodgers won’t be interested in Robinson Cano, but Cafardo says that the Angels and Tigers are worth keeping an eye on.  Cafardo also heard someone theorize that the Mets could pull a fast one and get in the mix for Cano.  There's no evidence of that happening, but it would keep the star second baseman in his desired long-term location.
  • There are still no signs that the Rangers will trade Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar this offseason, but dealing Ian Kinsler could be a legitimate option, with Andrus or Profar playing second base in 2014.  However, the 31-year-old's contract is an issue as he has four years remaining at $57MM with an option for 2018.  He's not having his sharpest season either, hitting .273/.340/.403 versus a line of .272/.350/.460 heading into 2013.
  • Speaking of Texas, it wouldn't be shocking to see the Rangers re-sign Nelson Cruz despite the 50-game PED suspension.  Cruz has been the missing cog in the Rangers’ recent slump and also happens to be popular in the clubhouse.  Even with Alex Rios, Texas will still be in the market for  a DH/outfielder this this winter and it could be as simple as re-signing Cruz.
  • Alfredo Aceves is now home in Mexico after leaving Fort Myers, Florida and is unlikely to ever don a Red Sox uniform again.  One American League GM blasted the pitcher for his behavior but said that he'll likely get another chance somewhere because of his talent.
  • If Carlos Beltran does not re-sign with the Cardinals, Cafardo posits that he would be the ideal DH/occasional outfielder for the Orioles
  • Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta is “likely going to be someone’s third baseman” next season, one Detroit teammate said.
  • Cafardo wonders if Cal Ripken could emerge as a candidate to replace Davey Johnson as manager of the Nationals.  Of course, Ripken is tied to the local competition, but he has made it clear that he wants to be a skipper.  Meanwhile, Buck Showalter is on solid footing with the Orioles and it would allow Ripken to stay in the area. 
  • Not a huge surprise, but Cafardo doesn't believe the Red Sox will exercise Matt Thornton's $6MM option for next season.

Odds & Ends: Thornton, Soriano, Mariners, Rockies

Here's today's look around baseball..

  • Other teams passed on Matt Thornton because they felt that he hasn’t been throwing well and that the cost of acquiring him outweighed the possible reward, writes Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Insider sub. req'd).  The cost for the Red Sox was giving up a 22-year-old minor league outfielder in Brandon Jacobs and taking on the remainder of Thornton's salary, less the $750K that came from the White Sox.
  • Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com sized up the trade market for Windy City outfielders Alfonso Soriano and Alex Rios.  Recently, our own Steve Adams sized up the trade market for corner outfielders and center fielders as the deadline approaches.
  • Teams are waiting on the Mariners, Phillies, and Giants to decide their strategy before the trade deadline as they all have "useful players", tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.
  • The Rockies could conceivably go out-of-house to replace Todd Helton once he retires, but they have a couple of options to turn to in their farm system, writes Irv Moss of The Denver Post.

Reactions To The Thornton Trade

Last night, the Red Sox made the first major move on the trade deadline relief pitching market, sending mid-level prospect Brandon Jacobs to the White Sox for lefty Matt Thornton. (The Rockies did snag Mitchell Boggs from the Cardinals, but that deal shapes up as more of a roll of the dice given that Boggs has spent most of the year toiling in Triple-A.) Let's take a look at some of the initial reactions to Boston's move to replace the injured Andrew Miller:

  • Looking at the deal from a broader perspective, MLB Network's Peter Gammons tweets that it carries lessons about the trade market. Namely, says Gammons, the deal shows that free cash and toolsy prospects are a powerful combination of trade commodities for a contender to wield.
  • Indeed, White Sox GM Rick Hahn says that the club has been pursuing Jacobs for over a year, reports Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. "He's an athletic kid who projects to be a power bat/corner outfielder," Hahn explained. "He's a toolsy player with upside to be an everyday corner outfielder."
  • While a trade of Thornton became more and more inevitable as Chicago's season continued to turn south, the late-inning stalwart will be missed by Sox fans. Jim Margalus of South Side Sox took a look at Thornton's interesting path to becoming a dominant reliever.
  • From Boston's side of things, the team is tempered in its hopes for Thornton. As the Boston Herald's Scott Lauber explains, the Red Sox intend to deploy him primarily in the sixth and seventh innings and as a lefty specialist. In spite of Thornton's history of success against batters on both sides of the plate, he has been much better against lefties this year. GM Ben Cherington said that whereas Thornton once possessed "elite, elite stuff, … it may just be really good stuff now. But we're confident he has enough stuff to be effective in the role that we need him in." (Click here for a transcript of all of Cherington's remarks, courtesy of WEEI.com's Rob Bradford.)
  • Lauber also notes that the Red Sox would have been facing a decision on Jacobs in the offseason. Had the club retained him, it would have had to place him on the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.
  • Jacobs has largely failed to convert his tools into on-field production, Alex Speier of WEEI.com details. Nonetheless, given his immense upside — Speier says a Red Sox official told him that Jacobs had far more tools than Jackie Bradley Jr. — a team like the White Sox was sure to pluck him in the Rule 5 draft. Hence, Speier suggests, it made sense for Boston to cash in Jacobs now.