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Matt Thornton Rumors
The Red Sox bolstered their bullpen tonight when they acquired left-handed pitcher Matt Thornton from the White Sox in exchange for outfielder Brandon Jacobs. The White Sox also sent $750K out east to help take care of a portion of Thornton's salary.
Thornton, 36, is owed about $3.5MM over the remainder of the season. A fixture in the White Sox's bullpen since 2006, the lefty owns a 3.86 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 28 innings this year. In ten big league seasons, eight of which have been in Chicago, Thornton owns a career 3.53 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9.
Thornton's name has come up quite a bit on the pages of MLBTR as speculation has increased that the White Sox would look to sell at this year's deadline. The deal brings GM Rick Hahn a decent prospect while freeing them from the bulk of Thornton's remaining 2013 salary. For Boston, the veteran could theoretically be more than a rental as he has a $6MM club option with a modest $1MM buyout for 2014.
Jacobs, a 22-year-old outfielder, was recently promoted to Double-A Portland in the Red Sox's system after hitting .244/.334/.440 for the club's High A affiliate. Baseball America's 2013 Prospect Handbook had him ranked at the 13th best prospect in the BoSox system coming into this season. According to BA, he had one of the more intriguing bats of anyone in the Red Sox farm system despite his dip in production from his breakout Low-A season in 2011 to his last two seasons in Advanced-A ball.
A source told Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com (via Twitter) that the two clubs have been discussing a deal for Thornton, but talks picked up when Andrew Miller was ruled out for the season. Meanwhile, Hahn says that he had serious talks about the lefty with seven or eight clubs before pulling the trigger on this deal, tweets Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com.
The White Sox still have a number of key trade chips that could be moved, including Alex Rios, Matt Thornton, Matt Lindstrom, and possibly Jake Peavy and Jesse Crain when they return to action. Crain figures to bring back the best return of any White Sox reliever if he can come back healthy in time.
Alex Speier of WEEI (on Twitter) reported the cash amount headed to the Red Sox in the deal. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
With the second-worst record in the American League and plenty of useful veterans, the White Sox are a clear seller this month. The team's prime trade chips are Alex Rios, Matt Thornton, Matt Lindstrom, and perhaps Jake Peavy and Jesse Crain when they return from the disabled list. It's less clear whether the Sox would consider trading Alexei Ramirez, Paul Konerko, John Danks, and Alejandro De Aza. The latest:
- "The bulk of our struggles this year have been on the offensive side. That's something we are going to have to improve," GM Rick Hahn told reporters yesterday, including Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Though Hahn wouldn't address trade rumors or the July 31st deadline, Gonzales takes this to mean Hahn will lean toward hitters in making deals this month. Hahn has dispatched scouts to evaluate prospects from the Braves, Blue Jays, Rangers, and Red Sox, writes Gonzales.
- The White Sox seek "high-end prospects" for Thornton, a source tells Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com. The 36-year-old is having his worst year in recent memory, with a 4.00 ERA, 6.7 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 1.33 HR/9, and 44.3% groundball rate in 27 innings. He's been better against left-handed hitters, though they've authored three of the four home runs he's surrendered. With a $6MM club option for 2014, Thornton can be more than a rental.
- Regarding the idea of trading ace Chris Sale, Jim Margalus of South Side Sox writes, "Hahn would pretty much have to get two stars back to justify it. Otherwise, it's getting way too cute." Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports notes today that a large contingent of scouts are watching Sale.
Let's take a look at the latest news and notes involving the American League East:
- The Red Sox are open to trade market upgrades in the bullpen and at third base, tweets ESPN's Buster Olney.
- One name on Boston's list of bullpen trade targets is the White Sox's Matt Thornton, sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com (Twitter link). The Braves also have "limited" interest in the left-hander.
- Josh Johnson, set to become a free agent at the end of the season, has seen injury and poor performance affect his value to the point where it is difficult to see the Blue Jays pursue a multi-year deal with him, writes the Toronto Star's Richard Griffin. Johnson may be forced to accept a qualifying offer from the Blue Jays, assuming he receives one, to rebuild his value for 2014, opines Griffin.
- The Phillies' Michael Young and Carlos Ruiz both could be on the Yankees' radar as they have a scout in Philadelphia today, tweets Jayson Stark of ESPN.
- The recently-released Miguel Olivo is not on the Yankees' radar, but first baseman Russ Canzler, who was designated for assignment yesterday, might pique their curiosity, according to the New York Post's Joel Sherman (Twitter links).
- Earlier today, the Yankees added first base depth by claiming Travis Ishikawa off waivers from the Orioles. O's Executive Vice President Dan Duquette told reporters, including Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com, he acquired Eric Thames from the Mariners last week knowing he could lose Ishikawa to another team.
Here are a few trade notes from around the American League:
- As we approach the trade deadline with the Mariners looking more like sellers than buyers, Larry Stone of the Seattle Times took a look back at GM Jack Zduriencik's recent history at the deadline. Beginning with an ill-fated swap of a young Michael Morse for Ryan Langerhans and featuring the retrospectively painful Doug Fister deal, the net return to Seattle has not been terribly productive.
- This year, the Mariners could be in a position to deal some relievers. Last night, we took a look at FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal's breakdown of potentially available NL relievers. Tonight, let's look at the AL crop. From the M's, Rosenthal says that veteran lefty Oliver Perez is the most likely to be dealt, with Charlie Furbush and Tom Wilhelmsen also prime candidates. The latter two, however, will likely command a high price given that Furbush may just be reaching arbitration after this season as a Super Two, while Wilhelmsen will not reach arbitration until after the 2014 campaign.
- Rosenthal also pegs the White Sox and Astros as sellers with attractive bullpen pieces. Chicago could swing a trade for stud reliever Jesse Crain if he can return in time to prove his health; otherwise, both Matt Thornton and Matt Lindstrom could hold some appeal. (Both of the latter two pitchers come with club options for 2014.) For Houston, meanwhile, the prime trade chip among its relief corps is unquestionably closer Jose Veras, who is cheap, strikes out a lot of hitters, and has been solid in late-inning work this year.
- One other team that should look to the future, according to FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi, is the Blue Jays. With the club again fading after its recent resurgence, Morosi says Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos faces a "virtually impossible" task to right the ship before the trade deadline. Rather than selling out for this season, says Morosi, the Jays should look to shore up the team's rotation to make a run in 2014 and 2015.
- Sticking with the Jays, Morosi says that Josh Johnson — occasionally noted as a potential trade candidate earlier in the year — has been "perhaps the team's greatest disappointment this year." Johnson currently carries a 4.89 ERA in 53 1/3 innings; his walk rate is below his career average at 3.4 BB/9, though he is striking batters out at a strong 9.1 K/9 clip. At this point, Morosi suggests, Toronto may be best served by shipping Johnson back to the National League rather than looking to try and bring him back next year.
We heard last week that the White Sox had begun to receive calls on their veteran players. Now, rival executives tell Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that the ChiSox are "open for business" and willing to discuss anyone on their roster with the exception of Chris Sale and Paul Konerko.
That means that even John Danks, who just last year signed a five-year, $65MM extension with the Sox, could be had in the right deal. The team also has desirable trade chips like Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez, Jesse Crain, Matt Lindstrom, Matt Thornton and Jake Peavy (though he's currently on the DL). Heyman also adds that Jeff Keppinger's name has already come up in conversations, despite the fact that he signed a three-year deal just this past offseason.
Not surprisingly, one executive told Heyman that Adam Dunn will be difficult to move. Dunn is owed $15MM in 2014 and is hitting .194/.303/.460 this season. Another said that Peavy will be tough to find a match for as well. The White Sox will have a high asking price on their co-ace, but teams won't have much time to determine if he's truly healthy.
Another executive told Heyman that the Mets could look at Ramirez as a potential long-term option at shortstop. While he's not hitting for power anymore, Ramirez is batting .280/.308/.345 with 18 stolen bases and outstanding defense, according to advanced metrics like UZR and DRS. He's owed $10MM in 2014 and has a $10MM club option for 2015 on his contract as well.
A few notes from around MLB's Central divisions, where the Indians and Cardinals will enter first place entering Sunday's action …
- The White Sox could look to trade one of their four left-hander relievers if they fall out of contention later in the season, writes Scott Merkin of MLB.com, particularly Matt Thornton and/or Will Ohman. Thornton's contract calls for a $5.5MM salary in 2013 and includes a $6MM club option for 2014, while Ohman is a free agent at season's end.
- Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan is becoming a likelier trade candidate with so many relievers suffering injuries, writes Tom Singer of MLB.com. Hanrahan, for his part, is aware of the possibility but hopes to remain in Pittsburgh, mentioning the Bucs' decision not to sell off players at last year's deadline. The right-hander is slated to become a free agent after 2013.
- The Indians seriously scouted Yoenis Cespedes but were never close to signing the outfielder, who eventually inked with the A's, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.
- In an interesting piece for the New York Times, Tyler Kepner writes how Reds shortstop prospect Billy Hamilton's blazing speed is indicative of a trend in scouting and player development. With run production declining, speed is once again highly valued. Said Bill Bavasi, Cincinnati's vice president for scouting and player development: "We’re seeing the game go through a renaissance right now. We’re going to see some different bodies playing the game, and a premium is going to be placed on speed, on range and on doing all the little skills that were so important in baseball …"
Most general managers prefer not to rush trades for bullpen help early in the season because relievers are so volatile, according to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney. Olney takes a look at some relievers off to hot starts in his latest Insider-only column. Here are some highlights:
- Blue Jays left-hander Luis Perez has impressed an AL executive after striking out 14 in 12 2/3 scoreless innings to start the season. "He could be a starting pitcher, but to me, he's as good a left-handed reliever as there is in the American League right now," the person said.
- Olney points out that left-hander Matt Thornton is pitching well and notes that the White Sox tried to trade him at last year’s trade deadline and again over the winter.
- MLB executives have told Olney that they aren’t interested in acquiring Brandon Inge because he doesn’t contribute at the plate anymore.
- Olney wonders when the Mets will be able to spend like a large market team and says manager Terry Collins “has done a terrific job” with the current roster.
In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe ranks every manager in the majors, one through 30. Cafardo's top five skippers in the game for 2012 are Joe Maddon (Rays), Jim Leyland (Tigers), Mike Scioscia (Angels), Charlie Manuel (Phillies), and Joe Girardi (Yankees). Here's more from Cafardo..
- While the Mets were considering releasing right-hander Mike Pelfrey, they likely won’t do that because there should be a trade market for the veteran. The 28-year-old makes $5.6MM on a non-guaranteed deal and the Mets may be able to get something from a club looking for a back-end starter.
- White Sox left-hander Matt Thornton is a player who always draws interest, though other clubs wish he didn’t make $12MM over the next two years. With Hector Santiago and Will Ohman on the team, the closer could again be trade bait.
- The Cubs may eat some money to move outfielder Marlon Byrd, who is scheduled to earn $6.5MM this season. They may have suitors in the Braves, Phillies, and others. A National League scout indicated that Byrd’s name is being mentioned more and more as the end of spring training approaches.
- Orioles reliever Kevin Gregg is available as the O's try to rid themselves of extraneous players and save money. Gregg makes $5.6MM this year, and the Orioles don’t want his 2013 contract to kick in at $6MM if he finishes 50 games in 2012.
- Cafardo expects long-term extension talks between Cole Hamels and the Phillies to move slowly.
- One American League owner said of the Padres, "They’re probably a half-billion to $700MM purchase. And I don’t believe that many, or any, of the finalists for the Dodgers would be interested."
1:53pm: This rumor is bogus, tweets O'Brien.
1:37pm: A potential trade of White Sox lefty reliever Matt Thornton to the Braves is picking up steam, tweets Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. However, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says this one's not happening.
Thornton, 35, posted a 3.32 ERA, 9.5 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 0.45 HR/9, and 48.8% groundball rate in 59 2/3 innings for the White Sox this year. He's owed $12MM through 2013 on an extension signed in March. It's unclear whether Sox GM Kenny Williams would further deplete his bullpen depth after trading Sergio Santos to Toronto today, but relievers generally aren't crucial to a rebuilding effort.
The White Sox have been looking to trade Matt Thornton since July and are still trying to move him, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (on Twitter). Before the 2011 season, the White Sox signed the left-hander to a two-year, $12MM extension that covers the 2012-13 seasons and includes a club option for 2014.
The 35-year-old posted a 3.32 ERA with 9.5 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 0.45 HR/9 and a 48.8% ground ball rate in 59 2/3 innings this past season. Armed with a fastball that averages 96 mph, Thornton figures to draw interest this offseason, as he did last summer, especially since the free agent market doesn't feature lefty relievers of his caliber. The Yankees, Blue Jays and Rangers are among the teams that may seek left-handed relief this offseason.