The White Sox and Matt Thornton have agreed to terms on a two-year contract extension with an option for a third year, according to a team release. The deal will pay Thornton $5.5MM annually in 2012 and 2013, while the club option for 2014 is worth $6MM ($1MM buyout). The contract will not affect Thornton's 2011 salary, as the Sox exercised their $3MM option in the fall.
Thornton, who is represented by Diamond Sports Management, has spent the last five seasons in Chicago, emerging as one of the top left-handed relievers in the game. The 34-year-old has recorded a 3.19 ERA and 10.1 K/9 in 336 appearances with the White Sox, and earned his first All-Star berth in 2010. Thornton is viewed as a front-runner to replace Bobby Jenks as the team's closer this season, with Chris Sale, Sergio Santos, and Jesse Crain also potentially in the mix.
The $12MM price tag for Thornton seems about right, considering how much American League teams have paid for southpaws in recent years. A year ago, the Orioles signed Mike Gonzalez to a two-year, $12MM contract, while this winter Brian Fuentes received a two-year, $10.5MM guarantee from the Athletics and the Angels locked up Scott Downs for three years and $15MM. Of course, those three lefties head into 2011 as setup men, so if Thornton ends up in closing in Chicago, his contract has the potential to be a bargain.