Matt Thornton Likely to be Traded, Could be a Bargain

Last week, Joe Crowley of the Chicago Sun times scoured his sources and reported that White Sox GM Kenny Williams is basically looking to dump a ton of payroll. Team anchors John Danks, Carlos Quentin and Matt Thornton are all being heavily shopped at the winter meetings. In other words, these three players are probably not going to be with the White Sox for much longer. Sergio Santos has already been shipped out of town.

Danks, a proven left-handed starter, and Quentin, a power bat, could draw a decent return, but Matt Thornton, who is coming off of a season that saw him post an 8.64 ERA in April when he held closer duties, could probably be had for a bargain price.

Crowley’s article reveals that White Sox pitching coach, Don Cooper, had lost faith in his once dominant lefty.

Pitching coach Don Cooper said in a meeting late last season that he believed Thornton’s best days were behind him, according to a source – Chicago Sun Times

Thornton, 35, did indeed struggle at times last season, but he righted the ship in the second half…


Month IP ERA FIP HR/9 K/9 BB/9
April 8.1 8.64 5.91 2.2 10.8 6.48
May 9.1 2.89 2.70 0 8.68 4.82
June 11.2 0.77 2.51 0 6.94 3.1
July 6.2 1.35 0.63 0 10.8 0
August 11.2 3.09 2.17 0.77 10 0.77
September 12 3.75 1.94 0 10.5 3.75

Notice, in particular the resurgence of Thornton’s strikeout rate from July and on. The problem wasn’t velocity, as he held an average fastball of almost 96 MPH (his career average fastball is 95.3 MPH). Maybe he was just unlucky. Check out his BABIPs per month in 2011…

April 0.406
May 0.370
June 0.325
July 0.267
August 0.281
September 0.276

Thornton’s career BABIP against is .295, a number much closer to where it was from July and on. I don’t think, however, that those high BABIPs are pure bad luck. If you check his line-drive rates against in April and May (30 percent and 27 percent), you can see that hitters were making solid contact and often.

It’s not like Thornton faded as the season wore on. He actually kicked up the strikeouts and just about eliminated his home runs allowed (he only allowed three all season anyway).

Thornton is signed for $5.5 million for his age 35 and 36 seasons, so there isn’t all that much risk that he completely falls off the table due to age. His contract also contains a $6M option for 2014, so any team acquiring him could benefit from his services for the next three seasons. While $5.5M isn’t exactly a bargain for a reliever, it is in line with other top (non closer) relievers like Joaquin Benoit who is signed for $5.5M per year through 2013.

Given what little it took to pry Sergio Santos and his three-year $8.25M away, Thornton could be had for a song. The team that lands the big flame-throwing lefty is going to be getting a good value.