Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Yankees Add Their Thorn(ton) to Their Flowers

Don't mix up your Thorntons!

At Jacoby Ellsbury's intro press conference last week, manager Joe Girardi said that Ellsbury would "no longer be a thorn in our sides, but a flower in our clubhouse." It was funny and extremely weird.

Tuesday afternoon the Yankees got some thorn back in the the person of left-handed reliever Matt Thorton. The 37-year old lefty agreed to a two-year, $7MM deal to replace Boone Logan in the bullpen.

Originally drafted by the Seattle Mariners, Thornton was acquired by the White Sox in a steal of a deal in March of '06 for outfielder Joe Borchard.

Borchard had once been a highly ranked prospect, but his Major League at-bats never matched his minor league output or his scouting reports. Thornton, meanwhile, became a steady reliever in the White Sox bullpen. He was especially outstanding for three seasons from 2008-2010 as a set up man who would get an occasional save opportunity when the team's closer was unavailable.

Thornton has appeared in 60 or more games in eight straight seasons, including this past year when the White Sox dealt him to Boston in mid-July for minor leaguer Brandon Jacobs. (Coincidentally, Jacobs was part of the three team deal that sent Mark Trumbo to Arizona. Jacobs joined him as the player to be named later in the deal.)

Command is key for Thornton to be successful. During the aforementioned three year period, Thornton struck out 10.3, 10.8, and 12 batters per 9 innings pitched. During that time period he walked less than three batters per nine innings. Since then, Thornton's K's have dropped while his base on balls have risen as have his hits per inning. His 6.2 strikeouts/9 IP last year was the lowest of his career.

With left-handed relievers hard to come by, the Yankees made a decent move to replace Logan. He did very well against left-handed hitters last season, but don't expect an All-Star performance.

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