Showing posts with label Matt Thornton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Matt Thornton. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Top five remaining free agents going in to March

David Freese
As the calendar turns to March, there are no more remaining free agents who turned down a qualifying offer earlier in the offseason. However, that does not mean there are no decent players left on the market.

Sure, all the high-impact guys have signed now, but there still are some free agents out there who can provide value to a team in the right situation. Here's the complete list of players still available, and let's take a more detailed look at the best of the bunch:

1. David Freese, third baseman -- Freese will turn 33 in April and he's now four years removed from his 20-home run campaign with the Cardinals in 2012, but you would think Freese would have a job by now given that third base often is a hard position for teams to fill. The veteran posted a .257/.323/.420 slash line last year with 14 home runs and 56 RBIs in 121 games with the Los Angeles Angels. I'm a little bit surprised Freese hasn't landed back with the Angels. The Houston Astros and Cleveland Indians also would be good fits.

2. Pedro Alvarez, first baseman/designated hitter -- I can't blame the Pittsburgh Pirates for cutting ties with Alvarez. He's a low-average guy and a lousy fielder, and that makes it hard to justify the eight-figure salary he likely would have gotten in arbitration. Alvarez is a career .236 hitter, and he's struck out at least 118 times in each of the past four seasons. However, during that same span of four years, he has hit 101 home runs -- so about 25 a year. He has value as a designated hitter and fallback option at first base for an American League club. New York? Houston? Cleveland? Maybe Boston if the Red Sox get sick of the Hanley Ramirez show?

3. Austin Jackson, outfielder -- Jackson is a strong defender at any of the three outfield spots, and he has experience, having started in center field for a contending Detroit Tigers team from 2010 through the middle of 2014, when he was traded to the Seattle Mariners. Jackson just recently turned 29, but his OPS of .655 in 2014 and .696 in 2015 seems to be giving potential suitors pause. Jackson's OPS during his time in Detroit was .755, but he's taken a turn for the worse lately. The Angels have a gaping hole in left field, but reports indicate Jackson turned down their one-year offer. Baltimore could be a fit after the Orioles struck out on Dexter Fowler. He also could land in the AL Central, where the Indians, White Sox and Royals all could use some outfield insurance.

4. Matt Thornton, relief pitcher -- Thornton is entering his age-39 season, and his elite years with the White Sox from 2008 to 2010 are past. That said, Thornton still was a competent reliever with the Washington Nationals last year. He posted a 2.18 ERA in 60 games and limited left-handed hitters to a .198/.205/.279 slash line. In today's matchup-obsessed game, you would think some team would want a left-handed reliever who can retire left-handed hitters, no matter the age of that pitcher. There are worse left-handed relievers on MLB rosters than Matt Thornton, that's for sure. Thornton has said he is waiting for a team to show "serious" interest in him. I read that as teams have offered him a minor-league contract and an invitation to big-league camp, but he doesn't want to sign unless someone offers him a major-league deal.

5. Tim Lincecum, pitcher -- The 31-year-old is now seven years removed from his back-to-back NL Cy Young Awards in 2008 and 2009, and he's coming off an injury that limited him to 15 starts last year, when he went 7-4 with a 4.13 ERA with the San Francisco Giants. Supposedly, at least 20 teams have requested Lincecum's medical records, so proving he's healthy would likely lead to a contract offer. At some point in the near future, Lincecum is going to hold a showcase for teams. The Detroit Tigers will be there. Other interested clubs reportedly include Miami, Baltimore and San Diego.

Honorable mention, Ryan Raburn, outfielder -- The Giants are reportedly interested in the White Sox killer, and if you're a Sox fan like me, you're just praying that some team in the National League takes Raburn out of your sight. Raburn had eight home runs last season -- three against the Sox -- and 29 RBIs -- seven against the Sox. Twenty of his 82 career homers are against the Sox, as are 82 of his 322 career RBIs. Eighty-two RBIs against the Sox! His next highest totals are 12 home runs and 25 RBIs against Kansas City. Somebody make it stop.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Blue Jays stock up on former White Sox pitchers

David Aardsma
David Aardsma still plays baseball for a living. Can you believe that?

It was a slow news weekend around MLB, so I was just going through the recent transactions to see if I could find anything interesting. Sure enough, I saw Aardsma's name on there.

He signed a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday, and will report to big league spring training.

Aardsma was terrible nine years ago when he was young and healthy with the White Sox. He compiled a 6.40 ERA in 25 appearances with the South Siders in 2007. He's since played for five different teams, and has a 4.27 career ERA in 331 appearances.

He's pitched in only 77 games total over the past five seasons after having Tommy John surgery in 2011. Last year, he had a 4.70 ERA in 33 relief appearances with Atlanta.

This year, he'll try to stick in Toronto.

He'll be joined in Jays camp by former Sox starting pitcher Gavin Floyd, who signed a one-year, $1 million contract with Toronto on Monday.

Unlike Aardsma, Floyd did some good things on the South Side, winning 10 or more games for five consecutive years from 2008 to 2012. His best year was 2008, when he went 17-8 with a 3.84 ERA for the Sox's last division winner.

Floyd blew out his elbow in May 2013, and the Sox let him walk the following offseason. He pitched for Atlanta in 2014, then for Cleveland last year. Both of his last two seasons ended with elbow fractures, so that's three straight years of elbow problems for Floyd.

I'd say he's a long shot to make an impact in Toronto this year.

So, the perpetually mediocre (at best) Aardsma has a contract, and the oft-injured Floyd has a contract. Meanwhile, former Sox reliever Matt Thornton, who was actually decent last season, sits by the phone and waits.

Baseball is a strange business sometimes.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Howie Kendrick, Jean Segura, Carlos Quentin, Mark Buehrle, etc.

Howie Kendrick
Shifting the focus from SoxFest and its aftermath, let's take a look at some of the other news and notes from around baseball the past few days.

Kendrick returns to Dodgers on two-year deal; Segura to Diamondbacks

Veteran second baseman Howie Kendrick signed a two-year, $20 million contract to return to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, a deal that figures to be a bargain for the Dodgers.

Kendrick turned down a qualifying offer that would have paid him $15.8 million for the 2016 season, and apparently could not find another team that was interested in coughing up a draft pick in order to sign him.

This move makes the Dodgers better, because Kendrick is a better solution at second base than a platoon of Chase Utley and Enrique Hernandez. Moreover, it keeps Kendrick away from the NL West rival Arizona Diamondbacks, who have needs in the middle infield and seemed to be a logical destination for Kendrick.

Apparently, the Diamondbacks didn't want to part with the 39th pick in the draft, which they would have surrendered to the Dodgers had they signed Kendrick. Instead, they traded pitcher Chase Anderson, infielder Aaron Hill and minor leaguer Isan Diaz to the Milwaukee Brewers for shortstop Jean Segura and pitcher Tyler Wagner.

Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart said the club is "seeking a little bit more offense" with this trade. OK, let's compare Kendrick and Segura.

2015:
Kendrick: .295/.336/.409, 9 HRs, 54 RBIs, 6 SBs
Segura: .257/.281/.336, 6 HRs, 50 RBIs, 25 SBs

Career:
Kendrick: .293/.336/.409
Segura: .266/.301/.360

If you were "seeking a little bit more offense," which player would you add? Kendrick, right? It's a slam dunk.

So, instead of surrendering the 39th pick in the draft to sign Kendrick and keep him away from the Dodgers, the Diamondbacks surrendered a major league pitcher (Anderson) and a good prospect (Diaz) to trade for Segura, who is clearly a lesser player than Kendrick.

This is a fail for Arizona.

Quentin comes out of retirement, signs with Twins

Former White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin, 33, will attempt a comeback with the Minnesota Twins. He signed a minor league deal Tuesday that would pay him $750,000 if he is added to the 40-man roster.

Quentin enjoyed his best season in 2008 with the White Sox, when he totaled 36 home runs and 100 RBIs. Injuries have plagued his career -- he hasn't played more than 86 games in a season since 2011. He last played in the majors with San Diego in 2014 and announced his retirement after Atlanta released him in April 2015.

Buehrle not signing a contract, not retiring either

Former White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle, currently a free agent, says he's “not planning to sign, but not officially retiring," acccording to reports.

The 37-year-old lefty finished last season with a 3.81 ERA with the Toronto Blue Jays and probably could help a team as a veteran at the back of the rotation.

If some team has an injury to a significant member of its starting staff during spring training, I wouldn't be surprised if that team gives Buehrle a call.

Will anyone sign Thornton?

Continuing with this theme of former White Sox, they say left-handers can pitch forever. That being the case, how come relief pitcher Matt Thornton can't find a job?

Sure, he's 39 years old and not as overpowering as he used to be, but he held left-handed hitters to a .198/.205/.279 slash line and compiled a 2.18 ERA with the Washington Nationals last year.

Hard to believe some team can't use that.

Olivo gets minor league deal with Giants

Former White Sox catcher Miguel Olivo, 37, has signed a minor league deal with San Francisco. Olivo spent 2015 in the Mexican League, exiled after the Dodgers released him in 2014 for biting off a chunk of Alex Guerrero's ear during a dugout brawl at Triple-A Albuquerque.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Checking in with former White Sox pitchers ... are any of them missed?

We know the White Sox had a respectable pitching staff in 2013, despite a miserable 63-99 record. The team numbers (3.98 ERA, 1.329 WHIP, 4.13 FIP), while not championship-caliber, were not terrible either.

We also know those numbers are down across the board here in 2014, even though the Sox (20-22) are still hanging around .500 going into this weekend's series against the Houston Astros. So far this season, Sox pitchers have posted a 4.74 ERA. The WHIP sits at 1.476, with a 4.44 FIP.

The Sox have dealt with a couple of key pitching injuries this year. Ace Chris Sale has been limited to four starts, and reliever Nate Jones has appeared in just two games. Both pitchers remain on the disabled list. Other pitchers have underperformed severely. Rookie Erik Johnson couldn't find the strike zone and earned himself a demotion back to Charlotte. Free-agent signee Felipe Paulino was a disaster in the rotation and eventually ended up on the disabled list.

In addition, several pieces of the 2013 pitching staff are no longer here for various reasons. Some were traded as salary dumps. Some were traded for young position players to get the rebuilding process started. Another left via free agency.

The Sox pitching staff is weaker this year because of a combination of factors, one of which is the fact that some guys who helped the team in the past are now elsewhere. But as I look at the list of pitchers who were here last year but are gone now, I can't say I miss any of them all that much.

Here's a closer look at those six pitchers and how they're doing now. All statistics are entering Friday's games:

Jake Peavy (Boston)

South Side departure: The veteran was traded last July in a three-team deal that netted the Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia.

Current numbers: 1-1, 3.94 ERA, 1.458 WHIP in eight starts

Is he missed?: People have noted Peavy is the only player still healthy who was involved in last July's deal. Garcia is on the DL for the Sox, and Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias also is on the shelf. But, while Peavy's ERA is decent, I expect it to go up if he continues pitching the way he has. He's walked 27 men in 48 innings this year. His WHIP is well above his career norm of 1.184. The soon-to-be 33-year-old is on the back side of his career. I think the Sox traded him at the right time. Even with Garcia sidelined with a serious shoulder injury, he's far more likely to help the Sox over the next five or six years than an aging pitcher like Peavy.

Gavin Floyd (Atlanta)

South Side departure: An elbow injury limited the veteran to just five starts in 2013. He signed a free-agent deal with the Braves over the offseason.

Current numbers: 0-1, 2.70 ERA in two starts

Is he missed?: Floyd has made it back from Tommy John surgery and recently joined the Atlanta rotation. I've heard some people argue the Sox should have brought Floyd back on an incentive-laden deal, and that he would look good at the back of the rotation right now. That's probably true, but can you imagine what people would have said if the Sox had re-signed Floyd in December or January? The fans would have been howling about the team wasting resources on an injured player.

Hector Santiago (L.A. Angels)

South Side departure: The left-hander was traded over the offseason as part of a three-team deal that netted the Sox center fielder Adam Eaton.

Current numbers: 0-6, 5.09 ERA in eight appearances (seven starts)

Is he missed?: The Sox did a good job of selling high on Santiago, who made 23 starts and posted a respectable 3.56 ERA in 2013. But, Santiago is nothing more than a No. 4 or No. 5 starter, and he lacks the command to be a consistent pitcher. The Sox recognized he was unlikely to duplicate his success and flipped him for Eaton, who is the center fielder and leadoff hitter of the present and future. While there are injury concerns with Eaton, I don't think anyone would argue his upside is far greater than Santiago's. That's especially true since Santiago was recently removed from the Angels' rotation for ineffectiveness.

Addison Reed (Arizona)

South Side departure: The closer was dealt to the Diamonbacks straight up for third base prospect Matt Davidson.

Current numbers: 1-3, 5.03 ERA, 1.271 WHIP, 11 for 13 in save opportunities

Is he missed?:  As long as Davidson continues to struggle in Triple-A, people are going to continue to criticize the decision to trade Reed. That's especially true because Matt Lindstrom has been hit-or-miss as a closer for the Sox this season. However, it's fair to say Reed has had Arizona fans reaching for the antacid as well this year. Look at that high ERA and WHIP. It's not what you want from a closer. I like Reed, and I'm not going to try to convince anyone that he's not a decent bullpen guy. He is. However, he was never dominant and shouldn't have been considered an untouchable by any means. It is way too early to give up on the 22-year-old Davidson, and it's still way too early to judge that trade.

Matt Thornton (N.Y. Yankees)

South Side departure: His salary was dumped last July in a trade with Boston. The Sox acquired outfielder Brandon Jacobs from the Red Sox. Jacobs was later sent to the Diamondbacks as a throw-in as part of the Eaton/Santiago trade. Thornton signed with the Yankees over the offseason.

Current numbers: 0-1, 5.40 ERA, 16 games, 6.2 IP, 1.800 WHIP

Is he missed?: Thornton is nothing more than a situational left-hander these days. His K rate is about half of what it was during his White Sox heyday from 2008-2010. He's 37 years old. He's got a lot of mileage on his arm. By this time next year, he'll probably be out of baseball. He's had a nice career as a relief pitcher, but it's all but over now.

Jesse Crain (Houston)

South Side departure: He was traded (while on the disabled list) last July as part of a conditional deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. He never threw a pitch with Tampa Bay and signed with Houston as a free agent over the offseason.

Current numbers: None. He hasn't thrown a pitch since June 29, 2013, when he was still with the White Sox.

Is he missed?: Crain had an 0.74 ERA in 38 appearances at the time the Sox put him on the disabled list last year. He was always good when healthy, but you can't say you miss a guy who hasn't been on a big-league mound in nearly a year.

As a Sox fan, are there any of these guys you would take back if you could? Reed would help, but I think I'd rather have Davidson in the organization, all things considered. Even though the pitching is generally weaker this year, the Sox have made more good moves than bad over the past 12 months.

Friday, January 31, 2014

White Sox bullpen roles still to be determined

Nate Jones
I don't expect the White Sox to make a big playoff push in 2014, but I've still been telling friends that I'm excited for the season. There has been quite a bit of roster turnover in the last 6 to 8 months, and even if the Sox don't do a lot of winning, I'm looking forward to seeing how GM Rick Hahn's offseason moves work out.

The changes go well beyond the everyday lineup. Another area of the Sox roster that enters spring training with a new look is the bullpen. Going into 2013, Addison Reed was the incumbent closer, and veterans Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain were entrenched as the primary setup men. All three of those players have since been traded -- Thornton and Crain left as part of midseason deals last summer, and Reed was moved during the offseason.

Holdovers Nate Jones and Matt Lindstrom will again be a part of the Sox bullpen in 2014. The team also has added free-agent relievers Ronald Belisario and Scott Downs. We can't say with certainty which seven pitchers will make up the Sox bullpen on Opening Day, but barring injury, we can expect those four guys to be there. The question is, who will pitch in what role?

I've been asked my opinion on the closer situation a few times now. The general feeling is Jones and Lindstrom will compete for the job in spring, and I've been saying I think Lindstrom should get the nod. First off, the 33-year-old veteran has been in that role before. He saved 23 games for the Houston Astros in 2010. Secondly, Lindstrom is more of a groundball pitcher than a big strikeout guy. Lindstrom had only 46 strikeouts in 60.2 IP last year.

Why does that matter? Well, in general I'd rather have a groundball pitcher like Lindstrom start his own inning when he enters the game. If Lindstrom comes in with runners on second and third with one out in the seventh inning, he's probably not going to get you that strikeout you need to get out of the inning with no runs scored. In fact, there's a better chance he'll induce a grounder that leaks through the infield for a two-run single.

In those kind of situations, I prefer bringing a strikeout pitcher out of the bullpen. For the White Sox, that guy is Jones, who had 89 strikeouts in 78 innings pitched in 2013. When you need that big punchout with a runner on third and less than two outs, Jones is the best bet the Sox have.

So, if you agree with this line of thinking, you want Jones to "pitch in traffic" when the situation calls for it in the seventh and eighth innings. Then, you go with Lindstrom in the ninth to start his own inning.

At least I thought this logic was good, until I looked at the numbers.

Unfortunately, Jones has not pitched well with runners in scoring position in his career. Opposing hitters have put up a robust .311/.382/.494 slash line against Jones in those situations. So, even though he's a strikeout pitcher, maybe he's not so adept at getting that big K when you really need one. These numbers suggest Jones is actually better off starting his own inning.

Opposing hitters put up a .286/.340/.352 slash line against Lindstrom with RISP last year, which was not too far off from his career norm of .264/.350/.365. All in all, Lindstrom is an OK option for entering the game with men on base. Being a groundball pitcher, he is capable of inducing a key double play from time to time.

Belisario, another groundball pitcher, has the best track record of the group with RISP. Opponents have posted a .235/.363/.324 slash line against Belisario in those situations. The high OBP is indicative of Belisario's propensity to walk batters, but the .324 slugging percentage shows he's pretty good at keeping the ball not only in the park, but in the infield as well. Even though he doesn't strike out a lot of guys (49Ks in 68 IP in 2013), he's a reasonable option as far as cleaning up someone else's mess. He'll certainly have a seventh or eighth-inning role with the Sox this season.

Downs, in case you were wondering, has given up a .255/.363/.362 slash line with RISP in his career. As the only left-hander among this group of four, I'm sure we'll see him in the seventh and eighth innings against select left-handed hitters.

So, the closer question remains, Lindstrom or Jones? Numbers aside, I'm still leaning toward Lindstrom for the ninth. If for no other reason, if he racks up 15 to 20 saves by the All-Star break, maybe Hahn will have a better chance of flipping him for a reasonable prospect in July.

Right now, here's my educated guess on what the Sox 12-man pitching staff will look like:
SP: Chris Sale
SP: Jose Quintana
SP: John Danks
SP: Felipe Paulino
SP: Erik Johnson
RP: Matt Lindstrom
RP: Nate Jones
RP: Ronald Belisario
RP: Scott Downs
RP: Daniel Webb
RP: Jake Petricka
RP: Eric Surkamp

Here are a few other names in the mix for a roster spot:
SP: Andre Rienzo
RP: Donnie Veal
SP: Charlie Leesman

I figure Webb, Petricka, Surkamp, Rienzo, Veal and Leesman are competing for three open spots. Now you know which three I'm expecting to win the jobs. We'll see if I'm right in about two months.

In the meantime, who do you think should be the White Sox closer this year? 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

White Sox turn surplus into starting centerfielder

The White Sox resolved their logjam of starting pitchers by dealing one on Tuesday.

The Sox sent Hector Santiago and a player-to-be-named (probably Brandon Jacobs) as part of a three-team trade with the Diamondbacks and Angels, receiving Adam Eaton.

The 25-year-old left-handed outfielder has been highly touted coming through Arizona's farm system since being drafted in the 19th round of the 2010 draft. After a successful cup of coffee with the D'Backs in 2012 in which he hit .259/.382/.412 over 103 plate appearances, last season was derailed for Eaton when a torn UCL in his throwing arm sidelined him July. He ended up batting .252/.314/.360.

Eaton probably owes his low draft position to his modest stature (he is only 5-foot-8), but the results speak for themselves: In 1,560 minor-league plate appearances Eaton has slashed a .348/.450/.501 line, and has mostly answered questions about his ability to stick in centerfield.

That batting average isn't likely to carry over to the American League, but Eaton still has the offensive tools to be a very good leadoff hitter.

This is a big get for a White Sox team that probably wasn't going to stretch Avisail Garcia in center, and has apparently moved on from the idea of Alejandro De Aza playing there regularly. The Sox are now set to deal either De Aza, or incumbent left fielder Dayan Viciedo. If they don't like the offers for either player, De Aza probably becomes a fourth outfielder and Viciedo likely loses playing time against right-handed pitchers, against whom he's only managed to hit .242/.287/.388 so far in his big league career (vs. .322/.357/.551 against lefties).

As far as the players the Sox gave up, Santiago was a fun player to watch, and a fun player to root for, but despite the huge strikeout numbers (8.7 K/9), he still hasn't managed to get his walks under control (4.5 BB/9), and is too often victimized by home runs (17 allowed last year in 149 innings).

Santiago was not likely to repeat his 3.56 ERA from last year with those factors working against him. It's also an open question if he can handle a starter's workload as last year he wore down noticibly as the season progressed, partially evidenced by his declining K rate each month from May on (10.0 in May, 9.9 in June, 9.5 in July, 6.7 in August and 4.7 in September).

That's not to say Santiago can't improve, the same way Quintana did in a second season spent primarily as a starter. But Santiago was still the rotation's weakest link, making him the most expendable piece the Sox could give up in trade.

Jacobs, an outfielder that came over from the Red Sox in the Matt Thornton trade, only batted .237/.291/.327 at Charlotte after his arrival. The 23-year-old will be eligible to be taken in this week's Rule V draft, though probably won't be selected.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Adam Dunn claims he is considering retirement

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported Tuesday that White Sox first baseman Adam Dunn is thinking of retiring at the end of the season.

We all know there's no way that's going to happen, so let me pause for a moment while you finish chuckling at the absurdity of it all ....

OK, now that you're done, I'll point out that Dunn has one year left on his contract with the Sox, and that contract is worth $15 million. That means Dunn has 15 million good reasons to come back and play next year, no matter how bad the Sox are going to be.

The 33-year-old Dunn has a legitimate shot at 500 home runs. He needs just 64 more. But, he claims neither money nor milestones will cause him to continue playing.

“I’m not coming back just to come back for money or because I have one year left (on his contract),” Dunn told Fox Sports on Tuesday. “I’m not coming back to chase home run numbers or whatever. If I end up with 499 and I’m not having fun, see ya -- 499 it is.”

I don't buy it. I think Dunn is speaking out of frustration. The Sox are 56-81 this year, far worse than even the biggest pessimist could have imagined. Dunn's buddy, Jake Peavy, got traded to a contending Boston team midseason. Other veterans, like Alex Rios, Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain, were also moved to clubs that are in the hunt.

You can bet your life the Sox tried to trade Dunn as well, but found no takers. Dunn is stuck on a losing team with an increasingly young roster, and he's jealous of Peavy and others who were traded to teams that are in a more favorable situation. More than anything, that is the source of Dunn's torment.

Count Sox manager Robin Ventura among the people who believe Dunn will play next year.

“I don’t see him not playing (next season). I’ve heard a lot of guys say that, and they still play," Ventura told Fox Sports. "“It’s tough. For (veterans) like that, it’s hard to go through. You’re frustrated. Sometimes, it’s you. Sometimes, it’s the way the team is playing. But it doesn’t guarantee anything for next season. He has been around long enough to know next year could be different. It can be better than it is right now."

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see Dunn retire. I'd love for the Sox to have $15 million more to spend on someone or something else. But that just isn't going to happen. If I had to take a guess, I'd say the Sox and Dunn are mutually stuck with each other through 2014.

See you next spring in Glendale, Adam. 




Thursday, August 22, 2013

When it comes to the Cubs, Chicago media lose perspective quickly

Right-hander Jake Arrieta struggled Wednesday night in his third start with the Cubs. He lasted just four innings, allowing six earned runs on five hits. He was fortunate to escape with a no-decision as the Washington Nationals thumped Chicago, 11-6.

What significance should we place on Arrieta's poor showing? Well, virtually none. Nobody should put much stock in four or five starts, let alone just one outing.

But when I saw Arrieta struggling, I couldn't help but think of the ludicrous column ESPN's Bruce Levine wrote less than a week ago, which opined that the Cubs "may have found the next staff ace" in the 27-year-old right-hander.

Really, Bruce? Really?

I understand Arrieta had been great in his previous start. He fired seven shutout innings of two-hit ball against a good-hitting St. Louis team on Aug. 16. And it is true Arrieta has a power arm and swing-and-miss stuff.

However, Levine should ask a Baltimore fan sometime about Arrieta's future as "a potential ace." That narrative is nothing new. The Orioles thought so much of Arrieta they made him their Opening Day starter in 2012. Arrieta won his start that day. Also in 2012, Arrieta threw eight shutout innings against the Yankees. He had another outing where he struck out nine Pittsburgh Pirates in seven innings. Alas, those were his only three wins in 18 starts. By the All-Star break, Arrieta had been removed from the rotation.

That's right: In a matter of three months, Arrieta went from presumed staff ace to the Baltimore bullpen. This is a pitcher who has never been a consistent performer. He's a tease; he wows you with great stuff. At times, he can dominate a lineup. Other times, he infuriates you by getting knocked out in the third or fourth inning. He can't be trusted. Why do you think the Orioles were willing to trade him to the Cubs, Bruce? I guarantee you it wasn't because they didn't like his 96 mph fastball.

You see, once a guy gets to be 27 years old, he's no longer a prospect. It's time to put up or shut up. Arrieta never put up in a Baltimore uniform, so they sent him packing. Potential doesn't mean anything for a pitcher of that age. It's all about results now.

I get the sneaking suspicion that Levine and others think Arrieta is still a prospect. He is not. Some members of the Chicago media need to get their heads out of the clouds when it comes to analyzing the Cubs. Let's call Arrieta what he is: a reclamation project.

He had multiple opportunities with the Orioles. He threw them all away. Will the change of scenery help him? Maybe. Matt Thornton was a busted prospect when the White Sox acquired him from the Seattle Mariners in 2006, and he became a valuable bullpen piece on the South Side for years. Sometimes, a reclamation project gets redeemed, but it's always a flip of the coin with these kind of guys.

I know this is a strange concept for some writers, but let's see how Arrieta responds the rest of the year. The Cubs are going to give him a look down the stretch, and why not? If he fails again, he's not hurting anything. But right now, he shouldn't even be penciled into the Cubs' 2014 rotation, let alone be a candidate for the title of "staff ace." 

In my world, the Cubs should be happy if Arrieta becomes a useful back-of-the-rotation starter.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

White Sox trade Matt Thornton to Red Sox

I mentioned earlier this week the time was right for the White Sox to trade Matt Thornton. Indeed, the rumored deal with the Boston Red Sox came to pass Friday night. The South Siders sent the veteran left-handed reliever and cash considerations to the Red Sox for outfield prospect Brandon Jacobs.

Thornton, 36, was 0-3 this season with a 3.86 ERA in 40 appearances. He ranks first in White Sox history in all-time relief appearances with 512. In those games, he went 31-35 with a 3.28 ERA. He recorded 486 strikeouts in 463.1 innings. There's no question Thornton was an effective bullpen piece for the Sox for a long time.

But, as we noted, because of age, declining performance and contract status, it was time for a change. The Sox made a move that makes sense for all parties involved.

Thornton is going to a contending team in Boston. The Red Sox lead the American League East by 4.5 games entering Saturday's play. He'll be reunited with Juan Nieves, the former White Sox bullpen coach who now serves as the pitching coach in Boston. He'll be able to fill a role as a situational left-handed reliever, a hole the Red Sox needed plugged after losing Andrew Miller for the season.

The White Sox, meanwhile, got some salary relief out of this deal. Reports indicate the team shipped about $750,000 to Boston as part of the trade, which will almost cover the buyout for Thornton's contract at the end of the season. Including buyout, Thornton was owed about $3.5 million for the rest of his deal. So, the Sox get a savings of roughly $2.75 million.

They also acquire the right-handed hitting Jacobs, who is an OK, but not great prospect.

Jacobs, 22, is hitting .247 with 11 home runs, 44 RBIs, 46 runs scored and 10 stolen bases in 84 games this year with Class-A Salem and Double-A Portland. He hit .421 with six doubles, two home runs and 12 RBIs over his final 11 games with Salem before being promoted to Portland on July 10.

Scouting reports indicate he lacks the arm strength to play right field, so the Sox will probably assign him to Double-A Birmingham and park him in left field. Baseball America ranks him as the 13th-best prospect in the Boston system.

Some White Sox fans have griped about the team not getting enough for Thornton, but to be honest, this is about what I expected out of this trade. Realistically, Thornton will probably make 25-30 appearances for Boston the rest of the season. He'll probably provide about 25-30 innings pitched as well, and then the Red Sox will buy him out and let him walk at the end of the year.

How much is 25-30 innings of aging Matt Thornton worth on the trade market? Well, it's worth a second-tier prospect and some salary relief. And that's what the Sox got for Thornton. 


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

It's time for the White Sox to trade Matt Thornton

Let's get right to the point of today's blog entry: There is no way Matt Thornton should be back with the White Sox in 2014.

Thornton is already overpaid this season. He's making $5.5 million. The White Sox hold a $6 million option on him for next year with a $1 million buyout. 

It would be insanity to pick up that option.

Thornton is being paid like a closer, but at this stage of his career, he's nothing more than a situational left-handed reliever. Just check out his lefty-righty slash line for this year:

vs. left-handers: .176/.236/.629
vs. right-handers: .333/.429/.866

Thornton looks like a pitcher who no longer trusts his stuff against right-handed batters. Case in point, Monday night's game against the Cubs. Thornton entered the game in the eighth inning of a 2-2 tie. He retired the left-handed batting Anthony Rizzo, then started picking at the corners of the plate against a pair of right-handed hitters.

It's difficult to walk the free-swinging Alfonso Soriano, but Thornton managed to do it on four pitches. He then fell behind 3-and-1 to switch-batting Dioner Navarro before giving up a single. Then, the left-handed Luis "Boom Boom Valbuena, who inexplicably owns the Sox, punked Thornton for a two-run double that gave the Cubs a 4-2 lead. That ended Thornton's night, and he took the loss as the North Siders went on to an 8-2 victory.

Thornton is 36 years old, and he's been in steady decline over the last four years. His numbers reflect that. Take a look at the statistics below. In particular, pay attention to the rising ERA and declining strikeout rate.

ERA
2010: 2.67
2011: 3.32
2012: 3.46
2013: 4.00

Ks per 9 IP
2010: 12.0
2011: 9.5
2012: 7.3
2013: 6.7

WHIP
2010: 1.005
2011: 1.358
2012: 1.231
2013: 1.296

Hits per 9 IP
2010: 6.1
2011: 9.1
2012: 8.7
2013: 8.3

HR per 9 IP
2010: 0.4
2011: 0.5
2012: 0.6
2013: 1.3

You can see the problem. Thornton doesn't miss as many bats these days. He gives up more hits and home runs than he did in the past. His ERA climbs each year as a result. It's nothing to be ashamed about. It's just reality for an aging pitcher who has made 60 or more appearances for 7 seven straight seasons. Soon, it will become 8 straight seasons.

There's no reason for the White Sox to waste $6 million on this declining pitcher for next season. Thornton is still useful as a situational left-hander, but you can find guys to fill that particular role for much less money.

There are rumors the Boston Red Sox are interested in Thornton's services for the rest of this year. If I'm White Sox GM Rick Hahn, I'm pulling the trigger on that deal.

Thornton's subtraction from the Sox roster will not hurt the team now or in the future. Thornton has done a nice job for the Sox through the years, but his best days are past and it is time for a change -- for both the player and the team.