Breaking: Red Sox Acquire Tyler Thornburg from Brewers
By Peter Santo
I wrote yesterday that the Red Sox needed bullpen help, and Dave Dombrowski wasted no time in adding another bullpen arm this morning, acquiring Tyler Thornburg from the Milwaukee Brewers. In exchange, Travis Shaw (aka the Mayor of Ding Dong City) is headed to Milwaukee along with prospects Mauricio Dubon and Josh Pennington.
While it’s not surprising the Red Sox made a trade for a relief pitcher, Thornburg wasn’t exactly on anyone’s radar as far as possible trade chips go. But what’s clear is that Thornburg is an elite reliever who is under club control for the next three seasons.
Thornburg had a breakout season with the Brewers in 2016, pitching to a 2.15 ERA with 12.1 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and a 32.4 percent ground-ball rate in 67 innings. Those are elite numbers for sure. He can also be dominant against both righties and lefties, something the Red Sox definitely need.
Late inning relief help has been a priority for the Red Sox this offseason, last year’s eighth inning options Brad Ziegler and Koji Uehara both hit free agency this offseason and last offseason’s main trade acquisition Carson Smith is still recovering from Tommy John Surgery.
Thornburg will most likely slide alongside converted starters Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes in the bullpen, though there is still room for another arm to slide in.
If all goes according to plan, a bullpen featuring Kelly, Kimbrel, Thornburg and eventually Smith in the late innings would be formidable. This trade is essentially Carson Smith 2.0.
An elite bullpen arm did not come without a hefty price tag, and the Sox gave up a lot. Travis Shaw began last season as the everyday third baseman, he had a very up and down season, but did club 16 home runs. He figures to slot in as Milwaukee’s starting third baseman and has shown 20 homer potential.
This trade continues the mass exodus of former Boston third baseman headed to Milwaukee. Shaw will join Will Middlebrooks and Garin Cecchini.
Trading Shaw likely signals that Pablo Sandoval (gulp) or Brock Holt will likely begin the season as the third baseman until Yoan Moncada is deemed ready to take over.
Dubon is a prospect who was gaining stature as a top prospect in Boston. It was just a question of where he would fit in a crowded Boston infield that features stars like Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia. He was seen as someone who could’ve been a super utility man a la Brock Holt in Boston. But Dubon will likely start as a middle infielder in another organization.
Pennington has a big arm and potential but he’s far from big league ready. He spent last season in single A Lowell. He’s simply a guy a team like the Red Sox trades and a team like the Brewers acquire.