The recent injury to Andrew Miller has taxed the Red Sox’ bullpen to a point in need of fixing. After the 11-inning loss on Saturday, the bullpen is taxed tremendously with everybody in the bullpen save for Jose De La Torre having pitched in the last two ballgames. Several members of the bullpen are going through struggles, and the bullpen is looking like far and away the biggest and most severe area of need as the Red Sox motor their way into trade season.
In a best case scenario, it won’t be long until Miller is back in the Red Sox’ bullpen– his 2.64 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 30.2 innings have proven him a valuable left-handed reliever. However, his left foot sprain looks like it could have been serious, and until he’s back– for however long that may be– Craig Breslow is the only lefty in their bullpen. That isn’t a problem of quality, as Breslow holds a 3.21 ERA and 16:7 K:BB ratio in 29 innings; however, the Red Sox will have to make an awful lot of decisions to prevent overworking the 32 year old.
That’s where Matt Thornton comes into play. Thornton would provide a quality bullpen arm, and being a lefty could help to diminish the likely hefty workload set on Breslow’s shoulders. With the struggling White Sox in 2013, Thornton has a 3.04 ERA and 20:9 K:BB ratio in 26.2 innings pitched. Thornton has been excellent against left-handers, holding them to a .163 batting average this season, but the big lefty has struggled against righties, as they have hit .319 against Thornton.
Still, with Breslow effective against both lefties and righties (.262 batting average against both), Thornton could fill the role of a left-handed specialist. The questions that would play into a decision to acquire Thornton would be primarily the cost and whether or not he would be worth that price.
There’s no question that he would be valuable for the Red Sox so long as he is used primarily against left-handed batters. Given that he is 36 years old and has a few million still left on his contract, which expires at the end of 2013 (though he has a $6 million option for 2014), a middling prospect or two may land Thornton. A prospect or two of the ilk of Deven Marrero, Drake Britton, or Michael Almanzar may be enough to acquire Thornton from the White Sox. As long as the Red Sox don’t pay too much, Thornton would be a great acquisition to bolster the bullpen.