Red Sox agree to one-year deal with Tyler Thornburg

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 21: Tyler Thornburg
SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 21: Tyler Thornburg /

The Boston Red Sox have avoided going to arbitration with right-handed reliever Tyler Thornburg by agreeing to a one-year deal.

The Boston Red Sox have reached an agreement with right-handed pitcher Tyler Thornburg on a one-year, non-guaranteed contract for the 2018 season to avoid arbitration.

Terms of the deal have not officially been revealed but Sean McAdam of the Boston Sports Journal reported that it’s a one-year, $2.05 million deal. This would match Thornburg’s 2017 salary, which makes sense given that he missed the entire 2017 season due to a shoulder injury.

The deal pays Thornburg a tick below the $2.1 million that MLB Trade Rumors projected but seems more than fair given the Red Sox have already paid a steep price for a pitcher who has yet to return any value.

The Red Sox acquired Thornburg in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers last winter for a package headlined by Travis Shaw. Thornburg was expected to fill the eighth-inning setup role in Boston but ultimately contributed nothing to his new team, while Shaw’s 31-homer breakout season provided the Brew Crew with the power threat the Red Sox were sorely missing.

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Now healthy, Thornburg will get an opportunity to redeem himself. If he can return to form he has the potential to be a significant upgrade to a bullpen that owned the second lowest ERA and third lowest batting average against in the American League this year.

In 2016, Thornburg posted a 2.15 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 12.1 K/9 with the Brewers. He also collected 13 saves, which should give the Red Sox some comfort turning to him in the ninth inning if Craig Kimbrel were unavailable.

Thornburg will join Carson Smith, Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes as the primary right-handers in the bullpen to bridge the gap to Kimbrel. Smith missed most of the 2017 season before returning in September from Tommy John surgery. Kelly hit a troubling second-half slump that leaves us wondering what we can expect from him moving forward. The team showed a baffling level of trust in Barnes before altering his role down the stretch. Boston’s bullpen is full of question marks but has the potential to remain among the elite if at least a few of these guys pan out.

Thornburg becomes the first of Boston’s 13 arbitration eligible players to reach an agreement on a contract for next season.  Smith, Kelly, Mookie Betts, Drew Pomeranz, Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt, Jackie Bradley, Sandy Leon, Steven Wright, Brandon Workman, Christian Vazquez and Eduardo Rodriguez all remain under team control without a contract.

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Given the history the Red Sox have with avoiding arbitration, we should expect all of these players to have at least a one-year deal in place long before the time comes to report to Fort Myers for spring training in February.