Red Sox 2018 Offseason: Potential non-tender candidates
By Sean Penney
Thornburg has been a complete bust since being acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers two years ago. He was expected to fill the setup role the Red Sox desperately needed but ended up missing the entire 2017 season after undergoing surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder.
He returned in July of this season but was nowhere near the dominant pitching we once saw closing games for the Brewers. Thornburg owned a 5.63 ERA and 1.58 WHIP over the small sample size of 24 innings. His strikeout rate declined from his peak of 12.1 K/9 in 2016 to 7.9 while his walk rate increased to an untenable 3.8 BB/9.
We should have expected there to be some rust following a lengthy layoff but Thornburg showed little reason to expect he’ll return to his previous form before he was shut down for the season in mid-September.
Thornburg is projected to earn $2.3 million next season in his third year of arbitration. Perhaps now that he’s healthy with a full offseason to prepare, he’ll bounce back to being the pitcher the Red Sox thought they were acquiring. Are they willing to risk north of $2 million to find out or will an organization in need of trimming their luxury tax bill decide to replace his roster spot with a cheaper alternative from their farm system?
If the Red Sox bring Thornburg back next season they must either feel better about his upside when healthy than the rest of us do or they are desperate to milk any value they can get out of him in order to justify a trade that cost them an emerging Travis Shaw.