Boston Red Sox five biggest player busts from 2010-2019
By Mike Towle
Righty relief pitcher Tyler Thornburg already had one strike against him when he came to the Red Sox after the 2016 season, the expectation being that he would be Boston’s main setup guy running interference for ace closer Craig Kimbrel.
Strike one: Thornburg arrived in Boston in December 2016 via an unpopular trade with the Milwaukee Brewers that sent well-liked corner infielder Travis Shaw as well as three prospects, including promising shortstop Mauricio Dubon, to the Brewers. Thornburg – and Red Sox Baseball VP Dave Dombrowski – were in the hole from the git-go; Double D’s for making the ill-fated trade in the first place.
Strike two came when Thornburg reported to spring training in 2018 with a sore left shoulder, ultimately diagnosed as thoracic outlet syndrome, as reported by the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham. Season-ending surgery was performed on June 16. It would be another 13 months before Thornburg made it back to the Red Sox mound, in July 2018.
Strike three was simultaneously watching Shaw, now adorned in a Brewers uniform, tear up National League pitching. The lanky lefty hitter with the smooth-as-silk-swing, who had worn down in the second half of Boston’s 2016 season – his first full MLB season – hit 31 home runs and knocked in 101 runs for the Brewers in 2017. He rubbed it in Dombrowski’s face some more with 32 home runs and 86 ribbies in 2018 while producing a second straight .825+ OPS.
The Red Sox gave Thornburg plenty of chances to redeem himself in the second half of 2018, but things only got worse. He posted a 5.63 ERA in 25 relief stints in 2018 and was left off the postseason roster as the Red Sox went on to win the World Series.
Despite a lackluster spring training in 2019, Thornburg was given another chance. He broke camp with the Red Sox and quickly broke Dombrowski’s heart once and for all, producing a 7.71 ERA and 1.661 WHIP in 16 games and 18.2 innings, all wrapped around a stint on the injured list for what was called a right hip impingement. He was finally released by the Red Sox in July, and Dombrowski exited a little over a month later.