COMMENTARY | According to multiple sources, the Chicago White Sox have traded left-handed reliever Matt Thornton and cash to the Boston Red Sox for prospect Brandon Jacobs. After widespread rumors about various trades involving the Chicago White Sox, this is the first and will fill a big hole in the Boston bullpen after they lost Andrew Miller for the season.
Matt Thornton peppers the Chicago White Sox record books and for good reason. Acquired off the scrap heap in a trade for famous first-round bust Joe Borchard, Thornton had a career renaissance under the tutelage of now well-regarded Chicago White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper.
As a member of the White Sox, Thornton amassed a 3.28 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 463 and 1/3 innings from 2006-2013. He racked up 164 holds and has allowed only 28 percent of inherited runners to score in that time, with an even more impressive 18 percent mark this season to go with 18 holds.
He is in the final season of a 2 year, $12 million contract; there is a team option for $6 million next season and a $1 million buyout. It is unclear at this time how much money is being exchanged between the two teams.
Brandon Jacobs, an outfielder for Double-A Richmond, was drafted in 2009 in the 10 th round and signed for a $750,000 bonus. The former Auburn football recruit received a top 2 round signing bonus to lure him away from the college football powerhouse.
Jacobs saw his career get off to a slow start offensively, a not uncommon occurrence for a high school position player. In 2011, Jacobs finally struck pay-dirt in Low-A Greenville. His breakout season saw him batting .303 to go with 32 doubles, 17 home runs, and 80 RBI. His .881 OPS led him to being ranked #6 by Baseball America in the Boston Red Sox minor league system coming into the 2012 season.
After suffering a hamate bone injury, Jacobs struggled in his 2012 promotion to High-A Salem. He batted just .252 with 13 home runs and 61 RBI. His stolen base total dropped from 30 in 2011 to only 17.
Entering the 2013 season, Jacobs understandably saw his prospect ranking fall to #13 in the strong Boston Red Sox system. He once again got off to a slow start, batting just .195 and .227 in April and May, respectively. However, he caught fire in June, blasting 5 home runs and seeing his walk rate increase substantially. He had an .860 OPS in June and stayed hot in July: he hit 1 home run, 5 doubles, and knocked in 9 runs in 9 games before receiving a long-awaited promotion to Double-A Portland.
Overall, since May 21, Jacobs has batted .291 with a .390 OBP and .907 OPS in 43 games. In just two games in Double-A, he has gone 2 for 6 with a triple. It is unclear at which level Jacobs will debut, as the Double-A Birmingham outfield is filled with talented prospects. Struggling former first-rounder Jared Mitchell may find himself benched or moved to a different level to make room for the new acquisition.
Defensively, Jacobs primarily plays left field. He has improved to the extent that he has gotten some chances to play center field, but he will never be an elite defender. A loss of weight coincided with his increase in stolen bases and improved defense. His arm is not strong enough to be a MLB right fielder.
Jacobs is an impressive athlete and still has youth on his side at just 22-years-old. He earned the large draft bonus based on the promise in his bat and that is still where his value lies. Despite his recent successes, White Sox management is certainly hoping to see even more development from his bat.
For the White Sox, this signals the beginning of what will feel like a long road to the July 31 trade deadline. Others likely to be traded include fellow bullpen men Jesse Crain and Matt Lindstrom. Rumors continue to swirl about other important pieces as well.
Boston receives a diminished version of Matt Thornton, but one that can be well-utilized in a left-handed specialist role. While he once dominated all hitters, he has continued to be effective against lefties, thanks in part to the increased usage of his slider.
Jacob Long, a native to the Chicago area, is a writer for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He has experience covering sports and news for WMC-TV in Memphis, TN and owns the film and TV blog The Renegade's Film Journal. Follow him on Twitter @jlongrc.
- Sports & Recreation
- Chicago White Sox
- Boston Red Sox
- Brandon Jacobs
- Matt Thornton