Late last night, the Sox traded Matt Thornton to the Boston Red Sox for Brandon Jacobs (insert football joke here).
Simply put, Thornton was awesome over his tenure with the Sox. Sure, there are people out there that think he couldn’t handle being a closer as the “pressure” was too much (of course he was able to handle the “pressure” of working in the 8th inning of a one run game with no difficulties), but that was just bad luck. Over the years, Thornton seemingly struck out everyone using only a fastball. Fangraphs detailed that fastball dominance years ago. He was good, really good.
The Sox got Thornton from Seattle for the infamous Joe Borchard. In Seattle Thornton could find the plate. With the Sox, he found Coop. And Coop turned him into an All-Star and a very rich man (#CoopMagic). What’s really amazing is that Thornton has a WAR of 11 in his seven plus seasons with the Sox. A reliever who averaged 1.5 WAR a year over a long period of time? That’s nearly unheard of in baseball.
Thornton isn’t any close to what he was four years ago, but he’s a lefty and he’s better that pretty much everyone in AAA. His strikeout figures are going the wrong way, but that’s for the BoSox to deal with now.
Brandon Jacobs is 22 and just moved up to AA. His numbers in high A this year and last are okay... good power numbers, okay walk numbers and a slightly worrying strikeout rate. It also seems like he can run a bit. But for being old for his age, you’d probably like to see something not as all over the place. However, he is a former football player (he was committed to go to Auburn) and sometimes these former football guys take a little longer to develop. One can hope in this case.
Jacobs looked like one of the best prospects in the system heading into 2012, but his season was rather disappointing: .252/.322/.410 with 13 homers, 39 walks, and 128 strikeouts in 437 at-bats. 2013 hasn't been much different: .244/.334/.440 with 11 homers, 33 walks, and 88 strikeouts in 81 games, 291 at-bats for Salem, followed by a 2-for-6 showing in two games after a promotion to Double-A Portland...
He's a fine athlete with plenty of tools, including above average speed and raw power. He has spent most of his career in left field with adequate defensive results; he can play center or right field in a pinch, but his weakish arm fits best in left. This puts more pressure on his bat.
This move was a bit of a no brainer for the Sox. They’re going nowhere and bullpen arms don’t usually bring back much value, especially one on the downside of his career. Seeing that 15 months ago, Jacobs was one of the more exciting prospects in the Red Sox system, that’s a pretty good return. Jacobs provides some upside, even if he hasn’t fulfilled much of his potential. But he’s still youngish and might turn into a 4th outfielder type in a few years. At the same time, the Sox save some money and give Thornton a chance to pitch in the playoffs.