Matt Thornton we hardly knew ye. That isn’t true at all, we knew Matt Thornton pretty well. He was a solid presence in the White Sox bullpen since 2006, pretty much a setup man for the closer of any particular season. He got a try out as the closer for one April, but that didn’t take. Thornton is always the player I think of when people remark that there is nothing inherently different about being a closer as opposed to any other reliever. I think Matt Thornton would disagree. This year, Thornton seemed to be emerging as a lefty specialist, even a LOOGY at times. All things considered, Thornton was a very able reliever for the White Sox and as Chris Rongey noted in the Daily Herald, he was one of the best they had.
However, Matt Thornton was getting old, 36 to be exact and there has been a drop off in his performance in the last couple of years. I’m sure he’ll have a job in the major leagues for a few more years if he wants it, reliable, fairly durable lefty relievers are nice to have around. Taking a long look at the White Sox future, Matt Thornton would not have added much to that picture.
The future is what they get in return from the Red Sox in Brandon Jacobs. He is a 22 year old power guy, who is like most futures trading a bit of a gamble. According to Soxprospects.com Brandon has, “shown strong baseball acumen and ability to incorporate adjustments” and has a “high power ceiling. Plus-to-better power potential.” And now the bad news, “Will be tested against advanced secondary offerings” and “Below-average defensive outfielder. Currently struggles reading balls off the bat and tends to freeze on contact… Projects as a left fielder during his career.” So basically the White Sox got a slightly younger version of Dayan Viciedo. According to Chris Hatfield, Executive Editor of Soxprospects.com, Jacobs was ranked 36th in their system though Baseball America had him ranked as high as 6th in 2011, though he tumbled to 13th in the 2012 preseason rankings and Keith Law, via twitter, sent back “ha” when I told him I saw him ranked 11th in some publication.
I would say that both teams got what they wanted in the deal; the Red Sox some bullpen help, the White Sox some much needed improvement to their farm system. To illustrate how bad the White Sox system is, Jacobs is listed as the their 7th prospect according to Jonathan Mayo at Prospect Watch on mlb.com. Looking at some other top lists of White Sox prospects (Fangraphs in particular) and that #7 doesn’t look all that far off.
Direct references for your reading pleasure. Also thanks to Chris Hatfield and Keith Law getting back to me via Twitter.