The Red Sox, amid plenty of rumors for deals and signings, finally made a move Tuesday. The move was not earth-shattering, but it certainly tells a lot about the 2017 team. The Red Sox acquired Tyler Thornburg, a late-inning reliever from the Milwaukee Brewers. In return, they sent two prospects, IF Mauricio Dubon and P Josh Pennington to Milwaukee. The final piece to the deal was fan-favorite Travis Shaw, whose offensive numbers declined every month of the 2016 season.
Dave Dombrowski added some bullpen depth, but this also raises plenty of questions. First off, who is Tyler Thornburg and what is his role? Thornburg is fireballer who was both a set-up man and closer for the Brewers last season. In 2016, he earned 13 saves after Jeremy Jeffress was traded and had a 2.15 ERA and a WHIP of 0.94 in 67 innings. With Dombrowski wanting a closer-type to set-up Craig Kimbrel, Thornburg fits the mold. That almost certainly sends free agents Koji Uehara and Brad Ziegler packing.
With the acquisition of Thornburg, Carson Smith may be the odd man out. After undergoing Tommy John surgery last year, the long-awaited return to Boston may never come. Smith has had an injury history in the past and Thornburg seems like a carbon copy. He fills the same role as Smith with the same arsenal. Coincidentally, Thornburg has also had elbow problems like Smith as well.
This trade can also shake up the future of the starting rotation. Not that Josh Pennington was a serious pitching prospect, but he’s gone now. That means they will probably pursue a big-time starter in free agency next year. The 2018 free-agent class is star-studded, with the likes of Kershaw, Bumgarner, Arrieta, Darvish, Tanaka, Sale (tentatively), Tillman and Cueto on the market. The Red Sox will hope to make a big splash there, as their pitching prospects are fading fast.
Thornburg Trade’s Impact on Third Base
Finally, this leave’s Travis Shaw’s position open. The Red Sox are now faced with two options. The first is Yoan Moncada. The Minor League Player of the Year just is not ready for the big leagues as he showed in September, needing to strike out like he needed air to breathe. Moncada may be a nice option at some point, not Opening Day. That leaves Pablo Sandoval. Looking lean and fit in his recent trip to Barcelona, Sandoval looks like a new man. Assuming he didn’t gain a pound a day there, he looks ready to play third base again. Whether he can hit will be a totally different story. Right now, the Red Sox look like they are going to trust Sandoval here. Knowing Brock Holt is not an every day player, it looks like it’s Sandoval’s job once again.
So yes, this trade tells a lot about next year’s Red Sox. Dombrowski has put emphasis on a playoff caliber bullpen this year. He has now acquired a guy who was dominant in 2016 while getting rid of an empty bat in Travis Shaw. They also get him for cheap money at $513,900 and with team control through 2019. Tyler Thornburg may officially usher in the Kung-Fu Panda Era back to Boston, and isn’t that glorious news to wake up to?