Brewers Ship Thornburg Up to Boston
Reports from the 2016 Winter Meetings in Maryland say that the Milwaukee Brewers have agreed to trade closer Tyler Thornburg to the Boston Red Sox for three named players in return as well as either a player to be named later or cash.
Red Sox beat writer for the Boston Herald, Evan Drellich, started off the news with this:
Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com quickly confirmed that relief pitcher as Thornburg:
Then folks began finding out who was headed to the Brewers in return:
So, all that breaks down to the following deal:
TO BOSTON: RHP Tyler Thornburg
TO MILWAUKEE: 3B Travis Shaw, SS Mauricio Dubon, RHP Josh Pennington
Unless you’re a Milwaukee Brewers fan, you may not know what the Red Sox are getting in Thornburg. You may need to have it pointed out to you that he held opponents to a .541 OPS overall including a .130/.223/.190 line against left-handed hitters. You may need it mentioned that he pitched to a 2.15 ERA in 67 innings while piling up 90 strikeouts against just 25 walks.
As for what the Brewers are getting, it highlights both the cost of high-leverage pitching as well as the fact that Thornburg was just that in 2016.
In Shaw, Brewers GM David Stearns finds a starting option at third base and a left-handed hitter at that. After adding Eric Thames last week, Craig Counsell’s lineup can be significantly more left-handed on a given day against right-handed pitching — a discrepancy which Counsell has called out in the recent past.
Shaw, 26, is controllable for five more seasons and can first be eligible for salary arbitration following the 2018 season. He is the son of former big league pitcher Jeff Shaw and was originally drafted by the Red Sox in the 9th round of the 2011 draft out of Kent State.
On the field, Shaw has posted a career .251/.312/.442 line in 778 plate appearances. The on-base percentage is a bit lower than you’d like to see (it was just .306 in 530 PAs in 2016) but Shaw’s power should play up at Miller Park. You also must consider that his splits are fairly significant (.187/.235/.364 vs LHP in 2016) despite small sample sizes, but the Brewers have a guy in Hernán Pérez who needs at-bats — and will get them at multiple positions — who can share time with Shaw at the hot corner and some of Shaw’s offensive deficiencies are mitigated.
Dubon is a 6'0", 160 lb, SS prospect who finished the 2016 season with Double-A Portland at the age of 22. He shares a birthday with me (which you don’t care about but I find awesome). MLB Pipeline has given Dubon grades of 55 for his hit tool, running, throwing arm, and fielding. His reevaluated though still low power (40 grade) sees his overall grade settle in at 50 (up from 45). Dubon hit .339 in the Eastern League and actually slugged .538 as well with 20 doubles, six triples and six home runs.
Having played a even split of games (62 each) in High-A and Double-A last season, Dubon responded well to the midseason (June) promotion up to Double-A. Dubon has steadily progressed through Boston’s system since being drafted out of high school back in 2013 (26th round). Considered by MLB Pipeline to have been the Red Sox’s “best shortstop prospect” as he is more well-rounded than others.
It certainly sounds like Stearns has acquired yet another capable up-the-middle prospect as he continues to build a minor league system capable of providing a sustainable source of Major League contributors.
As for the third known player, Josh Pennington is a RHP listed at 6'0". Drafted in 2014, Pennington has a big fastball (70 grade — much about the velocity) along with a plus curveball (55) and developing changeup.
Just 21 years old, Pennington sure reads on paper like someone we know. Smaller in stature with a big fastball, good curve, and questions as to whether he’ll be able to stick in a rotation. Kind of sounds like someone for whom he was just traded, Tyler Thornburg.
Stearns, as you would expect, spoke highly of the return he secured for the services of Thornburg.
“We are pleased to add three young and talented players to the organization, “ said Stearns. “Travis (Shaw) provides another left-handed power bat, bringing balance to the lineup. Mauricio (Dubon) is a highly regarded prospect who brings us speed and plate discipline, and adds further infield depth. Josh (Pennington) is a promising young prospect who further improves our stock of power arms throughout the system.”
So as Thornburg enters arbitration and sees his salary jump, the Brewers may have acquired a reimaged Thornburg along with another shortstop prospect (Dubon) and a MLB contributor for 2017 in Shaw, and, lest we forget, possibly another player as well. That’s quite the haul for another elite bullpen pitcher who finds himself on the move after his position once again finds itself being in high demand.
The other more immediate impact on the field for the Brewers in 2017 is who becomes the closer (or perhaps just the lead dog in a committee). Corey Knebel makes a ton of sense for that job. Knebel has a closer pedigree having done so in college and relieved his entire pro career, but more than that he has shown that, when healthy, he can lock in and bear down in high-leverage spots. Knebel posted his best opponents’ against numbers against in high leverage (per Baseball-Reference) situations. Opponents slugged just .364 against Knebel in those situations.
But please take that “immediate” with a grain of salt. While it wouldn’t be expected of the Brewers to trade for a closer this off-season, a lot can still happen between now and the opening of Spring Training in February.