Meet the Red Sox Newest Reliever – Tyler Thornburg

Joe Clark

Early Tuesday morning on the second day of the annual MLB Winter Meetings, the Red Sox traded incumbent starting 3B Travis Shaw, in addition to prospects Mauricio Dubon and Josh Pennington to the Brewers for RP Tyler Thornburg. That’s a hefty price to pay for a guy a lot of people haven’t heard of, so that begs the question-Who is Tyler Thornburg and what will he bring to the Red Sox? Thornburg was drafted in the 3rd round by the Brewers out of Charleston Southern in the 2010 draft and signed a $351,900 bonus. He quickly ascended up the ranks of the Milwaukee farm system, and by 2012 he made his major league debut, pitching to a 4.50 ERA in eight games and three starts. In 2013, he went 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA in 18 games and seven starts. Plagued by elbow problems, Thornburg struggled with a 4.25 ERA in 27 appearances in 2014, and after making 17 starts in AAA in 2015 with a 5.28 ERA, the Brewers made Thornburg a full-time reliever, and in 2016 he emerged as one of the best relievers in baseball, going 8-5 with a 2.15 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 67 IP, while saving 13 games. Fully healthy, Thornburg saw his velocity trend upwards on not just his fastball, but his curveball and changeup too, and his power curveball became a great “out” pitch for him. Even though he’s a righty, he’s adept at facing both right handed and left handed batters, as he was actually better against lefties, holding them to a .413 OPS compared to a .635 OPS against righties.

For Boston, Thornburg will probably fill the 8th inning role that is now vacant with Koji Uehara and Brad Ziegler hitting the free agent market, and it now seems likely that Boston will move on from both of them (While I think it would be smart to bring back one of them, especially Ziegler, Dave Dombrowski said the Red Sox are not looking for any more bullpen help). With this acquisition, the Sox have one of the better 8-9 duos in the league with Thornburg and Craig Kimbrel, which lightens the load on the Sox rotation and other members of their ‘pen. Parting with Shaw is tough, but Yoan Moncada is expected to see regular playing time this season in addition to Sam Travis almost MLB ready. Pablo Sandoval is a mediocre stop-gap until then, but the Red Sox are hoping he has a Hanley Ramirez-esque turnaround. Either way, I love this trade for the Red Sox and feel that it makes them a stronger team for 2017.