MLB Trade Rumors: Would Matt Thornton Trade Bring Chicago White Sox Value?

Tom Firme@TFirmeAnalyst IIJanuary 16, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 6: Matt Thornton #37 of the Chicago White Sox delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins in the eighth inning on September 6, 2011 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The White Sox defeated the Twins 3-0. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

As Spring Training draws closer, trade possibilities still remain for the Chicago White Sox. Matt Thornton isn't as attractive to other teams as Gavin Floyd may be, but is still a candidate nonetheless. Inquiring minds want to know what the White Sox could expect in return in a Matt Thornton trade.

First, consider the trade rumors involving Thronton. ESPN reported via Twitter in November that the White Sox had put Thornton on the trading block. In early December, the Chicago Sun-Times noted via Twitter an emerging trade rumor of Thornton going to the Atlanta Braves.

However, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution denied the rumor. David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweeted, "The Matt Thornton to Braves rumor out of Chicago was bogus."

This likely diminishes the possibility of Thornton going to the Braves. Generally, if a source from one city purports a rumor, but a source from the city to which that player would land denies the rumor then the rumor doesn't hold water.

Still, Thornton remains a trade candidate. Thornton has two years and $11 million left on his contract, along with a $6 million option for 2014.

The White Sox are looking to trim payroll. Trading Carlos Quentin and Jason Frasor saved the White Sox about $7 million and $3.75 million for 2012, respectively. Thornton would bring a bigger savings than Frasor if traded.

With financial concerns and Thornton's talent in mind, consider what the White Sox could land in return.

A Reliever or Minor League Player Is the Most Likely Acquisition in a Matt Thornton Trade

Thornton is a pretty good reliever. He throws hard, with his fastball hitting the upper 90's. Thornton strikes batters out. In 2011, Thornton struck out 9.5 batters per nine innings. He struck out more than 10 batters per nine innings in each of three previous seasons.

Thornton has good control. He had a strikeout to walk ratio of three-to-one last season and posted strikeout to walk ratios of 4.05 or better in each of the previous three seasons.

Thornton wasn't quite as effective in 2011 as in years prior. His walks and hits per innings pitched rate jumped more than three-tenths to a pedestrian 1.36. He had a negative wins above replacement (-0.1) for the first time since 2005.

Still, Thornton puts in good service. He has pitched at least 60 games in each of his six seasons for the White Sox.

One could expect a deal involving Thornton to bring more than the Frasor trade. The Frasor deal landed the White Sox two minor league pitchers. Kenny Williams could land the major league-ready talent he wants in return. Thornton has the bullpen arm that other teams would crave.

That might even lead teams to give up reliever on their staff in return for Thornton.

Conclusion: Time Is Right for a Matt Thornton Trade

Kenny Williams would want to act now in order to make the most of Thornton's value. Thornton, 35, looks to be on the decline. Thornton is still playing well enough to bring in a good talent in a trade.

The appearance of the White Sox bullpen isn't great. After trading Sergio Santos, the closer role became open, although Thornton wouldn't fill that role at this point in his career. The Frasor trade leaves one less reliever. Relievers are ultimately interchangeable. Losing Thornton wouldn't be that bad. Besides, with the White Sox going young, trading Thornton could freshen the bullpen.