Brewers trade Tyler Thornburg to Red Sox for Travis Shaw, Mauricio Dubon and Josh Pennington

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Updated: December 6, 2016

All season long last year we heard about the Boston Red Sox search for pitching help. They traded for Brad Ziegler from the Diamondbacks, but there were always rumored to make one more deal and that deal never came to fruition. Today, they got their man and he could arguably be the best pitcher they’ve acquired in the past year. Yes, that includes Craig Kimbrel.

(This was true for about five minutes and they traded for Chris Sale.)

For the Red Sox:

Tyler Thornburg had a huge breakout season this year with the Brewers as they converted him to the bullpen after a failed run as a starter. He ended the season with a 2.15 ERA/2.83 FIP with an awesome 12.1/strikeouts per nine rate.

Year Age Tm W L ERA G SV IP ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2016 27 MIL 8 5 2.15 67 13 67.0 199 2.83 0.940 5.1 0.8 3.4 12.1 3.60
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/6/2016.

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The big thing for him was finally being healthy and seeing a big velocity spike last season. All of his pitches took a big jump, but especially his curveball that went from 76mph to 80mph. That’s a big jump and a very dangerous pitch. Dave Cameron of Fangraphs saw him as one of the best under the radar trade options at the deadline. Here’s what he said back then:

If a team thinks that their field staff is willing to deploy a righty as they would a dominant left-hander who can also handle righties well enough to not need to be a LOOGY, then Thornburg could actually be an interesting secondary option for a team that doesn’t want to pay the price for Andrew Miller. Thornburg is certainly not as good as the Yankees dominant lefty, but he’s darn good against them, and his improving stuff has made him a quality reliever. If he can ever figure out how to throw his curveball for strikes, he might yet take even another step forward, and with three controllable years left after this one, there might be some long-term value associated with getting Thornburg now as well.

I know that he said “not as good as Miller” in there, but even to evoke that name means that this could be a huge deal for the Red Sox. Considering they are getting him for his age 28 season and that Andrew Miller didn’t really become Andrew Miller until his age 29 season, this is a great move for the Red Sox.

The best just got better and the Red Sox +1000 to win the World Series at Bovada Sportsbook feels like a great value right about now.

For the Brewers:

The Red Sox gave up three players in the deal: major leaguer Travis Shaw and minor leaguers Mauricio Dubon and Josh Pennington.

We’ll start with Travis Shaw who was expendable for the Red Sox with Pablo Sandoval coming back and super prospect Yoan Moncada knocking on the door.

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2015 25 BOS 65 248 226 31 61 10 0 13 36 18 57 .270 .327 .487 .813 114
2016 26 BOS 145 530 480 63 116 34 2 16 71 43 133 .242 .306 .421 .726 88
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/6/2016.

Shaw will fill a hole for the Brewers immediately as he’ll slot in at third base where he is considered to be an above average defender by defensive metrics. He had a down year after a breakout in 2015, but he still managed a .726 OPS and when you add in his solid defense he was a positive contributor. The strikeout numbers are a bit worrisome as he struck out in nearly 1/4th of his appearances, but he should bounce back next year and will benefit from a move to Miller Park and the NL Central.

The true value of this move is what it does to the Brewers infield. Brewers super prospect Orlando Arcia should slot in as shortstop for all of 2017, a spot he’s expected to hold for a very long time. That moves last year’s breakout Brewer Jonathan Villar over to second base. Villar played most of 2016 at shortstop where he was worth -11.4 by UZR. The move to second base should improve him defensively and if he can maintain his .285/.369/.457 line from last year, this infield could be very good both offensively and defensively. (Of course, a lot of that depends on Eric Thames at first as well.)

Dubon is an interesting prospect who rated 7th in Boston’s system by Baseball America. He spent 2016 between Class-A Advanced and Double-A and hit for a combined .323/.379/.461  line with 6 HRs and 30 steals. He could end up as a starting shortstop in the MLB, but even worst case scenario he could at least be a utility guy as he’s played all around the diamond.

The Brewers also grabbed Josh Pennington who seems like a classic pitching throw-in that might work out. He pitched last year at short season A-ball and posted a 2.86 ERA with 7.8 strikeouts per 9 in 56.2 innings. He’s awhile away still as he’s only twenty.

Overall, I call this a win for the Brewers who have upgraded their infield defense while grabbing a solid prospect. They are still a year or two away and a late inning relief arm shouldn’t be high on their needs list right now. I like this move for both teams.

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  1. Pingback: White Sox trade Chris Sale to Red Sox for Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Victor Diaz and Luis Alexander Basabe - Baseball Bryan

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