Thornton Officially a Yankee
The Yankees officially signed former White Sox reliever Matt Thornton to a 2-year, $7 million on Friday. The deal, which was agreed to earlier in the offseason, resulted in the Yankees designating Vernon Wells for assignment due to a lack of space on the 40-man roster. The 35-year-old Wells will not be hurting too terribly, as he will still be paid north of $24.5 million by the Jays, Angels and Yankees this season, regardless of where he ends up. Must be nice.
The 37-year-old Thornton will replace Boone Logan as the primary lefty in the Yankees bullpen, as Logan signed a 3-year, $16.5 million deal with Colorado earlier this winter. Thornton will receive a healthy workload, as the only locked-in lefty in said bullpen. Cesar Cabral, Manny Bañuelos and David Huff are all possibilities to see time in the later innings at some point this season, although if and when that will happen is still completely up in the air.
Thornton is a sneaky good signing for the Yankees, and it could have a far greater impact than it might seem at first glance. Thornton has proven himself incredibly durable over his entire career--in fact, he’s thrown at least 55 games in each of the past 9 seasons, the only MLB pitcher to do so. That kind of durability is hard to come by these days, and the Yankees will certainly welcome another consistent presence at the back end of games.
Thornton predominantly uses a mid-90’s four-seamer and low-80’s slider, but keeps a cutter and changeup in his back pocket just for special occasions. His K/9 has been down in the last few years (declining steadily since his career high 12.02 in 2010), along with most of his counting stats. However, Thornton is a knowledgeable veteran whose pitches have lost none of their potency, and I think he will outperform his predecessor as the Yankees’ primary lefty.
Another interesting impact that Thornton could have is at the closer position. As of the writing of this article, the Yankees have David Robertson penciled in as their Opening Day closer. As an ardent Yankee fan, I have come to call Robertson “Houdini”, due to his ability to get out of particularly sticky situations… frequently. Here’s the problem—closers should not find themselves in sticky situations. Having watched Robertson for several seasons now, I am not confident he is the long-term solution for the Yankees in the 9th inning. Thornton, if you recall, was in the conversation for the White Sox closer job when Addison Reed was just breaking into the majors. Reed ultimately proved himself a superior option, but that was not to say that Thornton was incapable. I think he could be the Yankees secondary option at closer, provided that they do not sign someone before Spring Training. For the first time in nearly 20 years, the 9th inning is not locked down for any Yankee. So why not Thornton?