The first step of the sell-off has been taken and it ends one of the longest relief tenures in recent White Sox franchise memory.
— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) July 13, 2013
It’s hard to be critical of any trade for Matt Thornton, because between the reputation built up over his major league and his current peripherals, his value could range from “solid set-up guy” or “LOOGY.” Since the Red Sox just placed their LOOGY Andrew Miller on the 60-day disabled list and the White Sox are sending cash over in the deal, it’s probably closer to the latter in this situation.
The White Sox didn’t have gold, but they had something a playoff team needed immediately and charged them accordingly.
In return comes Brandon Jacobs, a three-sport athlete in high school who turned down a football scholarship to Auburn to play baseball. If this is starting to sound familiar, it’s not just you. Jacobs is athletic, but his 5′ 11″, 240-pound frame–while probably great in goalline situations–limits him to a corner outfield position. For that to work, Jacobs is going to need to hit and hit for power.
That hasn’t happened in droves for Jacobs recently. After mashing .303/.376/.505 as a 20 year-old in Low-A, Jacobs has struggled to translate his big-time muscle to game action against advanced pitching and has seen his strikeouts rise to north of 26% over the last two years as well. That’s precipitated his tumble from being once regarded as the No. 2 prospect in the Red Sox system by Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, to his current status of outside the top 10 until a long hot streak comes along.
A hamate bone injury was credited with hampering Jacobs in 2012, but he’s improved only slightly this season to hit .244/.334/.440 in 335 plate appearances in High-A this season. He had just been promoted to Double-A Thursday after a very strong month of June. Since the White Sox are going to White Sox, the chances of him starting out in Birmingham seem as good as the sun’s shot at rising tomorrow morning.
There’s work to be done with Jacobs obviously. He needs to learn to make more contact or tap into his power more, but probably both. The Sox have had many outfielders with these issues and not exactly a stockpile of fully-realized offensive monsters to show for it. But Thornton is a rental who has become increasingly limited to single lefty-on-lefty matchups. For the Sox to get someone with major league regular potential (though distant) at the price of $750,000 worth of Thornton’s 2014 buyout is fine work, even if it brings out some old habits.
Donnie Veal‘s getting promoted in respnse. So, good for him. Matt Thornton is gone to join a division leader, which will probably be a lot of fun once he gets over the pain of being uprooted.
He was great.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan