Matt Thornton

Jeff · March 22, 2005 at 10:31 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Matt Thornton is out of options. He is not necessarily out of a job.

The hard-throwing lefty hasn’t exactly forced his way onto the major league roster, to put it mildly. But as the above piece by John Hickey demonstrates, the Mariners are loath to just cut him loose. He can’t be sent to the minors without clearing waivers, and if you’re left-handed and throw 95 miles per hour, someone will claim you.

Thornton’s career minor league numbers are underwhelming. Though control problems are often cited — with good reason — as his main bugaboo, he also gave up more than a hit an inning at AAA last year as a 28 year old. So it isn’t like he is wild but totally dominant; he needs improvement before he’s a consistent big-league contributor.

The hope is that Thornton harnesses his control issues and becomes an effective lefty specialist. But for an arguably competitive team, does it really make sense to wait for a 28 year old potential lefty one out guy (LOOGY) to develop — especially when you have George Sherrill? Pretty much any way you slice it, George Sherrill was better last year and is more ready to miss bats this year. Sherrill is also a not quite a year younger than Thornton. Since Sherrill’s spring ERA is about a decimal point removed from Thornton’s (1.80 to 11.47!), you have to think Sherrill is ahead on the depth chart. He certainly deserves to be.

When Bill Bavasi says you’ve been his biggest disappointment of the spring, that’s probably not a good sign for Thornton, either.

With Eddie Guardado and Ron Villone (I know, I know) locks for the bullpen, there would be virtually no chance for both Sherrill and Thornton to break camp together. Since Joel Pineiro is injured, though, there’s a solid chance he’ll be sent to the DL to forestall a roster move. When Pineiro comes back, someone will be on the bubble, and it will be interesting to see what — if anything — they do to keep Thornton.


15 Responses to “Matt Thornton”

  1. PositivePaul on March 23rd, 2005 9:17 am

    So why didn’t they trade HIM instead of Big Country Taylor? Was Taylor out of options, too? If he’s on the club instead of Sherrill this year, though, I’m going to be ticked!

  2. Evan on March 23rd, 2005 9:25 am

    You should be ticked if Thornton’s on the team at all, regardless of who else isn’t. Thornton just isn’t ready to help the team (and may never be).

    That’s the thing about prospects. Sometimes they don’t develop in time. We should see what we can get in trade (probably not much, but somebody might really need a LOOGY).

  3. jc on March 23rd, 2005 9:27 am

    Well if i hear matt throws 95 one more time im gonna throw up on my computer…The bottum line are outs not velo sherrill has been unreal since we got him from the indy fact i would put his numbers up against anyone in the whole organasation that is a reliever no not felix and i bet ypou he has outpitched them all..But price is so caught up in the radar gun he cant see this seriusly one of you statheads out there give me sherrills #s since we have gotten him they are unreal…That said if sherrill gets cut and they keep the hard throwing stiff thorton i will not watch the mariners until sherrill is brought back…..signed a fan who thibks bavasai isnt good

  4. Ken Hanselman on March 23rd, 2005 10:01 am

    JC makes a good point (there’s more to getting outs than radar gun readings). However, I happen to think that the assumption that Bavasi will keep Thornton over Sherrill simply because Sherrill has options and Thornton doesn’t…well, that may not happen. I don’t think Bavasi (or Hargrove) will make that move, but I could be wrong. Bavasi didn’t draft Thornton. At the end of the day, I think Bavasi will let Thornton be someone else’s problem.

  5. Milorad V on March 23rd, 2005 10:27 am

    Salomon Torres, Rafael Carmona, Jose Paniagua…all were thought to have covet-able ‘live’ arms…but none of them came meaningfully close to pitching at their alleged potential.
    Lefty? 95 mph? That’s nice kid, but can you pitch?

  6. Steve on March 23rd, 2005 11:12 am

    Re #1: So why didn’t they trade HIM instead of Big Country Taylor?

    Thornton has no trade value. If he goes to another team, they don’t acquire any option years, so they would be in the same situation as the Mariners. Why would that other team give up anything of value to get a guy whose not pitching well enough to stick with the club, but can’t be send down without someone claiming him?

    What you could expect to receive for Thornton is sonemone else’s similar player – a guy who isn’t earning a spot and who has no options. Or a minor league non-prospect. Or a guy who’s going to get dumped off someone’s 40-man roster if they don’t trade him (and then the Mariners would have to dump someone off their 40-man roster to make room for the new guy).

    Your only option with Thornton is keep him or let him go. My guess (assuming Villone is also in the pen) is they keep Thornton and send Sherrill to Tacoma, giving Thornton a month or two to establish himself. If Thornton doesn’t come around, they move him off the roster and bring Sherrill back up.

    So, yeah, I’m expecting Sherrill to get screwed again. But that’s consistent with how the Mariners ignore stats when it comes to some guys who are “highly regarded”. You see the same thing with selecting Dobbs over Leone, for example, and last year’s reticence to promote Bucky until their hand was essentially forced. It’s like getting “shrouded” by John Houseman in “The Paper Chase”.

  7. mike on March 23rd, 2005 12:13 pm

    I don’t think he’ll get claimed on waivers. Any claiming team has to keep him in the majors… how many teams have bullpens worse than the M’s? Plus, Thornton didn’t put up numbers in AAA, there is no recent track record of success to cite….

  8. Christopher Michael on March 23rd, 2005 12:49 pm

    #6 With the way he is pitching right now there is no way the Mariners keep him on the roster. Send him down and if someone else claims him then he is their problem. We already have enough pitching prospects who can’t get their acts together.

    I don’t see Bavasi being that stupid.

  9. Russ on March 23rd, 2005 1:27 pm

    #8 “I don’t see Bavasi being that stupid.”

    One can only hope…

  10. Pilots fan on March 23rd, 2005 2:06 pm

    Some in the media are now saying that the M’s will break camp with EIGHT (count ’em, 8) relievers (Piniero on the DL). In that case, you could potentially keep both Sherrill and Thornton for 2 weeks.

    It then might look something like this: Franklin, Villone, Sherrill, Thornton, Mateo, Shiggy, Putz, Guardado.

  11. Ralph Malph on March 23rd, 2005 3:57 pm

    This 8 reliever business is absurd. Of course maybe the problem is that their choices of bench hitters are all crap (until Bucky is healthy). I mean does it matter if you keep Spiezio, Bloomquist, Strong, AND Santiago? None of them are worth a damn.

  12. Xteve X on March 23rd, 2005 3:57 pm

    Milorad said it all … there’s a ton of guys who can throw 95 MPH but can’t tell you where the ball will be going. If Thornton didn’t walk so darn many guys I’d be more willing to put up with him, but with Sherrill pitching so well, it’s a shame. Giving Shiggy and Villone those multi-year deals didn’t help matters either.

  13. Steve Thornton on March 23rd, 2005 4:33 pm

    Well, you have to admit, he does have a FANTASTIC last name.

    I don’t think Thornton matters one way or the other. If we’re desperate enough to use him at all we’re in bigger trouble than just Thornton. If someone else wants to sign him, who cares? He can’t help us.

    I think they should let him go.

    But I’m a lot more worried about the OTHER 1400 innings we need.

    Steve “no relation” Thornton

  14. firova on March 23rd, 2005 5:55 pm

    Does anyone find it odd that the regular beat writers and Seattle-Tacoma columnists appear not to have asked as many questions of Bavasi as the Olympia paper did? Everyone from Heaverlo to Balentien has rated a full feature, but an actual sit-down with the GM has yet to materialize. His view of things would seem to be more newsworthy than Grover’s repeated “looks good to me” quotes.

  15. drjeff on March 23rd, 2005 10:17 pm

    does it really make sense to wait for a 28 year old potential lefty one out guy (LOOGY) to develop —

    WHEW. For the past year I’ve been struggling to NOT ask what a LOOGY is, as I didn’t want to look like more of a moron than I actually am. I figured I could get it in context eventually. This portends good things for the ’05 season. Write it down.