Bye Bye Matt Thornton
The M’s have traded Matt Thornton to the Chicago White Sox for Joe Borchard.
There’s almost no way to not like this move, in my opinion. Thornton was, and still is, essentially useless. Yes, he throws 95, but big whoop-de-doo. He’s basically pitched well as a pro for all of one season, back in A-ball, pre surgery, and been mediocre to bad the rest of his career. He throws straight, without command, and has no real secondary pitches to speak of. He doesn’t hide the ball well, and hitters tee off on his hittable fastball, especially when they’re sitting on it 2-0. He didn’t deserve to be on the team last year, and he certainly didn’t deserve to be on the team this year. Removing him from the roster almost certainly guarantees George Sherrill a spot on the team, and he’s a vastly superior pitcher who was squeezed off the team by Thornton’s presence last year. Simply removing Thornton from the equation is a net positive.
Then we come to Borchard. He was one of the best college players of his time, earning a then-record $5.5 million signing bonus when the White Sox took him in the first round of the 2000 draft. He battled injuries, but showed promise in his first exposure to Triple-A pitching at the age of 23, hitting .272/.349/.498. He’s stagnated since then, failing to improve at all at the plate and losing agility and fielding prowess.
The guy has flaws that aren’t easily fixed. He has a poor approach at the plate, the main factor being a problem with pitch recognition. Borchard, essentially, has turned himself into a guess hitter. If he gets a fastball, bravo, the ball may go 400 feet. If he doesn’t, well, he’s screwed.
I’ve seen a lot of Borchard the past few years, and I remain convinced that there’s a good hitter hiding inside of the player he is now. His approach needs work, but it’s a fixable flaw. If he can improve his theories of hitting and turn himself into a .270/.330/.450 guy, that’s a valuable reserve, giving the M’s a legitimate major league hitter coming off the bench who swings the bat from the right side.
Borchard has the potential to fill a need; right-handed power hitting reserve outfielder. The M’s options for OF are currently all left-handed. If the team brings in a lefty to face Reed, Ibanez, or Everett, your options are essentially to let them hit or to replace them with Willie Ballgame.
Borchard, at least, has the chance to offer a bat with some juice from the right side and the ability to play all three outfield spots, though he’s a bit of a liability in center at this point. He’s essentially a slightly different version of Mike Morse; better defense, less contact, more power. I’m sure some folks would prefer Morse to make the roster, since he hit .800 for a few weeks last year, but the fact is that the team doesn’t have to choose.
If they deem Borchard able to help them in the role Morse was penciled in for, they get both Borchard and Morse. Morse goes to Tacoma, giving the team something they badly lack; depth. This team has been dangerously thin for several years, leaving them one injury away from playing a replacement level player at pretty much every position on the diamond. Having Borchard in Seattle and Morse in Tacoma gives the M’s one more layer to go through before resorting to Willie Bloomquist, starting left fielder, or rushing Adam Jones to the big leagues prematurely.
In the end, the team gets a few weeks to see if Borchard can fill a hole on the roster. If he can’t, no loss, because we didn’t want Matt Thornton on the team either way. If he can, well, congratulations Bill, you just got more free talent. These are the kinds of moves Bavasi has specialized in, getting potentially useful parts for nothing. Make enough of these moves, and you’ll eventually hit a home run.
Thumbs up. Good move for the club, and adios to Matt Thornton.