Dave Dombrowski has a reputation as an aggressive trader who always gives up too much for his targets. I think this reputation is overblown, but as of right now the one trade that looks truly bad from the Red Sox perspective of the Dombrowski era is the one that sent Travis Shaw (and Mauricio Dubon *sad face*) to Milwaukee. In return, the Red Sox, of course, received Tyler Thornburg. Well, the righty has yet to throw a pitch for Boston after being acquired prior to the 2017 season and he underwent thoracic outlet surgery last year. Now, it appears he’s finally getting set to make his debut. According to Alex Speier of the Boston Globe, Alex Cora told the media that the right-handed reliever is likely to be activated soon.
Cora: A chance Thornburg is ready to be activated. Also possible he will get one more inning, but he’s close to activation. “Probably this week he’ll be with us.”— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) July 1, 2018
It’s really not clear what in the world we can expect from Thornburg, and if we’re being honest the expectations shouldn’t be all that high. There is talent here, and we’ll get to that in a minute, but the TOS surgery from which he is recovering is no joke. Pitchers over the last few years, such as Matt Harvey, Chris Carpenter and Josh Beckett, among others, have had the procedure and were never able to bounce back. Now, guys like Jaime Garcia and Chris Young have made it back after this surgery, so it’s not a total death sentence. However, more pitchers have struggled to return than those who haven’t, and that information combined with Thornburg being wildly inconsistent across two separate rehab appearances this year makes me wary.
That being said, if he can make it all the way back, then the Red Sox are adding a huge piece to their roster. There is an expectation that Boston will look to add a significant reliever to their bullpen before the trade deadline, but Thornburg could be just as good as any of those additions. Two years ago was when the righty really jumped on to the map as an impact reliever. Behind a sick curveball and improved velocity, he pitched to a 2.15 ERA with over 12 strikeouts per nine innings and a DRA that finished 35 percent better than league-average. Those are elite numbers, and he’s not that far removed.
Like I said, I’m not expecting a ton from Thornburg and view anything the team gets from him as a bonus. His impending return should not preclude the front office from looking for more bullpen help. The talent is there, though, and while I’m not optimistic there is at least a chance the Red Sox are adding a star-level talent to their bullpen. Even the small possibility of that is exciting.
As for how they’ll make room, well, Justin Haley is on the roster. Presumably, he won’t be for too much longer.