The Red Sox recently released struggling reliever Tyler Thornburg. The now 30-year-old appeared like he was on track to becoming one of the most dominant set up men in baseball a few years ago, but a 7.71 ERA is an easy way to earn a one-way ticket out of town, especially in Boston. His stint with the Sox did not go as planned after they acquired him via trade following a fantastic 2016 season with Milwaukee.
Thornburg did not play at all in 2017 due to thoracic outlet syndrome surgery (do not ask me what that is) and has not been able to find himself since. In 25 appearances, he posted a 5.63 ERA in 25 appearances a year ago for Boston and has been even worse this season, resulting in a demotion and his eventual release after recording a 12.66 ERA in 11 appearances for AAA Pawtucket.
The surgery has clearly had an effect on Thornburg’s numbers over the past two seasons, but his stuff may still be there. He has the third-highest average fastball velocity (94.1) of his seven-year career, and the spin rate on his out pitch (curveball) ranks in the 90th percentile, according to Baseball Savant. There’s reason to believe he can bounce back from this, and the Braves might be the perfect fit for both sides.
Thornburg is an Atlanta native whose best seasons came as a member of the National League. Perhaps a change of scenery to his hometown and getting him out of the AL East will provide for a fresh start. We all know the Braves could use another relief arm.
Atlanta has the third best bullpen ERA in all of baseball, but that feels a bit like fool’s gold. Who knows how long some of these pleasant surprises can continue to shutdown opposing offenses. The Braves will be active at the trade deadline, but that doesn’t mean they cannot take a chance on a low risk, high reward candidate that had a 2.15 ERA in 67 appearances back with the Brewers in 2016.
From experience, Braves fans know how volatile relief pitching can be. One team’s trash in another team’s treasure. It’s been like that for years, and that is how Atlanta has been able to patch up their bullpen so far this year. The Braves would be wise to at least give Thornburg a look on a risk-free minor league deal and see if he can play a role down the stretch.