Having lost former closer Bobby Jenks via free agency, and setup men J.J. Putz and Scott Linebrink via free agency and trade respectively, the Sox made a move to retain one of their own by resigning left handed Matt Thornton. The team announced today that they had an agreement in place that will keep Thornton in the White Sox black for two more seasons, and possibly a third if his 2014 option is picked up.
The terms of the deal will have Thornton making 5.5m in both 2012 and 2013. He's scheduled to make 3.0m this year and his 2014 option is for 6.0m.
Thornton owns one of the games best fastballs. He throws it hard (96.1mph in 2010) and it's been enormously effective in each of the past three seasons. He also leans on the pitch extremely hard, throwing it 90% of the time in 2010. He'll mix in a slider as well but it's more of an average pitch and hitters tend to pick it up well. Even as what could legitimately be described as a one-pitch pitcher, Thornton has been incredibly effective during his White Sox tenure.
As it stands right now, the 34 year old Thornton is the presumptive opening day closer for the White Sox, though competition in camp from phenom Chris Sale and the newly acquired Jesse Crain will have some say in the ultimate decision in who gets the role.
Generally I'm against signing relievers to long-term deals, but this is one I actually like. For what essentially amounts to the sort of money they gave to Crain, the Sox have locked up someone who has the potential to be one of baseball's most dominant relievers at a rate that would be significantly lower that his peers.
Corey Ettinger is a Senior Writer for Baseball Digest as well as a proud contributor to both 612Sports.net, 312Sports.com, and 313sports.com. He also provides extensive analysis of the American League Central Division at his own blog, AL Central In Focus. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Coreyettinger for the latest updates, random thoughts and general tomfoolery.