Red Sox get setup man Thornburg from Brewers for INF Shaw
OXON HILL, Md. — The Boston Red Sox got the man they wanted — a setup man, in fact.
The AL East champions locked down their eighth-inning spot Tuesday, acquiring right-hander Tyler Thornburg from the Milwaukee Brewers in a package that included infielder Travis Shaw.
Relief pitchers have been a main focus across the majors this offseason, and Thornburg was the centerpiece in the first trade at baseball's winter meetings.
"He's what we were looking to try to find," Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said.
"He is somebody we like a great deal," he said. "Projects to be a quality eighth-inning individual for us."
The 28-year-old Thornburg will set up for closer Craig Kimbrel. Thornburg was 8-5 with 13 saves and a 2.15 ERA in 67 games for the Brewers, striking out 90 in 67 innings.
"Kind of a breakout year," Boston manager John Farrell said.
Milwaukee also got minor league infielder Mauricio Dubon, minor league right-hander Josh Pennington and a player to be named or $100.
The 26-year-old Shaw hit .242 with 16 home runs and 71 RBIs last season. He mostly played third base, and also saw time at first.
"We are pleased to add three young and talented players to the organization," Brewers general manager David Stearns said in a statement.
The 22-year-old Dubon hit a combined .323 and scored 101 runs between the Single-A and Double-A levels. The 21-year-old Pennington was 5-3 with a 2.86 ERA in Class A.
Thornburg took over as the Brewers' closer for the last two months after Jeremy Jeffress was traded to Texas, and was equally effective against lefty and righty hitters. He held left-handers to a .130 batting average last season, and at one point retired 26 hitters in a row overall.
Thornburg features a firm fastball and a curve that improved when he tinkered with his mechanics. He made barely over the major league minimum salary last season and is now under Boston's control for three years.
After beginning his pro career as a starter, Thornburg became a reliever after having elbow trouble in 2014. He's been healthy since the middle of 2015 and his arrival comes "at the absolute right time," Farrell said.
Thornburg said on a conference call with reporters shortly after the deal was announced that his arm settled down once his role did.
"I never really had a role. I ended up bouncing back and forth between starting and relieving," he said. "Going into this season, the thing that makes you feel pretty good about that is I didn't have any flare-ups last year."
Thornburg will join right-handers Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree and Matt Barnes and lefty Robbie Ross Jr. in the Red Sox relief corps. When Kimbrel needs a day off, Thornburg can close.
"Not looking to make any more additions to our bullpen," Dombrowski said.
Red Sox relievers Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa and Brad Ziegler became free agents after the season.
Dombrowski said the Red Sox asked about Thornburg last season and the Brewers didn't want to deal him. Last month, Stearns said Milwaukee was interested in Shaw, and trade talks increased during the last week.
Dombrowski said he felt comfortable trading Shaw because third baseman Pablo Sandoval has recovered well from shoulder surgery that sidelined him for most of last season.
Shaw hit 34 doubles last year in his first full season in the majors. He made 99 starts at third base.
Dubon stole 30 bases and had 69 RBIs for Class A Salem and Double-A Portland. Drafted in 2013, he is a career .306 hitter in the minors.
Dubon is a promising prospect, but Boston already has All-Star Xander Bogaerts at shortstop.
"Travis provides another left-handed power bat, bringing balance to the lineup," Stearns said.
"Mauricio is a highly regarded prospect who brings us speed and plate discipline, and adds further infield depth. Josh is a promising young prospect who further improves our stock of power arms throughout the system," he said.
The Brewers went 73-89 this year. Earlier in the offseason, they signed free agent Eric Thames, who played two years in the majors and has spent the last three seasons in South Korea.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.