Red Sox pay modest price for bullpen help

Tyler Thornburg had 90 strikeouts in 67 innings last season for the Brewers. Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Red Sox were in the market for relief help, but found their answer in trade rather than having to commit to four years or more for the likes of Kenley Jansen or Aroldis Chapman (to say nothing of the cost). The Brewers did the smart thing by flipping a non-core player with value for prospects, but what they got back is a little underwhelming.

Tyler Thornburg was always miscast as a starter, and the Brewers finally gave up on that experiment for good late in 2015, since which point Thornburg has gone from good reliever to great one. His ultra-high arm slot is all but impossible for a starter, and makes it difficult for him to turn over a changeup, but the two pitches (fastball and curveball) he does have both played up substantially in relief, leading him to the 11th-best strikeout rate (34.2 percent of batters faced) among qualifying relievers in 2016. The high slot makes it harder for hitters to pick up the ball and despite the lack of a third pitch he has never had trouble with left-handed hitters when working in relief. He’s a great setup man for Boston and potentially an alternate closer for when Craig Kimbrel is unavailable or if he should get hurt again, and means that Joe Kelly gets pushed into lower-leverage work and that the Sox aren’t leaning on Carson Smith right away off Tommy John surgery. They get three years of control of Thornburg at his arbitration salaries, which should stay modest as long as he's not racking up more saves.