The Washington Nationals filled their infield need at the trade deadline by adding Asdrubal Cabrera, however questions remained in the struggling Washington bullpen. Mike Rizzo attempted to improve the bullpen on Tuesday afternoon by claiming Thornton on waivers from the New York Yankees.
Thanks to the Yankees need for financial and roster flexibility, he was made available after the non-waiver trade deadline. Assuming there is not another trade after the season, the Nationals will owe the then 38 year old Thornton $3.5 million in 2015.
Washington hopes that what Thornton can provide for their bullpen will be well worth the remaining money on his contract. Thornton provides a different look from current left handed specialist Jerry Blevins, as Thornton throws a fastball that can reach 97 mph.
Though he only threw 24.2 innings in New York, he worked his way to a 2.55 ERA. In theory, Thornton would be a more reliable left handed option out of the bullpen than Blevins.
The addition of Thornton required the Nationals to option young reliever Blake Treinen to AAA Syracuse. This move now leaves the Nats with three left handers in the bullpen and four right handers. With more left handers than the average bullpen, manager Matt Williams will have to effectively choose spots for his left handers until rosters expand on September 1st.
What Thornton can provide for the Nationals may be more than just effective relief. The 37 year old veteran has certainly seen his share of ups and downs in his career, not just with his own performance, but within his ball club. When a bullpen struggles, as the Nationals have recently, a steady presence like Thornton can help relax the ball club.
Through the small sample size the Nationals have seen of Thornton so far in Washington, he seems to be as good as advertised. He has not surrendered any of his own runs in 1.2 innings pitched, only allowing an inherited run to score on a slow grounder. Thank you Yankees.