With Bobby Jenks being non-tendered and it looking more and more likely that the White Sox can’t afford to bring him, or another top closer, into the mix, the situation appears questionable. I reached out to Jim Margalus of www.soxmachine.com to get his thoughts on Matt Thornton and the White Sox closer situation in general. Here’s what he had to say:
Matt Thornton’s future as a closer is still up in the air. For one, it’s unclear whether Chris Sale will start the season in the bullpen or in the minors as a starter, and it’s hard to see Ozzie Guillen reserving Thornton for a ceremonial ninth inning when Joe Mauer is up with the bases loaded in the seventh. The AL Central has its share of tough left-handed hitters, and so a lefty of Thornton’s caliber might be wasted waiting for ninth-inning leads.
If he does get the closer job, he should be good at it. The stat sheet says he went 8-for-10, but he went 8-for-8 in typical save scenarios (three outs or fewer). He’s basically a one-pitch pitcher, but the velocity and location are top notch.
He did have a couple of health blips — a triceps spasm that looked painful, but didn’t knock him out of a game early in the year, and then a forearm strain that put him on the DL in August. Otherwise, he’s been healthy and a good self-regulator of his well-being.
Personally, I have hope that Guillen treats the ninth inning on a match-up basis, and he showed the ability to use guys for more than three outs after Bobby Jenks went down. But it’s unclear if he’d do it for a whole season.
From a fantasy perspective, we all have to hope that the White Sox do establish one man as the closer, but Jim brings up some extremely valid points. If the White Sox don’t add another left-handed reliever of the same quality as Thornton, can they really afford to simply save him for the ninth inning if a big spot arises earlier?
The fact is, we all know to expect the unexpected from Guillen, so this situation may not sort itself out for some time. We’ll be keeping a close eye on what the White Sox do heading into the season, but at this point it is hard to consider Thornton anything more than a mid-level closer option. The fact of the matter is that, despite the skills, there is no guarantee that he’s going to hold the closer’s job all season, let alone open with it outright.
What are your thoughts on the White Sox situation? Do you think Thornton will be the closer? Why or why not?
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