Thornton dealt to Boston for young outfielder
Jacobs ranked 11th-best prospect in Red Sox organization
PHILADELPHIA -- Matt Thornton was sitting in his Philadelphia hotel room, watching MLB Network of all things, when his cell phone rang.
He had one of White Sox general manager Rick Hahn's numbers saved in his phone, but didn't recognize this call. Joking that it might be bill collectors, Thornton decided to answer.
"I had an idea something like that might be happening," Thornton told MLB.com, after getting the word from Hahn that he had been traded to the Red Sox, along with cash considerations, for Minor League outfielder Brandon Jacobs.
"With the way the team was going and the certain pieces that we had, I had a feeling it might happen this year," added Thornton, who has been churning through the rumor mill since 2008. "It had a different feel."
Per a Major League source, the "cash considerations" are six figures and go toward Thornton's buyout on the 2014 club option of his contract. Thornton stands as the first move made by Hahn in the reshaping or rebuilding of the underachieving White Sox but most likely not the last.
Interest also has been coming in for right-handed relievers Matt Lindstrom and Jesse Crain, outfielder Alex Rios and starters Jake Peavy and John Danks. Hahn is looking for impact-type talent in return, but this also is a team that does its homework on its targeted players.
In the case of Jacobs, a 6-foot-1, 225-pound 22-year-old, the White Sox had looked at him for close to 18 months. The outfield stands as the organization's deepest area in terms of plus-Minor League talent, but that didn't stop the White Sox from pursuing the right-handed Jacobs.
"If we had our druthers, we would spread the talent around the field as much as possible," Hahn said. "Given where we are right now, and with the opportunity to add to strength, we won't be turned away when that's the most impactful player.
"This is the time of the season where a lot of these talks take place, but whether they come to fruition is hard to predict," added Hahn on the potential for more deals. "Given the way we have performed, a lot of clubs are interested to see if we will part with certain elements to put teams over the top. We'll keep talking and see where it leads over the coming weeks."
Jacobs was ranked as Boston's 11th-best prospect by MLB.com and is hitting .247 with 25 doubles, 11 home runs, 44 RBIs, 46 runs scored and 10 stolen bases over 84 games between Class A Salem (81 games) and Double-A Portland (three games). He hit .421 (16-for-38) with six doubles, two home runs and 12 RBIs over his final 11 games with Salem before being promoted to Portland on July 10.
According to MLB.com's write-up, the young man once recruited to play football for Auburn has "considerable raw tools" but has struggled with plate discipline. If he can control the strike zone more and become efficient, the write-up continues, it's still all there for Jacobs to become an impact bat playing an outfield corner.
Hahn admitted it's tough to put a time frame on how long Jacobs' Major League climb will take, especially for a player who has been outside the White Sox organization. But he has big talent, and it's a matter of Jacobs converting that talent.
The 37-year-old Thornton posted an 0-3 record with a 3.86 ERA, 18 holds and 21 strikeouts over 40 relief appearances this season. He finished 31-35 with a 3.28 ERA, 164 holds and 486 strikeouts in 512 career games with the White Sox, and ranks among the team's all-time relief leaders in appearances (1st), holds (1st), strikeouts (2nd), wins (T-3rd) and strikeouts (5th).
When asked to analyze his impact over the past eight years, the 2010 All-Star chuckled and said that sort of commentary was not his specialty.
"I'm terrible at that kind of stuff," Thornton said. "I tried to be consistent and be there every time the team needed me. I blew my fair share of games, and I did a good job my fair share of times. I took care of myself and gave 100 percent. Every time out, I gave all I had."
"There were times in his tenure where he was the most valuable reliever in our bullpen," said Hahn of Thornton. "He was not putting up gaudy save totals year in and year out, but a lot of times, he was getting our most important outs in the seventh or eighth inning."
Approximately seven or eight teams had substantive talks with the White Sox as trade talks heated up. Donnie Veal will be called up Saturday from Triple-A Charlotte to join David Purcey as the southpaws out of the White Sox bullpen and as Thornton's replacement.
Next up for Thornton is a Saturday morning trip to join the Red Sox in Oakland, where he will land and go right to the ballpark. He then returns to Chicago late Sunday night to start packing for his family's move.
Add to the equation his wife, Emily, expecting their second child and first son in September, and it's a busy time for Thornton. It's not what he expected when the 2013 season began, but the same can be said for everyone on the White Sox. While he pursues the playoffs with his new team, he hopes his old team turns its fortunes around quickly.
"I wish all my White Sox teammates the best, except when they play the Red Sox," Thornton said. "You still pull for everyone when something like this happens.
"[Chicago] is a great city, and this is a great baseball city, great organization. It's just a matter of getting things righted and move forward."