When the Colorado Rockies scooped up Boone Logan in free agency to a big contract, you had to wonder what the New York Yankees were going to do for an additional left-hander. Besides having Cesar Cabral, Brian Cashman acted quickly and signed Matt Thornton to a two year deal worth $7.5 million. Having two left-handed relievers out of the bullpen will help manager Joe Girardi play the matchups better (obligatory comment about his binder inserted here). But was Thornton the right choice?
Two things that jump off the page when you look at Thornton are his declining strikeout rate, along with his declining fastball velocity. His K/9 rate the past three years are 9.5, 7.3 and 6.2 last year. His fastball velocity was 95.8. 95 and 94.3. That is a bit troubling.
Let’s take a look at another free-agent lefty who’s also a little older in 37-year old Scott Downs. His K/9 rate the past three seasons are 5.9, 6.3 and 7.7. An actual trend upward at an advanced age! Downs is also more of a sinker/slider kind of pitcher, so let’s just take a look at groundball rate: 63%, 60% and 64% the past three years. While you do need power arms in this day and age in the bullpen, your lefty doesn’t have to be. Look at J.P. Howell, he doesn’t throw that hard yet he’s still effective.
The Yankees could have also signed Eric O’Flaherty who is just 28 years old. He’s recovering from Tommy John surgery, but should be available to come back in May. O’Flaherty isn’t a big strikeout guy, but his last two full healthy seasons had a K/9 of 8.1 and 7.2.
To me, the Yankees could have gone after another lefty. Thornton wasn’t even used by the Red Sox last postseason and gave up a whopping 22 hits in the 15 innings pitched for them. I understand the logic in signing a reliever for cheaper than the price of Logan, but there were other guys the Yankees could have gotten.