Slingin’ David Stearns and the Milwaukee Brewers have reportedly made their first major transaction of the winter, as this morning it’s being reported that the Brewers have agreed to send right-handed reliever Tyler Thornburg to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for 1B/3B Travis Shaw and two prospects, SS Mauricio Dubon and RHP Josh Pennington. The clubs have yet to confirm.
Thornburg, 28, was a 2nd-round pick by the Brewers back in 2010. He was a top prospect coming up through the minors, but injuries and constant role changes from starter to reliever stunted his development somewhat. Milwaukee finally committed to Tyler as a full-time reliever in 2016 and he became the big league club’s top bullpen arm and one of the more dominating pitchers in the MLB. In 67 appearances last season, Thornburg tossed 67.0 innings with a 2.15 ERA and 2.83 FIP, striking out 90 batters against just 25 walks. He took over as closer after the midseason trades of Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith and racked up 13 saves down the stretch. His average fastball of 94.1 MPH in 2016 was the best velocity of his career and he also features a curveball and changeup. He’s entering his first season of arbitration eligibility.
Travis Shaw, 26, was a 9th round pick by the Red Sox in 2011. He made his big league debut in 2015 and has played in 210 games over the last two seasons, batting .251/.312/.442 with 29 home runs in 778 plate appearances (97 wRC+). He’s spent considerable time at both first base and third base for the Sox and has put up above-average marks defensively at both positions. Shaw is a left-handed hitter, something that Stearns has sought to acquire this winter, and he figures to immediately slot into the role of everyday third baseman for the Brewers starting in 2017. Shaw has only a little over a year of big league service time, so he’s not arbitration eligible for two more years and can’t become a free agent until after the 2021 season. Shaw’s addition should allow Jonathan Villar to slide over to his more natural position of second base, which would leave Scooter Gennett without much of a role on the 2017 Brewers.
Dubon, 22, was a 26th-round pick by the Red Sox in 2013. He owns a career .765 OPS in four minor league seasons and split 2016 between A+ and AA, where he batted an outstanding .323/.379/.461 with 6 home runs and 30 steals in 124 combined games. The right-handed hitting shortstop was ranked as Boston’s 12th-best prospect according to MLB Pipeline, who grade his power as 35 but give his hit, speed, glove, and arm tools all 55 grades.
Pennington, 21, was a 29th-round pick by the Red Sox in 2014 after he needed Tommy John surgery prior to the draft. He’s operated mainly as a starter during his time in the minor leagues and posted a 2.86 ERA and 3.75 FIP in 56.2 innings in low-A ball in 2016. Pennington was ranked as the Red Sox #22 prospect by MLB Pipeline, praising him for a 70 grade fastball that sits in the 94-98 MPH range along with an above-average curveball. His changeup is well-below average and his control needs work, so ultimately it wouldn’t be surprising to see Pennington end up in a relief role where his big velocity and solid breaking pitch could play up.
The Brewers have officially announced the trade. Milwaukee will also receive a player to be named later or cash in the deal. Speculatively, the Brewers could be looking at a player who is Rule 5 Draft eligible and are waiting until after the draft to finalize the deal, like they did last winter when Manny Pina was the PTBNL in the K-Rod trade with Detroit.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs