Honestly, it wouldn't have been a bad pick-up. Of course, the San Diego Padres are starting to get a little heavy on pitching (assuming they land Joaquin Benoit), so signing Matt Thornton may have come as a surprise. Instead, he signed with the New York Yankees. San Diego was very much in on Thornton says Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish, and considering Josh Byrnes' fascination with the bullpen this offseason, it's surprising they didn't land him. Then again, when there are so many balls up in the air, it's hard to tell which one will be caught.
Thornton signed a two-year, $7 million deal with the Yankees. A multi-year deal might be surprising for a 37-year-old reliever, but Thonrton has been successful for most of his career. In fact, he has only had three seasons in which his ERA was higher than 4.00. Last season, Thornton split time between the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox. He finished the year with a 3.74 ERA. In 10 Major League seasons, the lefty has a 3.53 ERA.
So, what if San Diego landed him? What would that mean for a player like Patrick Schuster? What would that mean for the team's pursuit of Benoit? Without the context behind WHEN the Padres were interested in Thornton it's difficult to understand the plan. It's very possible that the Padres had begun their pursuit of Thornton before they landed Schuster. That would make a bit more sense. At the time, they were still in need of a left-handed specialist. Thornton certainly fits that LOOGY role. However, after picking up Schuster in a trade with the Houston Astros for Anthony Bass, the need for someone like Thornton drastically declined.
The pursuit of Thornton likely had and would not have had (if they got him) any effect on the club's interest in Benoit. Benoit will be used as a set-up man to Huston Street if the Padres sign him. He's not a specialist outside of that set-up or closer role. Signing Thornton would only have strengthened the bullpen behind guys like Benoit and Street.*
*It's funny, I've talked about Benoit so much recently that it feels like he's already on the team. At this point, I'm going to be pretty disappointed if the Pads don't sign him!
Had San Diego picked up Thornton before they traded Bass for Schuster, would the team be in a better position? Financially, it would have cost them more than I can imagine they'd be willing to give up. A LOOGY at $3.5 million is an expensive investment. Schuster comes at league minimum, but he also cost the Padres a potential starter. Quite honestly, San Diego is probably better served spending $3.5 million in house or on a position player or pitcher who is not a specialist.
One of the more interesting things to come out of this news, to me, is how active San Diego actually has been this offseason. A lot of the deals did not come through, but that's the way it works. It's impressive that the Padres' brass has been able to keep much of their negotiations under wraps for so long with the sheer number of leaks these days (and believe me, I love leaks. I need leaks!). There will surely be more to come from San Diego this winter. Could be the Benoit deal, could be something else. But just don't think San Diego isn't doing anything.