There are no shortage of closer candidates in the White Sox’s bullpen, particularly if Chris Sale begins the year as a reliever, but Scott Merkin of MLB.com calls Matt Thornton the “frontrunner” for ninth-inning duties in Chicago.
Thornton has long been one of the elite setup men in baseball, posting a 3.19 ERA and 349 strikeouts in 311 innings since joining the White Sox in 2006, and saved a career-high eight games last season as the White Sox relied less and less on Bobby Jenks.
In the past manager Ozzie Guillen has shown a willingness to mix and match relievers based on the handedness of the batters at the plate, even in the ninth inning, and the White Sox certainly have enough depth to go that route with Thornton, Chris Sale, and Will Ohman from the left side and Jesse Crain, Sergio Santos, and Tony Pena from the right side.
The Rays have traded right-hander Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, per team announcements on Saturday evening. The Twins will receive minor league shortstop Jermaine Palacios in the deal. Despite previous speculation, recently-DFA’d outfielder Corey Dickerson was not included in the trade.
With Odorizzi, the Twins finally have the front-end starter they’ve been seeking all winter. It’s a bargain deal as well, as the 27-year-old righty is under contract through 2019 and didn’t require the club to part with any of their top-shelf prospects in the trade. Odorizzi will be looking to stage a comeback in 2018 after a dismal performance with the Rays last year, during which he eked out a career-worst 4.14 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 8.0 SO/9 through 143 1/3 innings.
Palacios, 21, ranked no. 27 in the Twins’ system last season. He split his year between Single-A Cedar Rapids and High-A Fort Myers, raking a combined .296/.333/.454 with 13 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 539 plate appearances. He’s expected to continue developing at shortstop, though he’s also seen limited time at second and third base during his four-year career in the minors.