When the July 31 trade deadline hits and all of the top name players have either stayed with their team or were traded, the average fan moves on and believes no more deals will be made. Well, August 1 begins the waiver trade season, and sometimes a great player sneaks through waivers and is traded. That is exactly what happened this season with Matt Thornton.
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Thornton was in his 11th season in the big leagues, when the New York Yankees, his fourth team, decided that they were going to try to trade him through waivers. Thornton had appeared in 46 games, allowing nine runs in 24 and two-thirds innings. He may have gotten a little bit lucky, even in a small ballpark, but the results were good. The Yankees were trying to get younger any way they could, so when the Nationals saw his name, they gave him a chance. Man, what a great chance it was.
The Nationals acquired Thornton on August 5, taking on the remainder of his contract, in which he will be owed $3.5 million next season. Thornton arrived in Washington D.C. and appeared in his first game as a Nat on August 6 against the New York Mets. He pitched two-thirds of an inning, allowed a hit which allowed one of his inherited runners to score.
Thornton is a LOOGY, which means he usually only faces left-handed hitters, but he was able to rack up 11 and one-third innings, in 18 games with the club. He allowed four inherited runners to score in that time, but did not give up a run of his own, which is why his ERA sits at 0.00 in a Nationals uniform during the regular season.
The Nationals wanted him for the postseason, in case of a long run, which didn’t happen, but he was still able to make an impact on the series. Thornton pitched in the postseason for the first time since he was with the Chicago White Sox in 2008. He appeared three times in the series against the San Francisco Giants, pitching two and one-third innings, and allowed one earned run. The one run charged to Thornton was on the wild pitch by Aaron Barrett in game four.
So why was Thornton the best waiver claim of 2014? Because of the innings he gave the Nationals down the stretch to secure the division and the job he did in the postseason. He was left on the mound as a lefty to face Posey, who singled to make it first and second with no outs before Aaron Barrett came into the game. It isn’t Thornton’s fault that Matt Williams left him in the game to face one of the toughest right-handed hitters in the game today.
Other than that, he had an unblemished stretch run with the Nationals. He couldn’t have done a better job, after joining a team late in the season. He will be back in the bullpen next season alongside lefty Jerry Blevins. Blevins and Thornton can turn out to be a dangerous duo in the middle innings of a game if Matt Williams chooses to shorten the game.
I believe Thornton was the best waiver claim of the season, but I will let you have an opinion on this as well. Here are the following waiver claims of the season. Who was the best?