Sometimes trades aren't so much about what you get as they are about what you lose. This is one of those deals, and it's a great one for me personally, because Matt Thornton sucks, I hate him, and I chuckle at the thought of Hawk Harrelson having to narrate his control problems all summer long. It's not a spectacular move that's going to save the organization, but sometimes that's just not what you're looking for in a trade. Marginal improvements add up over time, and with this, the Lawton acquisition, the Petagine flier, the Torrealba trade. etc., Bavasi's done a pretty good job of handling the little deals, even if he hasn't been so great at the bigger ones.
What The Mariners Lose: A failed first-round draft pick with one pitch and no idea where it's going most of the time. Thornton is out of options, so he was going to stick around if he didn't get traded, and that's not good for anybody (including Thornton, who probably doesn't enjoy being crippled with guilt and embarrassment all the time). With Thornton out of the way, the Mariners have given themselves a chance to hang on to Luis Gonzalez, the Rule 5 guy they nabbed from Colorado. Not that he's any great shakes or anything, but if you're really worried that Thornton could've turned into something worthwhile, Gonzalez isn't that much worse of a pitcher, and at 23, he can only get better. So there's that. We can't say yet whether or not Gonzalez is actually in the plans this year, but in having to choose with lefty to hang on to and consider keeping on the roster, the organization made the right decision. Thornton will not be missed. He's awful. There's no other way to say it.
What The Mariners Gain: No more Matt Thornton! That would've been enough for me, but the addition of Joe Borchard on top of that is just gravy. Silky, rich, delicious gravy. Borchard used to be the consensus top prospect in the White Sox organization before failing to improve over four consecutive seasons in AAA Charlotte. Even now, five and a half years after being drafted, Borchard remains the kind of low-average, low-walk, high-strikeout player who struggles to succeed in the Majors because he can't hit anything that moves. His saving grace is his raw power - when he guesses right and makes solid contact, the ball flies, and that's the sort of thing that can make a coach think that a player is only one adjustment away from being a 30+ HR guy. I guess it's sort of the hitter's version of a 95mph fastball, so in some respects, Borchard is the Matt Thornton of position players. I'd rather have an underachieving hitter than an underachieving pitcher, though, and given that Borchard only turned 27 in November, I'm pretty pleased. Still, anyone whose top PECOTA comp is Jeff Liefer has a lot of developing left to do before you can rely on him to pick up some important hits.
Here's where this gets problematic - if the Mariners decide to stay with the 12-man pitching staff, then they're left with a four-man bench of Rivera/Miller, Bloomquist, Lawton, and Borchard, with Petagine getting bumped to Tacoma. That's essentially taking away the best bat of the group and replacing him with the 2003 version of Wily Mo Pena. Lawton's still good, so it's not like the Mariners wouldn't have anyone capable of coming up with a pinch-hit double, but it sucks, because I like Petagine, and think he's more than deserving of a shot. Also, if they give that last bullpen spot to Gonzalez, then this is nothing more than a lateral move as far as 2006 is concerned, because I don't think anyone's expecting much out of that guy (edit: the same goes for pretty much everyone else competing for that last bullpen spot, too).
Still...Matt Thornton is gone. That's awesome, and it's a great move. The rest of the stuff will work itself out. Even if Joe Borchard continues to be a massive flop, we still only have to watch him suck one AB at a time, as opposed to Thornton, who tended to string those things together. This is a good trade. How good, I really have no way of saying right now, but any time you're talking about a deal where there's practically zero downside for the Mariners, then you have to be pretty happy about it.