The Blue Jays continue their roster remodeling by moving Aledmys Diaz to the Astros for Trent Thornton
The Blue Jays and Astros couldn’t wait until the next season to make their next trade together.
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) November 17, 2018
Diaz ends up spending just the lone season in the Big Smoke, batting .263 with 18 homers and 55 RBIs. He played well but was caught up in the numbers game in Toronto. Troy Tulowitzki‘s return from the DL put three shortstops on the major league roster, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was not going to be departing to make room for him. Not with the season he had. And Diaz’s contract was far easier to trade than Tulowitzki’s. Brandon Drury can also breathe a little easier, given he will likely be another backup once Vladimir Guerrero Jr. joins the big club in mid-April.
For Houston, it makes sense to acquire the 28-year-old Cuban infielder. With Marwin Gonzalez heading to free agency, the bench depth of the Astros takes a hit. Diaz, who also spent time at third base this season, doesn’t replace Gonzalez’s flexibility completely, but the 20-homer potential will help make up for the loss of power. He will likely serve a similar role to what he did this season for the Blue Jays; a utility bat who can spell Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve in the field, especially given the health issues that surfaced with Correa and Altuve this season. This will also likely be how the Astros deal with the free agency of Evan Gattis.
In Thornton, the Blue Jays acquire the Astros’ No. 24-ranked prospect. The 25-year-old right-hander was Houston’s 5th-round pick in the 2014 MLB draft out of North Carolina. Thornton has served primarily as a starter in the organization, rising up to AAA Fresno this season, where the Pittsburgh native produced a 4.42 ERA over 124 1/3 innings of work.
Thornton has strikeout stuff, racking up 122 Ks this season in the PCL. He also has his control down pat, conceding only 31 walks, leading to a 1.19 WHIP last season. What really makes him interesting is his repetoire. According to this 2016 profile by Astros Future, Thornton has five pitches that he will throw; a low-90s fastball, a 86-89 cutter that does damage against lefties, a 75 mph slow curve similar to that of Collin McHugh, an 81-83 slider that shows good movement, and a low-80s changeup. That’s a lot of different looks Thornton offers as a pitcher.
What might be telling in how the Blue Jays view their new acquisition is Thornton’s recent Arizona Fall League appearances. While pitching for Scottsdale, the righty was working primarily as a reliever. In 15 2/3 innings in the Copper State, Thornton posted a 4.02 ERA with 20 Ks, a decent uptick in a shortened role. He also delivered a scoreless inning with two strikeouts in the Fall Stars Game. The Blue Jays have been in the habit of looking for starters who might be more useful as relievers. The chain from Joe Biagini and David Paulino could very easily extend to Trent Thornton.
Now, this trade doesn’t solve Toronto’s 40-man issues. While Diaz is removed from the roster, Thornton is Rule V-eligible, so he would need to be protected from the draft. The fact that the Blue Jays made the move to acquired him now suggests he will be added on. He will serve as some necessary AAA starter depth at the absolute minimum, and could also be in the bullpen mix given what he has done this fall.
All in all, this is a solid start to the Blue Jays off-season. They cleared out a positional logjam and add a very intriguing and useful prospect to a thin-looking Buffalo rotation, or even the Toronto bullpen.
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Andrews has been immersed in sports from a young age, since they could read Jr. Jays comics that filtered into the backwoods of Northern Nova Scotia. The Canadian has been blogging about sports since high school, writing on FOX Sports.com’s blogs as well on the Tailpipe Sports blog. The 20-something has been with Jays From the Couch since its humble beginnings, and continues to contribute while forging a career in the sports journalism industry. Andrews brings a discerning eye, a smoking keyboard, and a brain that made Jeopardy! briefly rethink letting Canadians onto their program.