Blue Jays swap Diaz to Astros for righty prospect
Thornton expected to compete for Toronto rotation spot
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays added more depth to their pitching staff on Saturday morning by acquiring right-hander Trent Thornton in a deal with the Astros for shortstop Aledmys Diaz.
Thornton was ranked Houston's No. 24 prospect per MLB Pipeline, and he's coming off a season in which he went 9-8 with a 4.42 ERA at Triple-A Fresno. The 25-year-old typically hits 93-95 mph and tops out at around 97. His repertoire also includes a curveball and an improved slider.
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The early expectation is that Thornton will have a chance to compete for one of the final two spots in Toronto's rotation. The Blue Jays need to plug a couple of starter holes, and they are expected to add more depth in the near future, but the current candidates include Sam Gaviglio, Thomas Pannone, Sean Reid-Foley, Julian Merryweather and now Thornton.
"Trent is someone that we've targeted for some time and are confident that his deep repertoire and strike-throwing ability allows him to be a factor for our Major League rotation in the near term," Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins wrote in a text message to local reporters.
It should come as no surprise that Diaz was flipped to another team, because the Blue Jays had been openly talking about swapping an excess infielder or two for help on the mound. Toronto had too many infielders for too few spots, and a move was required to help alleviate the logjam.
Even after dealing Diaz, the Blue Jays still have Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Devon Travis, Brandon Drury, Richard Urena and the injured Troy Tulowitzki to consider for three infield spots. Add in prospects like Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio, and Toronto has plenty of infield depth.
Diaz was initially acquired last offseason in a deal with the Cardinals for Minor League oufielder J.B. Woodman. Diaz was expected to be a utility infielder for the Blue Jays, but long-term injuries to Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson changed all of that. Diaz essentially became an everyday player, and he responded with one of his best years at the plate.
The 28-year-old Diaz hit .263/.303/.453 with a career-high 18 home runs and 55 RBIs over 130 games. That helped re-establish his value following a 2017 season in which he posted a .682 OPS. Diaz remains under club control through the 2022 season, while Thornton has yet to make his Major League debut.
"He's got some versatility, got some power and can do a lot of things," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "It seems like it's an opportunity for us to improve our team. We're dipping into prospect depth, but one area we probably have some surplus, it's in the upper-level pitching area."