And it begins! The Blue Jays have pulled the trigger on their first major off-season move, sending infielder Aledmys Diaz to the Houston Astros in exchange for righty starting pitcher Trent Thornton.
Heading into the off-season, Diaz looked like a buy-low, sell-high type who could be dealt after a strong rebound season in Toronto. The Jays have a whole bunch of middle infield depth with Lourdes Gurriel ready to roll and Bo Bichette not far behind him, so it isn’t all too surprising they dealt from a position of strength to fill a need.
Diaz was originally acquired last December in a swap with St. Louis for prospect J.B. Woodman. Diaz enjoyed a nice season with the Jays in which he slashed a .263/.303/.453 line and played rock solid defence while Woodman got released half-way through the season. So, ultimately, you can view this as Woodman for Thornton.
But who is this Trent Thornton guy? Good question!
4-Seam Fastball: His fastball sits 90-93 MPH touching 94-95 on occasion and is pretty conventional.
Cutter: The cutter sits 86-89 MPH with late lateral movement making it tough for left hander hitters, as DeMuro notes here.
Curveball: His curveball is over the top and comes in around 75 MPH. It was also noted that his curveball had an very high spin rate, even better than that of Collin McHugh‘s.
Slider: The slider velocity sits around 81-83 MPH and shows good movement.
Changeup: Lastly, his changeup is another low 80s pitch around 81-84 MPH. Not his best offering but another pitch in the mix.
Thornton is very athletic, throws strikes, and “competes his butt off” on the mound. He will most likely start the 2016 back in Corpus but if he starts well, he could find himself in AAA and just one jump away from the MLB. With his stuff, the pitch-ability, and competitiveness, he is definitely a player to watch in 2017.
Last year, he pitched for Houston’s Triple-A team, posting a 4.42 ERA, That seems underwhelming, but his peripheral numbers were much better. Thornton truck out 8.8 batters per nine while walking just 2.2 and he did an excellent job at keeping the ball in the park.
The acquisition of Thornton gives the Blue Jays another near-MLB calibre arm. Ryan Borucki seems like a lock to make the team, Thomas Pannone and Sean Reid-Foley are close behind him, mid-season acquisitions Julian Merryweather and Jacob Waguespack are in the mix too.
I liked Diaz as a player, but, like I said earlier, the Jays are loaded up the middle and will want to give those spots to younger players. Grabbing him for a year for a nothing prospect and then turning him into an arm is a nice piece of business.