The Toronto Blue Jays’ off-season plan to turn position player depth into pitching is a go.
Toronto flipped infielder Aledmys Diaz to the Houston Astros on Saturday for right-hander Trent Thornton.
The move helps clear a logjam in the Jays’ infield, which currently includes the likes of Devon Travis, Yangervis Solarte, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Richard Urena. It could also be bolstered by prospects Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio, among others, in 2019.
Diaz was the second oldest of the bunch, behind only 31-year-old Solarte, whose option the Blue Jays declined last month though he remains on the team’s 40-man roster.
Thornton, 25, went 9-8 with a 4.42 ERA in 24 games for the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies in 2018. The six-foot, 175-pound prospect was selected in the fifth round of the 2015 draft. He has yet to crack the major leagues.
“We felt that this represented a good opportunity to use an area of depth to acquire a player that can be a part of our pitching core,” said Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins. “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.”
Diaz proved a solid option at shortstop during his lone season in Toronto, filling in for injured Troy Tulowitzki. He hit a team-high .263 in 2018, with 26 doubles, 18 home runs and 56 RBIs in 130 games. Ten of those home runs and 32 of the RBIs came after the all-star break; in the second half of the season, Diaz hit .290.
Thornton was not immediately added to the Jays’ 40-man roster, which currently has 36 players on it. The deadline for adding Rule 5-eligible players is Tuesday, with more moves from the Jays expected in the next few days.
Toronto’s minor-league system includes a number of young prospects who will need to be protected from that draft, which will take place on Dec. 13. That list includes the Jays’ No. 11 prospect, righthander Hector Perez, their No. 27 prospect, right-hander Jordan Romano and catcher Max Pentecost, among others.
Laura Armstrong is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @lauraarmy