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How a depth outfielder became a starting pitcher

The Blue Jays ended up trading for Trent Thornton on the weekend to add to their starting pitching stable. It didn’t cost them a whole lot when you look at their trade tree on this one.

Ross Atkins made his first trade of the offseason on the weekend, sending Aledmys Diaz to the Houston Astros in exchange for RHP Trent Thornton.

The move was somewhat expected, at least in that we knew that the Blue Jays would need to part with an least one middle infielder to address their logjam. That they were able to bring in a starting pitcher in exchange for one of their extra pieces is certainly a bonus.

I often find it fun to follow a “trade tree”, and in this case it’s been a successful one for the Blue Jays thus far. It’s also a short one, but let’s have a look anyway.

Step one:

Blue Jays draft J.B. Woodman in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft.

Step two (Dec 1st, 2017):

Blue Jays trade Woodman to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for INF, Aledmys Diaz.

Step three (Nov 17th, 2018):

Blue Jays trade Diaz to the Houston Astros for RHP Trent Thornton.

It’s entirely possible that this trade tree is far from over, but so far it’s working out pretty well for the Blue Jays, at least in theory. We don’t know for sure what Thornton will turn into as a big leaguer, but we do know that pitching is hard to come by, especially starting pitching depth. Thornton isn’t projected to be a stud by any means, but he did immediately jump to #22 on the list of the Blue Jays’ top prospects, so he’s certainly added to their stable.

When you consider that the Cardinals ended up cutting Woodman midway through last season, this one looks even better for Ross Atkins and company. Diaz is certainly a useful player and could have helped the Blue Jays in 2019, but given their infield depth he was deemed expendable and used to address another area of need for the club.

Obviously drafting players, developing your own prospects, and making the right free agent signings are important to a franchise rebuild, but these smaller moves are pretty significant too. By bringing in Thornton, the Blue Jays are taking a chance on a reasonably talented pitching prospect, and it cost them very little to do so.

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The smaller moves like looking at trade trees might not be as sexy as a splashy free agent signing or a marquee trade, but they have the potential to make a big difference. Thornton will likely get the chance to make Atkins look pretty good in 2019, and here’s hoping that’s exactly how it plays out.

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