TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays began alleviating their middle-infield glut while simultaneously building up their pitching depth by sending shortstop Aledmys Diaz to the Houston Astros for triple-A right-hander Trent Thornton on Saturday.
Thornton, 25, has posted a 4.23 ERA over four minor-league seasons, with 8.0 strikeouts per nine innings and a 1.7 walks per nine frames. The fifth-round pick in 2015 pitched at triple-A Fresno this past season, pushing his K/9 to a career best 8.8 over 124.1 innings.
In the Arizona Fall League, Thornton logged an additional 15.2 frames, allowing seven earned runs and 20 strikeouts. Since he’s Rule 5 eligible, the Blue Jays must add him to their 40-man roster ahead of Tuesday’s deadline for the filing of reserve lists.
“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,” GM Ross Atkins said via text. “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.”
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow told Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle that Thornton had been been “on the radar for a lot of teams. He’s a valuable guy that can probably pitch in a big-league rotation next year.”
Diaz, 28, gives the Astros a potential replacement for free-agent utilityman Marwin Gonzalez. He posted a .756 OPS in 130 games while playing short and third for the Blue Jays.
His departure suggests the Blue Jays intend to give Lourdes Gurriel Jr. a chance to be their regular shortstop next season. The rookie Cuban and Richard Urena are the only primary shortstops they have remaining with big-league experience not including Troy Tulowitzki, who remains a question mark as he works his way back from heel surgery on both feet.
Also around the infield, the Blue Jays have Brandon Drury, Devon Travis and non-tender candidate Yangervis Solarte with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. ready for the hot corner and Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio, among others, coming.