Blue Jays: Looking for another Trent Thornton on the trade market

HOUSTON, TEXAS - JUNE 16: Trent Thornton #57 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches in the first inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on June 16, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - JUNE 16: Trent Thornton #57 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches in the first inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on June 16, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

Over the winter the Blue Jays traded Aledmys Diaz to Houston for Trent Thornton. The front office will be looking for similar trades this summer.

With just over six weeks until the July 31st MLB trade deadline, we’re bound to hear a lot out of the rumour mill in the next little while.

At 26-45, the Blue Jays are well aware that they won’t be contending for a playoff spot this year, as was the plan at the beginning of the campaign when the front office decided to truly commit to a rebuild of this roster. As you likely know, that work started last year and included the trades of several veterans like Troy Tulowitzki to New York, Josh Donaldson to Cleveland, Russell Martin to L.A. and more.

One of the under-the-radar moves that Ross Atkins and company made was trading Aledmys Diaz to the Houston Astros for Trent Thornton, a starting pitcher who the Astros were having a hard time finding space for on the 40 man roster. Facing the loss of Marwin Gonzalez as their utility man, the deal made sense for the Astros, especially as they intend to compete for a championship again this season. For the Blue Jays, it was an opportunity to buy low on a pitcher who should have been worth more than just Diaz in a trade.

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To be fair, I don’t see Thornton developing into a Cy Young calibre pitcher or anything, but he’s already shown in 2019 that the Blue Jays will likely win this swap by a landslide.

After yesterday’s outing, Thornton is now 2-5 with a 4.36 ERA and a WHIP of 1.402 in 15 starts and 76.1 innings pitched. They aren’t the sexiest numbers by any means, but in a year that the rotation has been decimated by injuries in Toronto, Thornton’s contribution has been needed in the worst way. He also became the Blue Jays’ franchise leader in strikeouts over his first 15 starts with 80 K’s, and he’s earned 1.3 bWAR for his contributions as well.

The hope is that Thornton will continue to develop and improve his craft, but even as things stand right now the Blue Jays should have no regrets about pulling the trigger on this deal. In fact, I’m sure they’re currently looking to replicate it as the deadline approaches.

Looking back on the deal, the Blue Jays did well to get someone who is capable of starting games at the highest level for a player like Diaz. That’s not to put down the former Blue Jay, it’s just that his skill set doesn’t stand out a whole lot, but rather, he was a steady presence in Toronto last season. This year’s version of the team has some similar players who don’t stand out but could still help a contender down the stretch and into the postseason.

Players like Justin Smoak and Freddy Galvis probably fit that description, even if they’re both well-regarded in Toronto. Galvis has really cooled off at the plate as the season wore on, but he’s still a steady defender up the middle and would bring value to a shortstop-needy team. The same goes for Smoak, who is quietly having another solid year, but probably doesn’t sit at the top of anybody’s wish list.

These types of players won’t bring back a top-5 prospect from a rival organization, but if you find the right situation, like when the Astros knew they had a tough job finding room for Thornton on the 40 man roster, there is an opportunity to add pieces for a rebuild. The Jays found a similar deal with the Astros in the past as well with the swap of Francisco Liriano bringing back Teoscar Hernandez, although the outfielder still has a lot to prove himself.

Smoak is quietly having another solid season in 2019. dark. Next

We’ll see what the summer brings, but right now the Blue Jays have a couple of arguably premium trade chips in guys like Marcus Stroman and Ken Giles, and then a bunch more on a tier somewhere below that. If Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro can play their cards right, hopefully they’ll be able to speed up this rebuild with a few savvy exchanges.