Was Trent Thornton the right call for the Blue Jays to designate for assignment?

Should the Blue Jays have moved another player instead of Thornton to open up the spot on their 40-man roster?
Oakland Athletics v Toronto Blue Jays
Oakland Athletics v Toronto Blue Jays / Andrew Lahodynskyj/GettyImages
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Last Friday, when the Toronto Blue Jays acquired left-handed pitcher Génesis Cabrera from the St. Louis Cardinals, the Jays needed to open a spot on their 40-man roster to add Cabrera to their big league lineup. As a result, the Jays chose to designate Trent Thornton for assignment. Some may have wondered, was that the right call by Jays’ management?

After all, he did show some promise during his MLB debut season back in 2019 with the Blue Jays, in which he produced a 6-9 record with a 4.84 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, with 149 strikeouts in 154.1 innings pitched in 32 appearances (including 29 games started). He would go on to struggle to remain with the big league club in the years that followed, as he moved between the majors and minors multiple times over the next few seasons.

For 2023, in his short four-game stint with the big league club, he did post a solid 1.69 ERA, giving up only one earned run in 5.1 innings of work. But with a 1.50 WHIP, he did have some trouble keep hitters from reaching base. At Buffalo, he sported an impressive 5-1 record, but accompanied by a 4.18 ERA and 1.64 WHIP, with some same recurring problems with baserunners.

However, at age 29 and still on the right side of 30, he still has the outside chance to develop into a solid reliever down the road, given the right development and environment to work with. After all, he was a former fifth round draft pick by the Houston Astros back in the 2015 MLB Draft and did produce some solid years back in college and early in his minor league career.

In fairness, someone that perhaps should have been DFA’d before Thornton is Mitch White. Unfortunately for White, ever since joining the Jays after last year’s trade deadline, he has been mostly disappointing to say the least. He couldn’t hold his own when he was given the chance to be the team’s starter last year, and this year, he has done the same in a relief role. In total, White is 0-5 with a 7.64 ERA and 1.74 WHIP, giving up a whopping 47 earned runs, 23 walks and 44 strikeouts in just 55.1 innings pitched.

At least Thornton had kept some of his baserunners from scoring, but in White’s case, it seems like everyone ends up scoring when he enters the game. So looking back in hindsight, quickly DFAing Thornton may not have been the smartest move by the Jays, given other candidates that have performed much worse than him. So he could have had a slightly longer leash, after showing some limited success this year.

But with the trade deadline quickly approaching and the Jays desperately looking to bolster their roster for the stretch run, it may not matter who ends up getting DFA’d first, as most likely all of the current underperforming Jays will eventually get DFA’d in short order once the new acquisitions arrive, so it is becomes not a matter of who, but just a matter of when it happens.