The Astros acquired infielder Aledmys Diaz from the Blue Jays, as per announcements from both teams. In return, Triple-A right-hander Trent Thornton is headed to Toronto, per Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter).
After spending parts of two seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, the Blue Jays acquired Diaz for minor-league outfielder J.B. Woodman prior to 2018. He is a career .275/.325/.458 hitter – good for a slightly above-average 108 wRC+. Diaz saw regular action in Toronto this season, slashing .263/.303/.453 with 18 home runs (1.6 fWAR) while keeping the seat warm for prospects Richard Urena and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
Though primarily a shortstop, the Astros likely see Diaz, 28, as a more versatile contributor – potential insurance for likely-departed utility man Marwin Gonzalez. Defensive metrics, however, do not look kindly upon Diaz’s performance at short (-9 DRS, -2.2 UZR in 2018), as he has yet to record a positive rating in either defensive runs saved or ultimate zone rating in his three seasons at the big-league level. Yuli Gurriel stands to take on some of the extra responsibilities around the diamond as well, but Diaz represents a low-cost alternative – he will not be eligible for arbitration until after the 2019 season at the earliest.
Brian McTaggart of MLB.com quotes Astros GM Jeff Luhnow (via Twitter), who says of Diaz:
“He’s got some versatility, got some power and can do a lot of things. It seems like it’s an opportunity for us to improve our team. We’re dipping into prospect depth, but one area we probably have some surplus, it’s in the upper-level pitching area.”
The Blue Jays stand to benefit from that surplus with the acquisition of Thornton. Though not a top prospect by any means, the 25-year-old Thornton ranked 24th on MLB.com’s midseason rankings of Houston’s farm system. Since the Astros selected him in the 5th round of the 2015 draft, Thornton has steadily climbed the ranks of Houston’s minor league system, reaching their top affiliate in 2017. Over 124 1/3 innings, he had a 4.42 ERA (3.93 xFIP) with 8.83 K/9 and 2.24 BB/9 while pitching with Triple-A Fresno for the entirety of 2018.
With either Urena or Gurriel ready to take over at short, the Blue Jays did a nice job here of turning their middle infield depth into an MLB-ready arm. Thornton has not yet appeared in the majors, though the Jays will add him to their 40-man roster, per Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith (via Twitter). The rebuilding Blue Jays get all six years of Thornton’s team control in exchange for four years of Diaz.