The Blue Jays have acquired right-hander Zach Thompson from the Pirates in exchange for minor league outfielder Chavez Young, per a team announcement. Toronto has designated right-hander Junior Fernández for assignment in order to open a spot on the 40-man roster for Thompson, who’ll provide the Jays with some further rotation depth. Thompson was designated for assignment by the Pirates last week.
Thompson, 29, was drafted by the White Sox back in 2014 but was never added to their roster and reached minor league free agency after 2020. He then signed a minor league deal with the Marlins just in time for his breakout campaign. He cracked Miami’s roster that year and ended up making 26 appearances, 14 of them starts. He tossed 75 innings with a 3.24 ERA, 21% strikeout rate, 8.9% walk rate and 43.4% ground ball rate.
After that nice surprise campaign, the Marlins sold high and flipped Thompson to the Pirates as part of the Jacob Stallings deal. Unfortunately, the move to Pittsburgh didn’t go well for Thompson, who was deployed in a swing role. He made 22 starts and seven relief appearances, posting a 5.18 ERA over 121 2/3 innings. He still got grounders at a solid 45.3% rate but his strikeout rate dipped to 16.6%. The Bucs designated him for assignment last week when they made their signing of Rich Hill official.
Despite that poor season, there’s little harm for the Jays in taking a flier on him. Thompson still has a full slate of options and can be kept in the minors until he’s needed. The Jays have four rotation spots spoken for, with Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, Chris Bassitt and José Berríos firmly entrenched. The fifth spot is a bit less certain, but they have plenty of options, including Yusei Kikuchi, Mitch White and Nate Pearson. Thompson will jump into that mix and give the club another layer of depth. He has between one and two years of MLB service time, meaning he still hasn’t reached arbitration and can be cheaply retained for the foreseeable future.
In order to get that extra pitching depth, the Jays are parting with Young. The 25-year-old will jump to a new organization for the first time, having spent his entire career in the Jays’ system until now. He was selected in the 39th round of the 2016 draft, drafted out of the Bahamas. Since then, he’s climbed his way up the minor league ladder, hitting well at each stop until he got to Triple-A. In 78 Double-A games in 2021, he hit .265/.350/.409 for a wRC+ of 109. In 65 Triple-A games last year, his production dropped to .234/.331/.350, 86 wRC+. He’ll look to take a step forward at the plate with his new team, but he provides a solid floor to the Bucs from his speed and defense regardless. He’s played all three outfield positions, including plenty of center field, and has stolen at least 20 bases in each of the past four minor league seasons.
The Jays are also relinquishing Fernández, whom they just grabbed on waivers from the Yankees last week. The right-hander has huge velocity but has yet to figure out how to properly harness it. He averaged 98.8 mph on his four-seamer this year and 98.7 mph on his sinker last year but struck out just 16.7% of batters faced while walking 14.3% of them. 2022 was his last option year and he’s become a popular target on waivers in recent months. After being designated for assignment by the Cardinals in September, he’s been claimed off waivers by the Pirates, Yankees and Blue Jays. The Jays will now have a week to trade him or put him back on waivers yet again.