The trade between the New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays that would send R.A. Dickey from Queens to Canada is on the verge of completion, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, with just one tiny detail holding it up.
Mike Puma of the New York Post reported that the deal includes seven players, with catcher Travis d'Arnaud, pitcher Noah Syndergaard, catcher John Buck and a prospect going to New York for Dickey, catcher Josh Thole and a prospect.
D'Arnaud and Syndergaard are the two best prospects in the deal, by far, and the Mets would be making a great deal in turning one year of R.A. Dickey into 12 years of big league control of d'Arnaud and Syndergaard, though the latter is just 20 years old and at least two years away from the big leagues.
Thole is the "other" player going back to Toronto, though he is hardly an impact player. He is going to be around to give the Blue Jays a backup catcher, or someone they can shuttle back and forth from Triple-A when they need an emergency fill-in.
Thole was selected in the 13th round of the 2005 Major League Baseball draft. He spent three full seasons in the minors (2006-08), improving his average, on-base and slugging percentage each year.
He went from a .235/.300/.306 line in 2006 to .300/.382/.427 in 2008. In 2009, Thole spent 103 games at Double-A Binghamton, hitting .328/.395/.422, before getting the call to The Show. He played 17 games with the Mets at the end of the year, hitting .321/.356/.396 in just 53 at-bats.
Thole split time in 2010 between Triple-A and the big leagues, playing 48 games at Buffalo and 73 in New York. He eventually stuck with the Mets in 2011, playing 114 games and hitting .268/.345/.344.
A concussion suffered on May 7 of this year limited Thole to just 102 games, and he hit a paltry .234/.294/.290 in 321 at-bats.
As you can see from his history, Thole does one thing well with the bat: controls the strike zone. He is a player who will not hit for average or power, but he does draw a few walks and won't strike out much. In 308 big league games, he has a very good 127-93 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Because he has such a short, quick swing, Thole is never going to hit for much power. He also doesn't have enough bat speed or raw skills to develop into even an average hitter.
It wasn't until the 2008 season that Thole converted to catcher full-time as a professional. He is a good athlete and made strides behind the plate in the minors, eventually developing an adequate throwing motion that has helped him throw out 25 percent of base-stealers at the big league level.
What Scouts Said
Back when Thole was a prospect, the highest he ever made it on anyone's rankings was No. 8 overall on the Mets' Top 30 for Baseball America (for subscribers only) in 2009. Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com wrote that Thole "projects more as a platoon player or backup than an everyday player."
Given his history at the big league level, Thole is certainly living up to that billing. He doesn't hit enough, even for a catcher, to play every day and is not such an elite defender that you can't get by without him in there.
Considering that the Blue Jays are reportedly trading both d'Arnaud and Buck in this deal, they needed to find someone who can step in as a backup behind J.P. Arencibia.
At 26 years old, if Thole was ever going to be more than he has been, odds are good we would have seen glimpses of it by now. Perhaps the concussion really ruined his 2012 season, but even going back to 2011, we have plenty of evidence to suggest that he is virtually a replacement player.
But considering all the weapons the Blue Jays have in their lineup, not to mention another starting catcher who already hits home runs, even if he doesn't have a good approach at the plate, Thole is good enough as a throw-in to the deal to give the Blue Jays something they need.