The Toronto Blue Jays acquired outfielder Daulton Varsho Friday in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks for outfielder Lourdes Gurriel and top catching pro Gabriel Moreno. Here’s what you need to know:
- Varsho, 26, batted .234/.306/.432 for three seasons in Arizona. He plays both catchers and outfielders and hit 27 home runs last season.
- Gurriel Jr. hit a .291 with five home runs and 52 RBI last season.
- Moreno was the top pick in Toronto’s system and the No. 5 in all of baseball, according to The Athletics Keith Law.
- The 22-year-old hit .319/.356/.377 in 25 MLB games last year.
What Arizona is getting in Moreno
Moreno is an incredibly athletic catcher who moves extremely well behind the plate and has an above-average arm. He’s an above-average defender, handles short jumps well and shows great ability to move the glove, but could easily slide to other positions, particularly third base, if needed. At the plate, Moreno has a short, quick shot that creates too much contact. He also has excellent plate coverage, so he’s not running a lot of deep counts, at least not yet, and could end up getting most of his on-base percentage from his high batting averages.
A top-flight defender behind plate who puts tons of ball in play and has some pop is a potential impact player on either side of the ball, and his unusual athleticism for the position makes him the type of player to bet on, that he will have to improve. – Law
Why did Blue Jays and Diamondbacks make this trade?
The simple answer is the Blue Jays had an excess of catchers and needed a left-handed outfielder. The Diamondbacks had an excess of left-handed outfielders and could use a young catcher. Both teams treated from an area of strength to address a team weakness.
The Blue Jays had three MLB-caliber catchers in Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk and Moreno. Throughout the offseason, the main question surrounding the team was whether they would choose to act from this area of strength to fill a need.
Throughout the off-season, Toronto have been looking for left-handers to better balance their lineup. They added outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, but GM Ross Atkins said earlier this week the team was still looking for more offense down the left, particularly after the retirement of slugger Teoscar Hernández earlier in the offseason.
With most of the top free-agent left-handed outfielders signed, the Blue Jays turned to the commercial market to pick up the controllable left-handed outfielder the front office was seeking in the form of Varsho. It came at a heavy cost, however, when she had to ship her No. 1 prospect to Arizona along with Gurriel, a solid contact hitter who was a significant part of the core, who transformed the team from a rebuilder into a competitor. A transformative off-season for Toronto continues. — McGrath
Which brings Varsho to Toronto
There are a few qualities that make Varsho a good pick for Toronto. First, he’s a strong hitter from the left side of the plate, which is exactly what the Blue Jays’ lineup needs to diversify. Last season, Varsho hit a career-high 27 home runs with 106 wRC+. He’s been about an average major league hitter (101 wRC+) throughout his MLB career, but there’s a lot of value on the defensive end, too.
He is an elite outfielder who finished with 18 outs above average per statcast, leading all MLB outfielders last season. He has experience in all three outfield positions and is also a catcher, giving the Blue Jays the flexibility to field a catcher at DH with an additional backstop available.
At 26, Varsho has four years of team control, which helps offset the cost of the Moreno deal. Gurriel, on the other hand, will be a free agent by the end of the 2023 season. — McGrath
(Photo: Jay Biggerstaff / USA Today)