The Toronto Blue Jays acquired outfielder Daulton Varsho in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks for outfielder Lourdes Gurriel and top catching prospect Gabriel Moreno on Friday. Here’s what you need to know:
Varsho, 26, has batted .234/.306/.432 through three seasons in Arizona. He plays both catcher and outfielder and hit 27 home runs last season.
Gurriel Jr. hit .291 last season with five home runs and 52 RBI.
Moreno was the top prospect in Toronto’s system and No. 5 in all of baseball, according to The Athletic’s 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, moving extremely well behind the plate, and has an above-average arm. He’s an above-average defender, handling short hops well and showing great facility to move the glove around, but could easily slide to other positions if the need arose, especially third base. At the plate, Moreno has a short, quick stroke that leads to a lot of contact. He has excellent plate coverage as well, so he doesn’t run many deep counts, at least not yet, and might end up getting most of his on-base percentage from his high batting averages.
A premium defender behind the plate who puts the ball in play a ton and has some pop is a potential impact player on both sides of the ball, and his unusual athleticism for the position makes him the type of player you should bet will improve when he needs to. – Law
Why did Blue Jays and Diamondbacks make this trade?
The simple answer is the Blue Jays had a surplus of catchers and needed a left-handed outfielder. The Diamondbacks had a surplus of left-handed outfielders and could use a young catcher. Both teams dealt from an area of strength to address a team weakness.
The Blue Jays had three MLB-calibre catchers in Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk and Moreno. All offseason, the major question surrounding the team was whether they’d choose to deal from that area of strength to address a need.
Throughout the offseason, Toronto has been searching for left-handed hitters to better balance their lineup. They added outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, but GM Ross Atkins said earlier this week, the team was still seeking more offense from the left-handed side, especially after dealing away slugger Teoscar Hernández earlier in the offseason.
With most of the top free-agent left-handed outfielders having signed, the Blue Jays turned to the trade market to add the controllable left-handed outfielder the front office was seeking in the form of Varsho. It came at a steep price, however, having to send their No. 1 prospect to Arizona along with Gurriel, a solid contact hitter who has been part a significant part of the core that turned the team from a rebuilder to a contender. A transformational offseason for Toronto continues. — McGrath
What Varsho brings to Toronto
There are a few attributes that make Varsho a good fit in Toronto. First, he’s a powerful hitter from the left side of the plate, which is exactly what the Blue Jays’ lineup needs to make it more diverse. Last season, Varsho hit a career-high 27 home runs with a 106 wRC+. Over his MLB career, he’s been about an average major league hitter (101 wRC+) but plenty of his value comes on the defensive end, too.
He’s an elite outfielder, who finished with 18 Outs Above Average, per Statcast, to lead all MLB outfielders last season. He has experience at all three outfield positions and is also a catcher, giving the Blue Jays the flexibility to use a catcher at DH with an extra backstop available.
At 26 years old, Varsho comes with four years of team control, which helps to offset the cost of dealing Moreno. Gurriel, meanwhile, will be a free agent at the end of the 2023 season. — McGrath
(Photo: Jay Biggerstaff / USA Today)