Blue Jays, D-Backs Make Major Deal
At a time where many are rushing around to get their last-minute Christmas gifts, the Blue Jays and D-backs swung a massive trade to re-work their rosters for 2023.
Arizona broke up its outfield logjam by trading center fielder/catcher Daulton Varsho to the Blue Jays. In return Toronto sent its No. 1 prospect, catcher Gabriel Moreno, as well as veteran outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
This is a true blockbuster of a trade. Prospects of this caliber are very rarely traded. To be a Top 10 prospect usually means you combine potential all-star caliber production with close-to-the-majors proximity. If prospects of this caliber live up to expectations they can provide impact production at a time where they are still making MLB minimum salaries. That combination makes them highly coveted by MLB front offices.
The Blue Jays are one of the rare teams who could consider making such a trade because Moreno was coming up behind a pair of accomplished catchers in Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk, which give the team one of the best MLB catching combinations in baseball. In trading Moreno and Gurriel, Toronto gives up plenty of talent, but in return they added one of the most unique players in baseball in Varsho, a player who is capable of playing Gold Glove-caliber defense in the outfield in addition to being a solid catcher.
As Moreno now has a clear path to everyday opportunities in 2023. The top catching prospect in the game Moreno is an advanced receiver with a plus throwing arm, and a contact over power approach that’s seen him produce .300 or better averages at every level. Moreno is a .315 career MiLB hitter and he bettered that, hitting .319, in his MLB debut in 2022.
Due to Moreno’s conservative approach his ability to tap into his above-average raw power is capped. Alterations to get more aggressive could unlock more game power, something he showed in a very injury-limited 2021 season.
In 2021 Moreno hit eight home runs and slugged .675 in 32 games at Double-A. This year he hit only three home runs and slugged .420 in 67 games at Triple-A Buffalo. He added one more home run in 25 MLB games.
He will not be Rookie of the Year eligible, as he exceeded rookie limits last season based on active days on the roster. A potential franchise catcher in the making, the D-Backs now have four of the top 25 prospects in baseball.
One of the core pieces of the Blue Jays golden generation, Gurriel joins Moreno en route to the D-Backs. The son of Cuban baseball legend Lourdes Gurriel and brother of Yuli Gurriel, Lourdes looked like he was breaking out during the shortened 2020 season as he slugged 11 home runs over 57 games. Over the two seasons since, Gurriel’s production has slid. He dealt with a wrist injury in early September that ended his season. He should slide into a corner outfield spot in the D-Backs everyday lineup beside Corbin Carroll and Jake McCarthy. Gurriel has an above-average combination of contact and power with the ability to fill-in at either corner outfield spot. Gurriel is arbitration eligible. He will be a free agent in 2025.
BLUE JAYS GET
Daulton Varsho, C/OF
When Varsho was coming out of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he was viewed as one of the more athletic catchers to come out of the college ranks in years. He's proven his athleticism was maybe even undersold out of college, as he's proven he can just as capably handle center or right field. The D-backs have preferred to use him in the outfield than behind the plate, but his ability to play both provides a versatility that few players can match.
Offensively, Varsho hit a career high 27 home runs in 2022. As of yet, he has not shown he can hit for average or get on-base at a significant clip but his power and speed (he stole 16 bases last year) make him a productive offensive player. That in combination with his defense and versatility makes him an extremely valuable player in the prime of his career (he will turn 27 in July 2023).
He also will help add lefthanded power to an extremely righthanded Blue Jays lineup. Toronto's best hitters (Jansen, Kirk, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Matt Chapman and George Springer) are all righthanded hitters. Varsho immediately becomes the team's best lefty bat. Varsho will not become a free agent until 2027.
He also continues a long-running Blue Jays trend of having players with impressive bloodlines as he will join Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Guerrero as Blue Jays with MLB fathers. Daulton's father Gary played for four MLB teams from 1988-1995.