Blue Jays acquire Daulton Varsho from D-Backs for Gabriel Moreno, Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
The Blue Jays have agreed with the Diamondbacks in a trade that will see them acquire the outfielder. Daulton Varshoreports Jeff Passan of ESPN. The Blue Jays are sending out a package that includes a receiving prospect. gabriel moreno to arizona Lourdes Gurriel Jr. will also target Arizona in the deal, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Jon Heyman of the New York Post previously reported that the Blue Jays were close to landing Varsho. The Blue Jays have since announced the deal.
For the Blue Jays, they have long been looking to add a lefty complement to their right-heavy lineup. have also been rumored all offseason to be willing to trade with his receiver surplus to address other areas of his roster. With danny jansen, Alexander Kirk and Moreno vying for playing time, it looked like they would use one of their number to line up a deal with a team in need. Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks have drawn a lot commercial interest this offseason in his multiple outfielders. Corbin Carroll, Alex Thomas, jake mcarthy and Varsho are all lefties and have various attributes, but it created a logjam that many hoped would be cleared through the trade. Given those factors, the two teams have frequently been set up for speculative trading partners, which has come to fruition with this deal.
Varsho, 26, was a top 100 prospect in the minors, making his debut with the Diamondbacks in 2020. Although he was primarily a catcher, his natural athleticism has pushed him into playing more of a role in the outfield recently. He was reported toward the end of the 2022 season the Diamondbacks were so impressed by his work in the outfield that they planned to keep him there in the future. That was a pretty sensible conclusion given his excellent defensive qualifications on the pitch. He received a +19 Defensive Runs Saved in the outfield this year, along with an 18.8 Ultimate Zone Rating and 17 above average putouts. The three figures were the best among all MLB outfielders this year, with DRS’s tally tied with michael a. Taylor.
The Blue Jays have focused heavily on run prevention this offseason, adding chris bassitt to its rotation, erik swanson to his bullpen and defensive specialist kevin kiermaier to your playing field. Now, with Varsho, they’ve continued down that run-preventing path by adding the best outfielder of 2022. Varsho isn’t limited to being a glove-only contributor, though. He hit 27 home runs this year and stole 16 bases. He finished the season with a .235/.302/.443 batting line, good enough for a wRC+ of 106, indicating that he was 6% above league average. Those contributions together amounted to 4.6 wins over replacement of the year, according to FanGraphs calculations.
This move, and his other moves this offseason, have resulted in the trade of righties Gurriel and Teoscar Hernandez for lefties Kiermaier and Varsho. Gurriel and Hernandez are more productive at the plate, but both are generally considered mediocre defenders, while Kiermaier and Varsho are generally the opposite, although Varsho has made a big step up at the plate this year. Varsho and Kiermaier should fit into an outfield combination that also includes George Spring and Whit Merrifield. While last year’s lineup saw Springer as the best defensive option, flanked by two leadoff partners, he now appears to be the third-best defender in Toronto’s outfield combination.
For the Diamondbacks, they are acquiring one of the best receiving prospects in the game, regardless of position, but certainly one of the best receiving prospects. Moreno, Feb. 23, is considered the No. 3 prospect in the game by both baseball america Y FanGraphs. He made his MLB debut in 2022 and performed well in his first 73 plate appearances, hitting .319/.356/.377 for a wRC+ of 113. Spending most of the year in Triple-A, he he hit .315/. 386/.420 for a wRC+ of 120. Although he might be missing the power part of his game, all reports point to him being an excellent defender who has sharp ball-hitting skills. That’s confirmed by his 16.9% strikeout rate in Triple-A this year and 11% strikeout rate in his MLB debut.
The club has used 28-year-old Carson Kelly as its primary receiver for the past four seasons, who has proven inconsistent in that time. His 2019 and 2021 seasons were above average at the plate, as he hit double-digit home runs and walk rates, leading to a wRC+ of 107 in the first and 103 in the second. However, his 2020 and 2022 seasons were down, with walks and power dropping. He posted a wRC+ of 70 in 2020 and just 73 in 2022. Defensively, he’s generally considered average, with DRS he’s rated exactly zero so far in his career.
Kelly still has two years of umpiring control left and probably has the catching job for now, given Moreno’s youth and limited experience. Moreno will also need some time to get to know Arizona’s pitching staff. But as Moreno continues to develop, it’s possible Kelly could be dropped in time and become a trading chip himself before he hits the open market.
More to come.