Arizona Diamondbacks rob Toronto Blue Jays in Daulton Varsho Trade

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 11: Daulton Varsho #12 of the Arizona Diamondbacks at bat against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on September 11, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 11: Daulton Varsho #12 of the Arizona Diamondbacks at bat against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on September 11, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

Merry Christmas to all, especially to MLB fans who got a giant Christmas-time trade involving the Arizona Diamondbacks and Toronto Blue Jays. While the respective sides had long been matches for a trade, it finally came to a culmination with the Blue Jays trading star No.3 (Overall for MLB) prospect Gabriel Moreno and great outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to the Snakes for Gold Glove winning and excellent outfielder/catcher Daulton Varsho.

The Arizona Diamondbacks have a rough history with trades, but this Daulton Varsho trade seems like a fleece of the Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays desperately wanted a left-handed outfielder with solid defense so as to avoid those playoff issues from last season, plus to balance out their right-handed heavy lineup. They accomplished both of those tasks by acquiring star left-handed hitting outfielder Daulton Varsho. The VARSHOW certainly put on a show last year in the field ranking first in the MLB in DRS, UZR, and OAA, three top defensive metrics. Plus, he’s able to play a solid catcher as well.

The 26-year-old hit .235/.302/.443 with 16 stolen bases and 27 home runs. The average is a bit lacking, but the power more than makes up for it. This batting line was roughly 6% over league average, good enough for a wRC+ of 106. I can promise you Blue Jays fans that Diamondbacks fans are extremely sad to see Varsho go. He was one of the team’s best players last year with a 4.6 WAR.

Varsho is expected to near three million dollars in his first year of arbitration as a Super-Two player. Including 2023, he has four years of control left before reaching free agency. Varsho joins the Blue Jays outfielders George Springer and Kevin Kiermaier to form what might be the best defensive outfield in the MLB.

Meanwhile, it sounds like the Diamondbacks gave away a ton of potential value out of a player who could become a star, if not an above-average solid everyday player. Well, despite the Arizona Diamondbacks’ rough trade history (Paul Goldschimdt, Zack Greinke, Carlos Quentin, Curt Schilling, Archie Bradley, Robbie Ray, and many many more), this could be the trade that starts to turn the tide of that bad assumption that goes with the Dbacks.

This feels like a Mike Hazen trade and not a Ken Kendrick trade (ala Goldy and Greinke). He got an immediate replacement in Gurriel Jr., while enhancing the team’s outlook at catcher for the long-term, plus he added even more youth and hitting ability.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr., is the brother of Yuli, but a proven and strong outfielder in his own right. Over his 468 games, mainly in left field, Gurriel has hit .285/.32/.468/.797 with a 117 OPS+. That’s quite good. He’s smacked 68 home runs, 254 RBI, and 101 doubles. Last year, he was worth 2.2 WAR and has been worth 6.0 WAR over the last three years.

The Diamondbacks have been keying in on a proven right-handed hitter with strong contact skills, limited strikeouts, and a solid BABIP. Lourdes fits all of that. He’s a career 20.3% strikeout hitter, yet last year, he struck out an extremely league-low 16.8% of the time. He walked a career-high 6.3% of the time as well. He’s always been a solid BABIP player with a career .327 which is a good indicator of good contact and on-base ability when making contact. The 29-year-old will be an excellent addition to the Diamondbacks’ outfield and lineup.

It’s likely that he plays left field and designated hitter often. He’ll mix into the outfield mix with Kyle Lewis, Corbin Carroll, Alek Thomas, and Jake McCarthy. Gurriel signed a contract out of Cuba that overrode his service time control so he has one year remaining on his deal for $5.4 MM. That’s a cheap contract number for a solid everyday player.

The centerpiece of the return is Gabriel Moreno, the No. 3 prospect in the entire MLB. If Gabriel Moreno reaches his potential as a catcher, it’s been described to me that he has the bat potential of Will Smith and the glove potential of Yadi Molina. Should he reach that level of promise, he would absolutely make this deal a win for the Dbacks. The 22-year-old has six years of control left and was the Blue Jays No. 1 prospect. He’ll slot in as the No.2 prospect for the Diamondbacks, right behind Corbin Carroll.

It’s an exciting time for the Diamondbacks to have a new long-term catcher to partner with Carson Kelly. Moreno has hit above .300 in nearly every year of his career, including his cup of coffee in the majors last year with Toronto. Over those 25 games, he hit .319/.356/.377 with a  home run, 22 hits, and a double to go with seven RBI. Perhaps even better is his eye at the plate. He walked four times to only eight strikeouts. At Triple-A last year, he had a wRC+ of 120. He struck out only 16.9% of the time and in the MLB, only 11%. That 11% will surely rise, but the fact he struck out that little at only 22 years old is a testament to his exciting potential and ability.

His power is a bit scarce since he hits for contact so often, however, make no mistake. He’s got tremendous power. Just check him out hitting a ball THROUGH THE WALL. Plus, Moreno might just have the strongest arm behind the plate in the MLB. A crucial aspect that will be huge for the Diamondbacks with the elimination of the shift and increased base sizes. If he can eliminate base stealers regularly, that just makes the Dbacks defense that much stronger.

Overall, it’s hard to not love this deal for the Arizona Diamondbacks as it certainly feels like the Toronto Blue Jays overpaid to address their nightmarish defense to end the 2022 season. Yet, one can’t ignore just how talented and proven Daulton Varsho is compared to the young Moreno. Combine that with the Diamondbacks’ poor trading history and you can see why some are extremely sad or hesitant to see Arizona make a trade at all.

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Regardless, on paper, it appears the Arizona Diamondbacks swindled the Toronto Blue Jays. In reality, the results won’t be known for quite some time, potentially not even for multiple years. It was a true Christmas shocker to see the Dbacks trade Daulton Varsho for Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Gabriel Moreno.