2022-12-24 · 3 min read · MLB/Baseball
Catching prospect Gabriel Moreno, Outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Catcher-outfielder Daulton Varsho.

Sportsnet | AP Photo/Julio Cortez and Brynn Anderson

As the Ontario storm continues to disrupt travel plans for the holiday season, the Blue Jays will be adding one more plane to the skies very soon.
Two days before Christmas, Toronto announced the major trade that everyone had been contemplating for some time: a two-for-one with Arizona. The Jays have traded highly-touted catching prospect Gabriel Moreno and outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for catcher-outfielder Daulton Varsho.

Rare is a deal in which both sides benefit immensely, however that is the case here - Toronto gets the lefty bat they’ve wanted and Arizona gets an extremely talented young backstop (plus Gurriel Jr. too!) that’s shown he’s ready for the Majors. All offseason long, it wasn’t a matter of if Toronto would deal one of their three catchers but a matter of when. Realistically, entering the year with Kirk, Jansen, and Moreno would have been unnecessary - and this is a perfect solution.
In Varsho, the Blue Jays get a left-handed hitting outfielder who is terrific defensively and has quite a bit of pop - plus, four years of control. 2022 was his first year of consistent playing time, in which he slugged 27 HRs with 74 RBIs over 151 games while hitting a decent .235. His debut season in 2020 - and his subsequent 2021 season - afforded him limited opportunity, appearing in just 132 games his first two years.
He’ll help stabilize a questionable-at-times Toronto outfield, especially in the post-renovation era at the Rogers Centre. As much as I love Gurriel Jr., it’s a fair statement to say he wasn’t the most comfortable in LF. It wasn’t hard to see over the last few seasons, though by no means is Arizona getting a nobody - Gurriel Jr. has an incredible arm, and was able to show it off a number of times as a member of the Jays. A streaky hitter at times, Gurriel Jr. will likely slide right into the middle of a young Diamondbacks lineup. He’s only 29, and has put up very good offensive numbers every year since 2018 when he debuted with the Jays - though there was a noticeable drop-off in power last season as he slugged only five homers.
Moreno is the prized possession of the deal for Arizona, as the twenty-two year old top prospect has dominated the Minors for years before making his debut with Toronto in 2022. He’s never not hit, and fits the exact mold of what the Diamondbacks are looking for. In an extremely small sample size, Moreno hit .319/.356/.377 with one homer and seven RBIs over just 73 PAs last year.
In recent times, Carson Kelly - whom the Diamondbacks acquired from St. Louis all those years ago in the Paul Goldschmidt deal - has gotten the majority of time behind the plate, though after hitting just .211 last year his time may be dwindling to more of a platoon role. This of course depends on how well Moreno hits in Arizona, but all expectations are that it shouldn’t be a problem.
While Arizona likely won’t be able to compete in ‘23, they’ve certainly created a strong foundation. Gabriel Moreno solidifies their future at catcher, with youngsters like Alek Thomas, Jake McCarthy, Corbin Carroll, and Blaze Alexander set to be major pieces in the upcoming years. Ketel Marte still exists, and a wave of young(er) arms in Ryne Nelson, Drey Jameson, and Tommy Henry will all have a shot in the rotation. #4 Prospect Brandon Pfaadt is also on the verge of the Majors, who’s been very good starting in AA and AAA over the past few years.
All this to say, both teams came away winners. Varsho will help Toronto win in the short-term, while Moreno (and Gurriel Jr. to an extent) are quality players that can help Arizona grow to compete with the likes of San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles - I’d include Colorado in there, but who am I kidding?
As long as Springer’s healthy he’ll consistently start in RF, Kiermaier has already been told CF is his to lose, and with Varsho becoming the starting LF, it will cause an interesting domino effect that will ripple down to the infielders. Whit Merrifield will need to get his reps somewhere, likely at 2B to start, which then pushes Santiago Espinal - an All-Star last year - to the bench along with Cavan Biggio. Not to mention guys like Otto Lopez - who’s never been given an opportunity - and Nathan Lukes - a 28-year old who’s been on a tear in AAA the last two seasons - who currently sit on Toronto’s active roster.
Needless to say, it’ll be interesting.
Sports Tree Profile

By: Gus Cousins


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