The Toronto Blue Jays have found the left-handed power bat they’ve been looking for.
The Jays sent outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and catching prospect Gabriel Moreno to the Arizona Diamondbacks for outfielder/catcher Daulton Varsho.
The 26-year old Varsho hit a career-high 27 home runs with 74 RBIs for Arizona last season. Despite batting only .235, Varsho had an overall offensive season that was nine percent better than the average big league batter.
The move comes more than a month after the Jays traded outfielder Teoscar Hernández to the Seattle Mariners as they sought to diversify a predominantly right-handed lineup.
The Jays are getting versatile Varsho, who was arguably the best player in the Diamondbacks last season and the best defensive outfielder in the major leagues. Toronto was loaded as a catcher with Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk and Moreno on the depth chart looking to trade from a position of strength.
Varsho spent most of last season in the outfield, splitting time between center and right. He was the major league leader among outfielders in Statcast’s outs above average, and tied for second in defensive runs saved. Varsho also threw out 33 percent of runners who attempted to steal him in 31 games behind the plate, a figure nine points better than the major league average of 24 percent.
Varsho, who won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2027 season, also has the pedigree that the Jays seem to love. Varsho’s father, Gary, played parts of eight seasons for the Cubs, Reds, Phillies and Pirates, then spent nearly eight years as a big league bench coach, first in Philly and then in Pittsburgh. Toronto’s roster also includes Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio – all sons of former Major Leaguers.
The Wisconsin native’s ability to catch gives the Jays the versatility to continue using Kirk as a designated hitter on a semi-regular basis, as they did last season, without having to worry about tying their hands in terms of substitutions in the late game.
Gurriel Jr. played in 121 games for the Jays in 2022, batting .291 with a career-high 32 doubles, plus a triple, five home runs, and 52 RBIs. During five seasons with Toronto, the 29-year-old outfielder batted .285 with 101 doubles, five triples, 68 homers and 254 RBIs.
The 29-year-old Cuban had surgery on an injured wrist in October and will be released after the 2023 season.
Moreno was one of the top prospects in all of baseball last season. He made his debut in June after Jansen went on the injured list and hit .319 in 25 big league games with a homer and seven RBI’s in 69 at-bats. Some concerns remain about the 22-year-old’s playing ability, perhaps reflected in the Jays’ 4-13 record with Moreno starting behind the plate.
Moreno and Gurriel are both right-handed hitters, allowing the Diamondbacks to balance their left-handed heavy lineup.
The trade gives the Jays three midfielders with Varsho, Kevin Kiermaier and George Springer, who combined for 21 above-average putouts and 17 defensive points saved last season. Springer, Gurriel and Hernández combined for minus-four outs above average and minus-three defensive runs saved with the Jays in 2022.
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