D-backs’ Mike Hazen did not take trading Daulton Varsho lightly
Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen said he did not want to trot out the same team that won 74 games in 2022 next spring.
A goal this offseason was to be more competitive in the daunting NL West, and on Friday, he dealt outfielder Daulton Varsho to the Blue Jays for catcher Gabriel Moreno and outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
Hazen said he got plentiful calls on all of Arizona’s outfielders, a positional surplus heading into the offseason. Trading the 26-year-old Varsho was a “challenging” decision, but the GM concluded that it was a way to improve the lineup in 2023 and going forward.
“It wasn’t something that we took lightly,” Hazen told reporters on Friday. “In order for us to add the talent that we felt like we added to the organization, it wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. We explored a lot of scenarios. … But as we started to really stare down what our returns could be and how we could actually impact our major league team, it became fairly clear the avenue that we were going to have to ultimately take if we wanted to do that.”
Last year, Varsho was the team’s leader with 4.6 fWAR, hit 27 home runs and was in the 69th percentile in MLB in sprint speed, per Baseball Savant.
Hazen admitted the trade sacrificed some speed and home runs in the short term but felt Moreno and Gurriel Jr. can give the D-backs a more dynamic offense with greater versatility.
Moreno, 22, was the top Blue Jays prospect before he graduated from rookie status late last season.
A potential middle-of-the-order bat, Moreno was productive right away after getting called up in September. He hit .319 in 25 games, and Hazen complimented his impact offensively and defensively.
Gurriel Jr., 29, is a more established hitter in the league with a .285/.329/.468 slash line in 468 MLB games.
“(Moreno’s) ability to get on base, he makes contact, he’s got a great two-strike approach, he’s just a really good hitter,” Hazen said. “Both of these guys are really good hitters, they get on base … it is part of what we’ve been searching for in terms of a profile from an offensive standpoint.”
Never forget when newest Diamondback Gabriel Moreno hit this ball INTO the outfield wall 😳
— B/R Walk-Off (@BRWalkoff) December 23, 2022
Hazen said he felt the trade lengthened the lineup by adding two ready contributors, got more right-handed and shored up the catcher spot with Moreno joining Carson Kelly
“We’re not one player away from taking down the top of our division,” Hazen said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to go out and trade everybody for multiple players … We feel like we’ve acquired two good players that fit a very specific need for us, both short term and long term. Well, in Moreno’s case, long term, but in Lourdes’ case, obviously for 2023, as well. We think they fit our team going into next year.”
Gurriel Jr. will be a free agent after next season.
Hazen said he and Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins had one of the first talks at Winter Meetings. Toronto boasted a catching surplus led by All-Star Alejandro Kirk and was looking to improve elsewhere.
Still, the trade took weeks to come together, as Hazen called it a challenge and concern to part ways with Varsho, a player he felt ascended the right way through Arizona’s farm system into becoming a leader.
ONE ROUND TRIP TICKET FOR DAULTON VARSHO PLEASE. pic.twitter.com/5QfCTAlRhj
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) August 14, 2022
But the D-backs were looking to move off one of their left-handed outfielders to fill other holes and found what Hazen believes was the right deal.
“We were chasing more specific players in these trades versus just trying to acquire as much volume and value as we could,” Hazen said. “I think there was more certainty, clearly, in Daulton’s performance to this point in his career and, probably rightly so, that teams were willing to pay more for that.”