D-backs set to face Blue Jays’ Daulton Varsho for 1st time after trade
Jul 14, 2023, 9:50 AM | Updated: 10:22 am
(Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
Two days before Christmas last offseason, the Arizona Diamondbacks made a difficult choice of jettisoning one of their top homegrown talents, Daulton Varsho.
In return, Arizona attained its potential catcher of the future in Gabriel Moreno and veteran outfielder and 2023 All-Star Lourdes Gurriel Jr. from the Toronto Blue Jays.
The D-backs’ first series out of the All-Star break is at Rogers Centre in Toronto, a natural point to look back on the trade’s output thus far.
It’s still early, as Varsho is under team control until 2027, Moreno doesn’t become arbitration eligible until 2026 and Gurriel is an impending free agent.
So far, the wins above replacement value (WAR) favors Arizona at 3.1 to 1.9 on Baseball Reference and 1.8 to 0.7 on FanGraphs. The two sites measure defensive value differently.
Gurriel has been the standout offensive player in the deal, making his first All-Star Game at 29 years old. He leads the trio significantly with a 119 OPS+ (19% better than a league average hitter) as Varsho and Moreno are neck-and-neck at 80.
The righty also has 15 home runs and is slashing .263/.316/.493. He had a start to remember, and not only for key moments like his Mother’s Day walk-off double when he spiked his helmet. He was one of nine players in the National League with an OPS above .900.
Moreno has had his moments offensively, but the bulk of his value comes from behind the plate. He entered the All-Star break second among catchers in defensive runs saved (seven) and first in caught stealing percentage (15-for-32).
DO NOT run on Gabriel Moreno. pic.twitter.com/1N6ZjZ5O5k
— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) April 21, 2023
Similarly, Varsho has provided more consistency on defense, ranking No. 2 among MLB left fielders with seven defensive runs saved. He’s remained versatile but has only played left and center field this season.
Offensively, Varsho has not seen the same success he had last year when he broke out for 27 homers for Arizona. This season, he has 12 long balls but a .645 OPS, the lowest of the three players involved despite playing the most games.
His strikeout rate went down from last year, but his barrels and success against fastballs have also dropped. He had a .412 OPS over his last 22 games entering the break in a stretch where his K rate jumped to over 30%.
The deal was excess for excess and still measures that way.
The D-backs have not had the smoothest ride with their other young outfielders, but Corbin Carroll has become a star while Jake McCarthy and Alek Thomas have improved this year after Triple-A stints. They have the depth to call up a Dominic Fletcher or Dominic Canzone if needed and those are all left-handed bats.
Gurriel has helped balance the lineup, producing against lefties and righties.
Moreno jumped into a starting role with Carson Kelly’s injury and held his own. Even offensively, he is a patient hitter with one of the league’s better whiff and chase rates, but he just hits a lot of ground balls at this point (58%).
Toronto already had their catchers of the present set with Alejandro Kirk (77 OPs+, 0.7 bWAR) and Danny Jansen (106 OPS+, 0.7 bWAR).
The two teams have similar records, with Arizona pacing Toronto 52-39 to 50-41.
The Blue Jays are battling in a gauntlet division at seven games back of the leading Tampa Bay Rays and currently hold a Wild Card spot by a game ahead of the New York Yankees.
The D-backs are in a virtual tie with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West, who are technically ahead by a .02% winning percent margin.
Varsho was Arizona’s third most valuable player last season by bWAR behind Zac Gallen and Christian Walker. General manager Mike Hazen has said multiple times that it was difficult to part with him. He was a second-rounder in 2017 — Hazen’s first year in Arizona — and made the bigs by 2020 as a catcher and outfielder combo.
Daulton Varsho with a perfect throw! 💪 pic.twitter.com/l3vh9bv61A
— MLB (@MLB) April 5, 2023
The D-backs will face him for the first time Friday night at 4:07 p.m. Ryne Nelson, Gallen and Tommy Henry are on the mound for Arizona.
Catch all of Friday’s action on ESPN 620 AM and 98.7 FM HD-2.