Why We Still Don’t Know Who Won the Varsho for Moreno Trade

Still a heavily scrutinized move, it's still too early to tell whether the Blue Jays or Diamondbacks "won" the Varsho-Moreno swap.

TORONTO, CANADA - APRIL 13: Daulton Varsho #25 of the Toronto Blue Jays runs out a grand slam during their MLB game against the Colorado Rockies at Rogers Centre on April 13, 2024 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)

Following the 2022 campaign, the Toronto Blue Jays and Arizona Diamondbacks lined up on a deal that was designed to help both teams out equally in the short- and long-term.

Toronto had already moved Teoscar Hernandez to Seattle and was looking to swap some offensive thump for defensive prowess, especially in the outfield. They also had three big league-ready catchers for only two roster spots. Something had to give.

Arizona had way too many outfielders and were without a consistent option behind the plate.

Gabriel Moreno, the Blue Jays’ top prospect and Just Baseball’s No. 6 overall prospect at the time, was shipped to the desert alongside outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who also was an all bat, no glove player that the Jays were willing to move.

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Coming back to Toronto was speedy catcher-turned-outfielder Daulton Varsho, who hit well for the Diamondbacks and seamlessly took to the outfield after coming up as a backstop. The expectation was that he’d give the Blue Jays Gold Glove-caliber defense and hit around 30 home runs, as he had previously in 2022.

In year one of this deal playing out, the Diamondbacks seemed to be the “winners” of the swap. Moreno and Gurriel were both above-average contributors to a team that made it all the way to the World Series. On the flip side, Varsho flopped (offensively) and simply didn’t immediately become the player Blue Jays fans wanted him to be.

However, this is not a move that’s going to instantaneously feature a clear winner and a clear loser. Let’s take a closer look at this infamous move and why it’s still too early to tell who’s going to come out on top.

Why Did the Diamondbacks Make This Trade?

In the outfield, Arizona had Varsho, Corbin Carroll, Alek Thomas and Jake McCarthy all available as starting-caliber options. Each of the quartet had impressive campaigns the year prior and were going to be four every day players to fit into three spots.

Varsho and his unique blend of pop and defensive prowess made him the most attractive asset for the Blue Jays – outside of Carroll, of course, but he would’ve been much more difficult to acquire.

The inclusion of Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was an odd one at the time, especially because the Dbacks only made this trade to, well, get rid of an outfielder. Depending on who you ask, the Blue Jays may or may not have insisted that the Dbacks take him off their hands, as rumor has it they were looking to move some of the players who caused the clubhouse culture to be too lax and humorous, and they were looking to take a more serious tone when it comes to winning games.

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Gurriel was a pending free agent at the time of the trade and while he has since been re-signed, the general consensus is that this deal is Varsho-for-Moreno, which is the angle we’re using to look back at the move.

Why Did the Blue Jays Make This Trade?

Much like the Dbacks’ situation, the Blue Jays had a logjam that needed to be solved. Moreno, Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk were all ready to settle into full-time roles in the big leagues at the time of this deal.

Moreno offered all the potential in the world while Jansen had a streaky but inconsistent bat and Kirk was fresh off of an All-Star Game and Silver Slugger Award.

At the time of this deal shaking out, Moreno felt like the last catcher the Blue Jays would be willing to move. Instead, Arizona said he was the asking price if the Jays were serious about acquiring Varsho over any of their other available outfield options.

Bringing Varsho aboard was a massive good-intentions move by Ross Atkins and Co., as he was young, athletic and full of potential. The Blue Jays felt that his bat would play well in Rogers Centre and that he’d blossom into a star for the long run.

How did Gabriel Moreno Do for the 2023 Diamondbacks?

Moreno’s highly impressive rookie year left many in the industry thinking that this deal was a fleece job by the Dbacks. The slick-fielding backstop .284 with a .747 OPS and 104 OPS+ across 111 games, but he hit only seven home runs. He was always more of a contact hitter than a power hitter throughout his minor league career, but the homer count was a bit low.

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On defense, he saw him become one of the best, if not the best defensive catchers in baseball. Moreno finished in the 94th percentile in Blocking, 100th in Caught Stealing Above-Average and 86th in Pop Time. He showed off an excellent throwing arm and rather easily won a Gold Glove Award in his first full season in the big leagues.

How did Daulton Varsho do for the 2023 Blue Jays?

Varsho, on the other hand, laid an egg. He showed off some extreme durability, appearing in a career-high 158 games, but he hit just .220 with a .674 OPS and 85 OPS+. There were brief glimpses of hope, but he just never made quality contact over a sustained period of time and seemed to be a lost cause at the plate.

On defense, he was as advertised. Varsho finished in the 97th percentile in OAA and 90th in Arm Value last season. He had a dWAR of 2.8 and was No. 1 in baseball in Defensive Runs Saved.

With a serious lack of offensive punch, Varsho lost the faith of Blue Jays fans pretty early on last season. However, this season has been a different story.

2024 is Changing the Narrative Surrounding the Trade

To kick off the current season, things are shifting a bit when it comes to how people view this move. At one point, it was painfully clear to many that the Dbacks came out on top. After all, Moreno turned into one of the best defensive catchers in the game and had a strong bat to go alongside the defense.

Through 30 games this year, the young Venezuelan has just six extra-base hits and an OPS of .676. He’s not doing much of anything of note at the plate, although what he’s doing behind it still holds a ton of value. Moreno’s Fielding Run Value of 1 puts him in a tie for third in baseball with a handful of other backstops, trailing Elias Diaz, Patrick Bailey and Cal Raleigh.

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Even if the bat doesn’t remain a tool Moreno has in his toolbox, his defense should lift up his value for a while.

Then there’s Varsho, who is hitting much, much better than he did last year. Through 35 games, the speedy outfielder has seven doubles and six home runs with 16 RBI, a .775 OPS and 122 OPS+. He’s hitting just .147 over his last 14 days, but is up to .235 over the past seven, so it’s entirely possible that we’re just dealing with a streaky hitter.

So far this year, Varsho’s bWAR sits at 1.8, which is three times what Gurriel (0.2) and Moreno (0.4) have put up thus far … combined.

Like Moreno, Varsho’s calling card is his defense. He plays both left and center field at a way above-average clip and finds himself in the 100th percentile in OAA and Fielding Run Value. He gives the Blue Jays a very nice complement to Kevin Kiermaier, who is one of the best defensive center fielders of his generation.

Varsho has been one of the best, if not the best contributor to an otherwise disappointing Blue Jays offense. He’s been hitting more much more pop and has continued to steal bases, beat out bunt singles and is well on his way to the first (and not last) Gold Glove of his career.


There’s still plenty of time for things to balance themselves out and for this deal to lean heavier towards one team or another for a longer period of time. Right now, it seems pretty close to a tie.

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With Moreno’s bat trailing off a bit and his defensive numbers still looking solid but not quite where they were last year, it’s going to be interesting to see how he keeps up his overall production. Varsho had his down year with the bat last year but he seems to be turning things around and also had a very promising showing in spring training, so this may not be some fluke.

Of course, it’s also possible that this is simply a trade that works out for both sides. The Dbacks moved one of their top trade assets and alleviated a logjam while landing a catcher for the foreseeable future. The Blue Jays solved a logjam of their own and landed that defensive wizard that they were looking for, plus they’re now reaping the rewards of his bat coming around too.

This will forever be a deal that gives Blue Jays fans the willies. It was difficult watching the organization’s top prospect go to the desert and promptly show up in the World Series the very next year. However, the 2024 campaign could go a long way to changing the narrative of how people view this move going forward.