Daulton Varsho, one of the more fantasy-relevant catchers over the last two seasons, is on the move. With his trade to the Toronto Blue Jays, there is a greater chance that his days behind the plate will soon come to an end. Thankfully, he will carry his eligibility forward to 2023 thanks to his 31 appearances at catcher last season.
Varsho should take over as the Blue Jays’ starting right fielder, giving them good defense at all three outfield spots, at least when both Kevin Kiermaier and George Springer are healthy and out there. That’s big news for the team’s backs, none of whom have a particularly heavy ground ball tilt. Chris Bassitt, Jose Berrios, Kevin Gausman, Alek Manoah and Jordan Romano are all worth an extra buck, given the Blue Jays’ focus on defensive improvement this winter.
Additionally, Varsho’s left-handed bat gives the Blue Jays some much-needed lineup balance, which they had superior baseball’s fewest plate appearances by left-handed batters last season (a 351 PA gap between first and second). That’s helpful for the other members of the bullpen, who can sneak in a handful of more favorable at-bats against lefty relievers thanks to the three-hit minimum rule, but it could work against Varsho, whose 166-point OPS the platoon split in his career, with given that there aren’t that many left-handed bats that opponents can target with their premium bullpen lefties late in the game.
Ultimately Varsho’s fantasy warehouse should not shift too much in Toronto, as he was my No. 3 catcher entering the week and remains so after the trade. What did change, however, is his cap for 2023. As a catcher-eligible player who can serve as an everyday outfielder, he has a chance to surpass those 592 plate appearances — second most among catcher-eligible behind only JT Realmuto’s 612 — even if he serves as The Blue Jays’ no. 6 hitter rather than at leadoff, a role he occupied on 62 occasions this past season. Hitting behind the loaded top half of the order could mean a significant increase in RBIs, giving Varsho an outside shot at a rare 30-homer, 100-RBI, 15-steal season — only Carlton Fisk (1985) and Ivan Rodriguez ( 1999) ) ever did, among primary catchers. Varsho has a strong case to be the position’s No. 1 pick on the rotisserie, and he’s also closed the gap in the scoring leagues.
It’s the coming years where Varsho’s dynasty league bosses should now worry. In Toronto, he’s unlikely to see much time behind the plate, where it appears the team will go with an Alejandro Kirk and Danny Jansen tandem next season. Varsho may struggle to get to even the 20 games needed to carry that eligibility into 2024, so consider the deployment now could be permanent, other than the occasional time the Blue Jays shake up the lineup to give Kirk and Jansen a defensive day off.
The Arizona Diamondbacks’ move in the trade, which nabs prospect Gabriel Moreno and outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr., is also fantasy relevant.
Moreno may not start the season as the Diamondbacks’ starting catcher, but he is undoubtedly now their future at the position. He’ll be a player to watch in spring practice, as it’s only a matter of time before he pushes Carson Kelly for the starting job. Moreno’s hitting tool is extremely polished for a catcher of his age (22) and experience (122 games combined between Double-A, Triple-A and the majors), something he showed during his brief big league stint in 2022. He has yet to show much power at the higher professional levels. In some ways, he resembles the player he once played behind, Kirk, and Moreno’s 2023 fantasy appeal is similar, a higher-than-typical statistical floor with the potential to be a locked-in, top-10 position option if he sticks to the job come Opening Day.
Gurriel could be the sneaky inclusion of the trade. He has shown good power at times throughout his career and has improved his contact rate in each of the past three seasons. Perhaps a change of scenery will do him good, though the move from Toronto’s Rogers Center to Arizona’s Chase Field represents a power downgrade, the latter more of a double-and-triple venue since the introduction of the humidor there a few years ago. Gurriel’s big danger is that he joins a team with three young, left-handed, sitting outfielders (Corbin Carroll, Jake McCarthy, Alek Thomas) as well as several designated hitter types (Pavin Smith, Seth Beer), putting him at risk for a platoon role on the weak side. He’s worth playing at fourth or fifth outfield in leagues that use that many, but be prepared to move on quickly if he starts the season slow.