Blue Jays: Daulton Varsho trade helps give balance to everyday lineup

Arizona Diamondbacks v Washington Nationals
Arizona Diamondbacks v Washington Nationals / G Fiume/GettyImages

Springer, Bo, and Vladdy. It was a trio the Blue Jays relied upon in 2022, three players consistently placed at the top of the batting order to power the lineup.

They’ll have another partner in 2023 and beyond. The Blue Jays acquired outfielder Daulton Varsho from the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday, sending Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and catcher Gabriel Moreno to the desert in a trade that gives the Blue Jays an elite defender and the powerful left-handed bat they so desperately this offseason.

Now the job falls on manager John Schneider of fitting all these pieces together. George Springer, Bo Bichette, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. were in the top three spots in the order 28 times over the last 30 games of last season. They’re also all right-handed.

Varsho provides some protection for the Blue Jays' predominantly right-handed lineup. He hit 27 home runs last season for the Diamondbacks; every Blue Jays left-hander combined to hit 20, ten fewer than any other team in the league. Blue Jays lefties hit a collective .220 with a .640 OPS, 140 points lower than their righties. Only two Blue Jays left-handers, Cavan Biggio and Raimel Tapia, received at least 100 plate appearances.

Defensively, Varsho gives the Blue Jays an elite outfield. He led all outfielders in Outs Above Average last season. Over the past three seasons, he ranks sixth in that category. Kevin Kiermaier, whom the Blue Jays signed earlier this month, was 11th as he prepares to take over the full-time center field job, with Springer moving over to right.

Schneider has some options for how to insert Varsho into the lineup. The best use for him is to slot him into the second spot behind Springer to create some balance at the top of the order. It would prevent the Blue Jays from fielding a batting order stacked with right-handers in the top spots, all the way down to Matt Chapman, Santiago Espinal, and Danny Jansen lower in the order. The lack of a left-hander to provide some protection for Bichette and Guerrero was the glaring weakness of the Blue Jays lineup; the Varsho trade helps clear it up.

The 26-year-old Varsho hit .235 in 531 at-bats with the Diamondbacks last season, but there are reasons to suggest that could improve dramatically going forward with the Blue Jays. First, he’ll be surrounded by elite hitters at the top of the lineup. He was also the league’s most extreme pull-hitter in 2022, hitting more than 54 percent of his batted balls to the right side of the field. With the shift now outlawed, Varsho won’t face stacked infields anymore. He hit just .269 in balls put in play, 105th in the league.

The Blue Jays gave up significant pieces to make this deal happen. Moreno was the No. 1 prospect across baseball last year, a young catcher who showed an elite ability to put balls into play in limited action with the big-league club last season. Gurriel, who spent five seasons with the Blue Jays, was the longest-tenured position player on the club and formed a bond with the fanbase and his teammates.

But he’s a free agent after this season. Varsho is under team control for under four seasons. It was a high price to pay, but the Blue Jays will be a better club in 2023 because of it.

Next. Trade rumors surrounding Jays catchers can be put to rest. dark