On the night before Christmas Eve of 2022, the Toronto Blue Jays and Arizona Diamondbacks lined up on what would eventually become one of the most talked about trades of the upcoming season.
Heading to Toronto was Daulton Varsho, a speedy outfielder who has some considerable pop in his bat, speed on the bases, and otherworldly defense on the grass. He was a converted catcher who transitioned to the outfield to properly take advantage of his defensive chops and quickly became one of the best in the game.
Going back to Arizona was No. 1 prospect Gabriel Moreno and outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. At the time, Moreno was essentially the third-string catcher for the Jays and Gurriel was a pending free agent who was also moved to change the clubhouse culture north of the border.
All year long, the trade has been making headlines. It feels that every time Moreno swung the bat, baseball fans and writers took the opportunity to remind everyone why "the Blue Jays got fleeced in the trade."
While this may not be the case by the time all is said and done, the fact of the matter is that one of these teams is headed to the 2023 World Series while the other is sitting at home left to watch it on TV.
Both Moreno and Gurriel were integral parts to the Diamondbacks' offense this season. The former is just 23-years old and his .284 in 111 games. The latter made his first All-Star Game and finished the regular season with 35 doubles, 24 home runs and 82 runs batted in.
Moreno's loss in particular is going to sting the Blue Jays for a while. Regardless of how well (or poorly) Varsho plays, it's not easy to move on from a young catcher who has the potential to be a building block behind the plate. Moreno promptly led the major leagues with 3.1 dWAR (per Baseball Reference) and is also hitting .279 with three home runs and nine RBI through 12 postseason games this year.
To make matters a bit worse, Varsho had a bit of a down year to kick off his Blue Jays career. The 27-year-old played some incredible defense in both left and center field but was ultimately a bit of a letdown at the plate. Sure, he hit 20 home runs, stole 16 bases and was an excellent baserunner, but he also had an 85 OPS+ to finish the year and couldn't quite earn the trust of Jays fans that had sky-high expectations.
In Varsho's defense, it felt all along that Blue Jays fans were expecting him to show up and hit 30 home runs with 100 RBI. It makes sense that fans were looking for a superstar-level performance from the man their team traded its top prospect for, but he certainly was able to still provide value. It's worth noting that the Jays turned themselves into one of the game's best defensive teams, which is what they set out to do this past offseason. At the same time, they dealt from a position of strength at the time and there's still so much time left before this deal will truly play all the way out.
Moving forward, Moreno is going to be a key part of the Diamondbacks' run to a World Series championship. He has excelled on the game's biggest stages to this point and is likely going to continue to do so in the Fall Classic. While the final verdict is still out on how this trade is ultimately going to shake out, it stings to watch not one but two former Blue Jays carry their team to the promised land.