On Christmas Eve of 2022, the Toronto Blue Jays and Arizona Diamondbacks came together on what has been one of the most controversial trades in recent memory. That is, for just one side of the deal.
Heading to the desert was top catching prospect Gabriel Moreno and outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr., while promising up-and-comer Daulton Varsho went north of the border. At the time, this felt like a move that could end up breaking even. Varsho was coming off of a strong season at the plate and in the outfield, while Gurriel was a pending free agent and Moreno was not guaranteed to translate his minor league success into big league success.
Just a hair over 365 days later, and this deal now is one of that's viewed as a lopsided one. Moreno became one of the better catchers in the league, Gurriel made the All-Star Game and re-signed in Arizona on a three-year deal and Varsho ... had some troubles.
Varsho, 27, played a career-high 158 games for the Blue Jays, hitting 20 home runs with 61 driven in, 16 stolen bases and an OPS+ of just 85. On defense, he put up 2.8 dWAR and finished in the 95th percentile in both Baserunning Run Value and Fielding Run Value. He certainly found a way to be productive, but his bat was frustratingly cold for the vast majority of the season.
It's safe to say that expectations certainly were not met here. Strictly speaking from a fantasy baseball perspective, it seems that Varsho's value is going to be decreasing significantly prior to the 2024 campaign.
According to Pitcher List, Varsho will be losing his catcher eligibility in fantasy baseball this year. While the outfielder was a catcher/outfield hybrid last year in fantasy, he did not play a single inning behind the plate in 2023 and is now going to strictly be an outfield option.
In the piece penned by PL's Steve Dwyer, Varsho was mentioned alongside Salvador Perez, Starling Marte, DJ LeMahieu and Brandon Lowe. "Losing his catching eligibility for fantasy purposes, the value for Varsho is nearly non-existent for me," Dwyer states.
Having the flexibility to plug in a speedy, stole base-heavy player as your catcher in fantasy is extremely helpful. Varsho losing the catcher eligibility is undoubtedly going to make his stock plummet. Again, the stolen bases are nice and 20 home runs isn't "bad" production, but he's going to fall off of many people's teams this year.
Varsho's track record helps his case in this instance, though. After all, he had a 102 OPS+ in 2021 and 108 OPS+ in 2022 before coming over in the trade. He's not a .300 hitter and he's never going to win an MVP, but he's proven before that he has what it takes to be a good-to-great baseball player.
No matter which way you slice it, it seems that Varsho is going to be nothing more than an injury replacement in fantasy baseball this year. The re-signing of Kevin Kiermaier pushes Varsho back to left field - a move that feels like is going to "waste" his value since he is an incredible defender in center - where he should once again be in contention for a Gold Glove. If only defense mattered in fantasy.