Revisiting the Gabriel Moreno trade, yet again

Ryley Delaney
8 months ago
The playoffs usually amplify performances.
This is also the case for two Arizona Diamondbacks with the Blue Jays organization during the 2022 season. On December 23rd, 2022, the Blue Jays traded then-top prospect Gabriel Moreno and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. for Daulton Varsho.
During the 2022 season with Arizona, Varsho slashed .235/.302/.443 with 27 homers in 592 plate appearances for a career-best 107 wRC+ while also posting a 4.8 fWAR. His 2023 was significantly worse, slashing .220/.285/.389 with 20 homers in 581 plate appearances for an 85 wRC+ and 2.1 fWAR.
However, we’re not going to look at Varsho in this article. The outfielder had a poor first season in Toronto, but he has the ability to bounce back with the bat. Instead, we’ll look at Moreno and Gurriel Jr., the two players the Blue Jays traded away, and why we shouldn’t panic.

Gabriel Moreno:

You’d think that Moreno hit 40 home runs and had a batting average of .333 by the way the fandom has spoken about him. However, his regular season was slightly above average, as he slashed .284/.339/.408 with seven homers in 380 plate appearances for a 103 wRC+ and a 1.7 fWAR.
After missing the end of July and the early part of August, he slashed .311/.382/.496 with four homers in 136 plate appearances in his return. This gave him a 137 wRC+. It’s a small sample size, sure, but encouraging nonetheless.
However, people aren’t talking about what he did in the regular season but what he has done in the playoffs. Prior to the start of the World Series, Moreno has slashed a .279/.340/.512 line with three homers in 47 plate appearances for a 129 wRC+. It’s an even smaller sample size than the end of the season, but the playoffs amplify things.
It doesn’t help that Moreno is also nominated for a Gold Glove at the catching position, but so too is Alejandro Kirk. Not only that but Daulton Varsho was nominated for the Gold Glove in left field. Time will tell if Moreno can keep this up heading into the 2024 season, but it’s hard to say that the Diamondbacks won this trade because of less than 50 plate appearances in the playoffs.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr.:

This past season, Gurriel Jr. slashed .261/.390.463 with a career-high 24 homers in 592 plate appearances for a 106 wRC+ and a career-high 2.1 fWAR. Ironically, he would have made a great platoon bat with Varsho, especially since Gurriel Jr.’s defence improved in 2023, posting 14 Defensive Runs Saved and 1 Outs Above Average, both a career-high.
After posting a then career-best season in 2021 with 21 homers, Gurriel Jr.’s production fell off, hitting just five homers in 493 plate appearances in his final season with Toronto. Unlike Moreno, Gurriel hasn’t had a great playoff, as he’s slashing .250/.265/.438 with two homers in 49 plate appearances.

What to make of this trade:

It’s no secret that as it stands, it looks like Arizona has won this trade. They won just 84 games in 2023, but they look like the team of destiny, which we’ve seen so often these past five years. Interestingly, four of the last five World Series have seen the National League team coming from the Wild Card position, with 2020 being the only outlier.
Unlike any other sport’s playoffs, October baseball is incredibly unpredictable, with good teams being knocked out early as evident in the 2023 playoffs.
It makes sense that the spotlight is on players who have had great performances, and Moreno is no different. However, it is far too soon to judge this trade. Can Moreno keep this up over a full regular season? Will Daulton Varsho bounce back? Can Kirk find his 2022 form?
In a few years, we can look back at this trade and make a judgment, but after one regular season with ups and downs for all those involved and 12 games in the playoffs, it’s far too soon.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Threads @Brennan_L_D.


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