Yesterday afternoon, the news broke that the Arizona Diamondbacks had made a significant trade. It’s going to be a contentious deal that many fans on both sides follow up on regularly to prove one side won or lost (see: Goldy to STL or Gallen to AZ for past Arizona trades of similar caliber).
Arizona Receives: C Gabriel Moreno (22, former top prospect, now Major League Player who lost his rookie eligibility in 2022 due to time on roster) & OF/DH Lourdes Gurriel Jr (29, signed by Toronto in 2016, 8.0 bWAR since debuting in 2018, free agent after 2023 season)
Toronto Receives: OF Daulton Varsho (26, former top Catching prospect, 6.7 bWAR since debuting in 2020, free agent after 2026 season)
Mike Hazen’s Comments
This is NOT a transcript. Please do not treat it as such. These are paraphrased versions of the actual questions/answers.
Question: Overall thoughts on the trade?
Hazen: It was difficult to part with Varsho. He was drafted and developed by Arizona (specifically he was one of Hazen’s first draftees after taking control). The Diamondbacks were proud to have him in Sedona Red because he’s a guy who does it all the right way.
But the team is also aware they aren’t one player away from winning the NL West. They felt they needed to take the opportunity to better the organization as a whole and Free Agency wasn’t going to be the only avenue to success.
Moreno and Gurriel both fit the Major League roster in 2023 (and Moreno beyond that). Both hitters are right-handed, and Moreno is a Catcher. The team really likes the duo of Carson Kelly and Gabriel Moreno moving forward; they view the position of Catcher as a strength.
Question: Is the team now looking to move Carson Kelly?
Hazen: Resounding no. This move isn’t about having Gabriel Moreno be the everyday Catcher right away. Carson knows the pitching staff and has had years to work with them. He will help Moreno adjust to Arizona more quickly.
AZSnakePit Perspective: While listening to this particular answer, my mind jumped to Hazen’s old adage of having competition to earn starting time. Recently certain positions haven’t offered much competition to the incumbent, but this move strikes me as that type. Get Kelly and Moreno playing together and also against each other for playing time and you’ll hopefully get the best out of both.
Question: Did you reach out to Carson?
Hazen: Yes. He’d spoken with Carson “for a while” earlier in the day. He couldn’t speak with everyone (a little vague on if this meant the whole team - coaches/players/etc. - or if he meant just the guys most impacted by the move). He reiterated that Carson is a big part of the team and will continue to be.
Question: What were the other guys’ reactions?
Hazen: Everyone is a professional and they may not like the move, but they know to expect an explanation from the Front Office. He doesn’t expect blind trust and knows he doesn’t have it either. Hazen wants to fully explain the thought process behind the move and discuss it with the entire team over time. He knew that regardless of which Outfielder they moved, an explanation would be necessary and since it was Varsho, a longer more detailed explanation was required. He was the most established and played a major role on the team.
Question: Was it difficult removing the most established of the left-handed outfielders?
Hazen: Very difficult. They debated and wrestled with the idea for a long time. They spent two and a half months exploring all of their options. But you have to give up talent to get talent. They gave up the necessary piece to get the organization changing talent they wanted.
In theory, the team could have stood pat and hoped that good breaks and further development bridged the gap to contention, but Hazen’s wasn’t sure running a 74-win team with obvious holes back out in 2023 was the right move. The team is more than a single player away.
Question: Will Moreno play other positions?
Hazen: No. He is a Catcher.
Question: How many years of control does Gurriel have left? (There has been some rather public discrepancy on this issue due to him signing an MLB contract instead of going through Arbitration like most players) And where will he play?
Hazen: He has one year of control. He will be a free agent after the 2023 World Series.
As for playing time, the expectation in Arizona is that he will play in the Outfield. he does have some experience as a Middle Infielder, and they may discuss that with him when he arrives at Salt River Fields (hopefully in January). There is also the DH position.
Question: How does Carson feel about the mentor role?
Hazen: He is all in on the mentor role. He is ready to help the team win in any way he can, including as a mentor to a younger Catcher if necessary.
That said, the team has told Carson it isn’t just about mentorship. First and foremost, they want him to focus on himself and making himself the best he can be. The expectation is that Carson helps Gabby learn the pitching staff and everything, but the goal is to have two good Catchers for the season. Carson is a great teammate.
Question: Can you discuss the reports you got on Moreno and his upside?
Hazen: He can be an impact player behind the plate and with a bat. He’s a really good hitter who still needs some receiving development, but that will come.
Both Gurriell and Moreno are good hitters who lengthen the lineup. Moreno needs to take the next step and they hope/expect he will do so.
Specifically, Hazen noted they were not looking for prospects in a trade for their Outfielders. It complicated the trade because most teams were unwilling to part with multiple MLB ready guys. He admitted they would have accepted a prospect in the right deal, but they remained focused on their goal and achieved it today.
Question: It seems like Moreno’s approach at the pate has gotten more conservative?
Hazen: We are not worried about his raw power. They have noticed the lack of power in results though. Before 2 strikes he tries for power but at two strikes he becomes much more of a hitter. As a 22-year-old his feel for hitting is good.
They want to have him focus on his strengths and worry about the power down the line (no timeframe given). The two strike approach toughens the lineup and the dynamic offense they’ve been building will be enhanced by the hit tools collected today.
He knows they lost some (read: a lot) of home runs in the lineup today. The hope is to replace those in a different way later, probably through free agency.
Question: What are your expectations with all the potential youth that will get major playing time in 2023?
Hazen: Not much has changed. Gurriel replaces Varsho. Youth was added with Moreno, but the talent is worth it. Moreno will see significant playing time because of this.
They may look to add experience via free agency.
Question: What do you like about Lourdes Gurriel Jr? His approach?
Hazen: Very similar to Moreno. Gurriel is a good hitter. He did have some power issues in 2022 that may be related to his hamate injury. He potentially grinded through that injury which showcases a mentality they like. Gurriel may be one of the team’s best hitters in 2023.
Question: How long did the hamate bother him (Gurriel)?
Hazen: It seems like it was a major factor in Gurriel’s 2022. Possibly a couple months is what they heard, but they don’t know precisely what that means. This is a good question for Lourdes.
Question: How is Moreno’s thumb? Did you seek additional assurances it was ok? Beyond just team doctors?
Hazen: Yes we did. They will monitor it but aren’t worried.
Question: Can you talk about Diego Castillo? (Earlier in the day, IF Diego Castillo was acquired from Pittsburgh for minor league pitcher Scott Randall - RHRP Taylor Widener was Designated for Assignment as a result)
Hazen: He is infield depth. He offers protection at multiple positions.
Question: How did the trade (Toronto) develop?
Hazen: Ross (Atkins - TOR GM) and Hazen were the first to meet up at the GM meetings. Outfielder for Catcher was an immediate topic but it took a while to get it all worked out. There were other teams that needed to have “backup” options ready to go before they were willing to begin discussions in earnest.
The deal took a while to develop because it was good MLB players for good MLB players, not a prospect deal.
AZSnakePit Perspective: While no names or teams were specifically mentioned in this answer, the section about having a backup plan ready to go would seem to describe the Blue Jays signing of Kevin Kiermaier earlier this month. He is a good Outfielder, but has only played a full season twice in his career. He represents good depth for a contender like Toronto. Other teams interested in an Arizona Outfielder could have been in similar positions during trade negotiations.
Question: What would one of the other Outfielders have netted in a trade?
Hazen: (this answer didn’t directly answer the question, but it’s tangentially related) Trades where Arizona has received multiple players haven’t gone well for Hazen thus far. He was chasing MLB impact talent rather than restocking a thin farm this time. Another Outfielder would either have been a 1-for-1 deal or Arizona getting less control back. These types of deals didn’t make sense for the team right now. Other teams were willing to pay a higher price for Daulton Varsho because he is more established as a player.