By: Eli Silverstone
After an inconsistent season and heartbreaking loss to the Seattle Mariners, Ross Atkins knew there were holes that needed fixing. It was a fierce offseason with the goals of adding left-handed bats, pitching, and defense in mind. Only time will tell how these moves work out, but here’s our initial grades of every significant move.
Blue Jays receive: Erik Swanson, Adam Macko
Mariners receive: Teoscar Hernandez
The trade initially shocked Blue Jay fans as Hernandez is clearly the best player in this deal. Hernandez is a back-to-back Silver Slugger winner, but was on the last year of his deal, a poor fielder and the Jays wanted more left-handed hitters. Swanson is coming off a career year (1.68 ERA, 70 Ks in 53 IP) and will slot in nicely as the Jays set-up man, while Macko is a promising young lefty (Blue Jays 8th overall prospect). It’s a low grade because Hernandez should have brought more value. Swanson wasn't a top 2 reliever in Seattle's bullpen, but Teo being on the last year of his deal hurt his value.
CF Kevin Kiermaier, 1 year $9 Million deal
The 3-time Gold-Glove and former Platinum-Glove winner signed with Toronto to fill 2 needs. Outfield defense and a left-handed bat. He’s not expected to hit, although he had a solid 2021 (.716 OPS). He’s simply there to move often-injured George Springer to right field, bring some clubhouse leadership, and play elite defense. He brings more value than some of the 2022 Blue Jays outfielders who played this role such as Raimel Tapia, Bradley Zimmer and Jackie Bradley Jr.
SP Chris Bassitt, 3 year $63 Million deal
After Ross Stripling selected free agency and horrible seasons from Jose Berrios and Yusei Kikuchi, a starting pitcher was in need, and Bassitt was one of the top pitchers on the market.
He had a good year in New York finishing with a 3.42 ERA and a 1.145 WHIP and this was a “down” year compared to his monster 2021 and 2020 where he had a 3.15 ERA and a 2.29 ERA respectively. Bassitt had a whopping 48% ground ball rate last year which plays well to the good infield defenders the Jays have in Matt Chapman, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Santiago Espinal.
Blue Jays receive: Daulton Varsho
Diamondbacks receive: Gabriel Moreno, Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
In one of the biggest trades in the Atkins/Shapiro era, one of the best prospects in baseball, Gabriel Moreno as well as fan-favorite and long time Blue Jay, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. were traded for someone who casual Jays fans may not know. But it won't take long for Jays fans to get to know how good and unique Daulton Varsho is.
He plays centerfield and catcher, he’s a Gold-Glove finalist in the outfield, and he almost had a 20/20 season as he hit 27 home runs while stealing 16 bases. Stats such as his .235 AVG and .745 OPS leave a little to be desired but his 4.6 fWAR (9th best among MLB outfielders) would have led all Blue Jay position players. He’s also a left handed bat and adding him to an outfield with Kiermaier and Springer turns the Jays from one of the worst fielding outfields to one of the best. Gurriel was on the last year of his contract, similar to Hernandez, and he had a -2 Outs Above Average last year while Varsho has 4 more years of control and had a +18 OAA.
Moreno definitely has elite potential and at one point was the #1 ranked prospect in baseball last summer. He had 70 at bats in the majors last year and looked good batting .319 with good defense. He’s a very tough piece to give up, but was blocked by the two catchers ahead of him, Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk. This move makes the Blue Jays significantly better for their win-now window.