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Could the Blue Jays trade one of their catchers to Arizona?

The Blue Jays need an outfielder.

Say what you have about the depth of outfield they have left, even after trading Teoscar Hernández (and Ross Atkins) last week, the Blue Jays need an outfielder.

Speaking to the media after the trade, the Jays general manager noted that the team still has five big league outfielders, with Whit Merrifield, Cavan Biggio and 2022 Buffalo Bisons MVP Nathan Lukes joining stuck starters Lourdes Gurriel Jr. bump (subject to further trade). ) and George Springer.

No one thinks Biggio, Lukes or Merrifield will be in the starting lineup, assuming the Jays break camp healthy for their March 30 opener in St. Louis.

The Hernández trade opened up a place for a better defender and created an opportunity to put knights in a corner (maybe a little sooner than necessary, but better too soon than too late) and also gave the Jays an opportunity to concede their overly right-handed lineup diversify and become too similar a lineup and Atkins and his crew are working hard to find a good fit.

The first place to look is in the desert.

The Arizona Diamondbacks, losers in 88 games in 2022 and more than a decade away from their last win in a playoff game, are literally overflowing with just what the Jays need.

The Desert Dogs have no fewer than four players who can hit left hands and play midfield, five if you count Ketel Marte, who played 71 games out there in 2021 but became a full-time infielder last season due to a recurring hamstring problem .

A surplus of outfield players, most of whom are strong defenders, the eldest of whom won’t turn 27 until July, is a treasure trove for the Jays, who have the young, controllable, high-ceilinged talent that could make them do it make pretty much any deal they want.

The Quartet’s prize is Corbin Carroll. The 2019 first-round pick made his big-league debut in late August and played the rest of the way every day with an on-base plus slugging percentage of .830 that included 15 extra-base hits in 32 games. He’s the third best prospect in the game going into the 2023 season, and he’s likely going nowhere even if the Jays dangle young catcher Gabriel Moreno.

With Carroll a non-starter, second best of the group is likely Daulton Varsho, the elder statesman at 26 years old. He has by far the most big-league experience going into his third full season, and he also has the pedigree that the Jays seem to love. Varsho’s father, Gary, played eight seasons for the Cubs, Reds, Phillies and Pirates and then spent nearly eight years benching in the big leagues, first in Philly and then in Pittsburgh.

The younger Varsho, named after his father Phil’s teammate Darren Daulton, is an exceptional defender. He ranked the major league lead among outfielders in the Statcast Outs Above Average metric last season and tied for second in Defensive Runs Saved. He also hit 27 home runs and, while hitting just .235, had an overall offensive season that was nine percent better than the average big league hitter. Oh, and he’s also caught 31 games and knocked out 33 percent of runners who tried to steal him, a mark that’s nine points better than the major league average of 24 percent.

Varsho’s versatility makes him a perfect target for the Jays as they would absolutely need to move one of their young catchers to get him and Danny Jansen, who has been injured many times over the years, and either Moreno – who is still in behind the plate Work is, especially when it comes to game calling – or Alejandro Kirk, who takes a lot of time as a designated batsman.

But all of these things make it very difficult for the Snakes to move him as well without the Jays paying a premium that they (and their fans) probably wouldn’t be happy with.

Next on the list would be Jake McCarthy and Alek Thomas.

McCarthy, 25, played just 99 games in the majors in 2022 but finished fourth in National League Rookie of the Year voting after hitting .283 OPS with .769 and stealing 23 bases in 26 attempts.

Thomas, 22, got his first taste of the big ones last season and was an NL Gold Glove midfield finalist. He got off to a solid start on the plate, but a terrible run that saw him go 1 for 33 sent him back to Triple-A to finish the season.

Both are phenomenal baserunners, with McCarthy’s sprint speed of 30.1 feet per second and Thomas’ 29.4, both considered elite. Both are faster than the fastest member of the 2022 Blue Jays, Bradley Zimmer, who clocked 29.2.

Thomas is by far the better defender of the two and is almost three years younger. Both come with six years of club control before qualifying for free agency, with McCarthy just two days short of a full year in the big league.

You’d think Moreno would have to go to get one of them, with Arizona having to back down slightly on a McCarthy deal, but maybe not on a trade for Thomas.

So the question is, will McCarthy or Thomas be the one to fill the void created by the Teoscar trade, or will the Jays Varsho hold out, or turn their attention to Pittsburgh’s Bryan Reynolds, for example, who would cost a lot more?

Despite the inferior offensive numbers, Thomas should fit very well. With the Jays’ high-profile offense, he didn’t have to contribute much, and his batting average was higher than McCarthy’s and, as a 22-year-old, only slightly below the major league average, while he struck out 20 percent less often than the average big-league. He keeps the ball on the ground often enough to use elite speed and is a great ballhawk outfield while McCarthy is underperforming on defense.

The Moreno deal that Jays fans have been dreaming of for a number of years will be a hard pill to swallow, but this would be an excess-for-excess deal, and as big as Moreno is, the odds he ever has has as good a season as Alejandro Kirk’s 2022 are lean, Kirk was an all-star in his first full season in the majors.

A Moreno for Thomas plus (the plus is very small) probably wouldn’t sit well with Jay’s fans, but Jays’ pitchers would absolutely love it.

Mike Wilner is a Toronto-based baseball columnist for the star and host of the baseball podcast Deep Left Field. Follow him on Twitter: @wilnerness


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