Mike Hazen Press Conference: Daulton Varsho, Gabriel Moreno, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Trade

Top: Daulton Varsho Makes a Leaping Catch Bottom Left: Gabriel Moreno Throws to Second Bottom Right: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. at bat
(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) Bottom Left: BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - OCTOBER 05: Gabriel Moreno #55 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws the ball to second base against the Baltimore Orioles during game one of a doubleheader at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on October 05, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) Bottom Right: BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - SEPTEMBER 07: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. #13 of the Toronto Blue Jays bats against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 07, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Insider Access: Mike Hazen Discusses Varsho, Moreno, Gurriel Jr. Trade

Diamondbacks General Manager Mike Hazen answered reporters’ questions via Zoom Friday night. This came on the heels of trading outfielder Daulton Varsho to the Toronto Blue Jays for catcher Gabriel Moreno and outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Read more about the trade here.

Your thoughts on the trade, what you liked about the two guys you had coming back, and what was it like having to part with Varsho?

I’ll answer your second question first. It was very difficult parting with Daulton. We drafted him and developed him through our system. (He was) one of the players that we were very proud to have on our team and in our organization. (Daulton) does it the right way; plays hard. I think fans appreciated the way he played, both offensively and defensively. So that was a challenge.

But I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. Where we’re sitting right now, we’re not one player away from taking down the top of our division. That doesn’t mean we’re going to go out and trade everybody for multiple players. It’s just that we felt like we had to take some opportunities. We are going to have to take some opportunities to continue to add talent to the organization, maybe in some ways that aren’t just waiting for guys to continue to play and get better and sign guys in free agency. I don’t know that that’s going to be our only avenue to success.

To get good players, we had to give up a good player. But we feel like we’ve acquired two good players that fit a very specific need for us, both short-term and long-term. Well, in Moreno’s case, long-term, but in Lourdes’ case, for 2023. We think they fit our team going into next year — we were looking for more right-handedness, and we got a little bit more of that. From the catching standpoint, we feel like we helped shore up that position. Both having Carson (Kelly) and now with Gabby, we feel like that position is going to be strengthened.

So you’re not looking to move Carson as a result of this trade.

No. Part of what we felt like was appropriate here for us was that this deal isn’t just about Moreno. This isn’t about him coming in here and having to take over that position. We feel like this is a good runway for him; we very much still believe in Carson and what he can do. He has the experience on our staff to lead this group of pitchers that we have now. So we feel like it’s a good match.

Did you feel a need to reach out to Carson and express that very thing?

Yes. I talked to Carson today for a while. We tried to connect with a number of players on the team. I didn’t get a chance to connect with everyone. I’m sure the holidays…. But we tried to make some contacts in a number of ways, knowing that this trade wouldn’t necessarily be uniformly received.

We don’t call them or talk to them sometimes to ask them about, “Hey, how do you think we did?” It’s more out of respect to them to explain our thought process and where we feel like we moved the ball forward even though we took one of their good teammates off the team.

So yes, back to your original question, I spoke to Carson at length and explained all those things. And (manager Torey Lovullo) and I have talked about it. Torey’s going to connect with him as well. We still think Carson is a very important piece to what we have here.

What was the response from the other players that you talked to?

Good, and respectful. They had questions about what was our thought process behind what we’re trying to do. Explaining our evaluations of the players that we acquired. I think everybody knew — it had been written enough — that we were exploring trades for outfielders. When it landed on whatever specific player it landed on, for whatever reason, we were going to just have to explain why it was that player. And I think in Daulton’s case, because he had the most tenure of that group, a little more explanation was needed, frankly.

I don’t blame them for wanting more explanation for that. And I don’t ask them to blindly trust us. Trust is earned, and, frankly, over the last couple of years I haven’t really done that. But we have a fairly robust thought process behind what we’re doing and why we’re trying to get where we’re going. I think there’s a respect and understanding of the situation we’re in relative to some of the teams in our division. (They understand) what we may need to do, the risks we need to take, and the bets we need to make to put the best team on the field in aggregate.

How difficult was it taking off the most established of those outfielders that you were willing to deal, especially in respect to trying to move the ball forward and contend and win next year?

Very. We debated and wrestled with it quite a bit. It wasn’t something that we took lightly. Part of the sentiment around what we would have been able to do had we not done that — I spent the last two and a half months exploring that. In order for us to add the talent that we felt like we added to the organization and to the team, it wouldn’t have been possible in any other scenario. We explored a lot of scenarios. You can imagine the phone calls we got, and we got them on every one of them. We got them on every one of our outfielders — a lot of them on every one of our outfielders. That’s a good thing in a lot of cases.

But as we started to really pare down what our returns could be and how we could actually impact our major league team, it became fairly clear the avenue that we were going to have to ultimately take if we wanted to do that. We could have chosen not to do that. That was certainly something we’ve talked about. We could just stand pat and not do anything. I’m not sure that rolling out the 74-win Diamondbacks team, again — with just a year of experience, but with holes all over the place that clearly showed themselves during the course of our season — would have moved the ball forward either. So I didn’t really feel like just sitting tight and winding it back up again was going to get the job done.

Addendum:

Now I’m not sure what’s going to happen at this point moving forward, but that was that was the thought process around why we did what we did. It didn’t come with a lot of thought around what it would mean taking Daulton off the team. But like I said at the very outset, I don’t think we’re sitting in a place where just one player away, one free agent signing is going to take us where we need to go to compete. As you see what’s happening in the National League right now, I think we still have a lot of work to do.

Moreno played a couple of different positions, like in cameos. Do you see him as a straight catcher, or do you see him as a Daulton Varsho guy that can move around?

No. He’s a catcher.

There are some discrepancies floating around regarding how many years Gurriel has left before he hits free agency. Is it one or two?

One.

Gurriel came up as a middle infielder then moved to left field. Do you have any thoughts that you might try him again in the infield?

We’ll sit down and talk to him. I talked to him on the phone today, but we’ll sit down and talk to him at some point. Hopefully we’ll get him into Salt River sometime in the month of January, where we’ll dig into that a little further. Right now, our expectation is he’ll be in the outfield. Obviously, he’ll have DH opportunities, too, so there’ll be some of that as well, I’m assuming, along with the other guys.

Pivoting back to Carson. Would you say that, from your discussions, he’s all in on the mentoring?

Yeah, Carson is an incredible guy. That stuff comes naturally for him, and I think that’s great. For us, though, when we talk to Carson — mentorship is great, but you need to take care of yourself first. Carson the player needs to shine. And we’ll handle the mentorship organically. I want Carson focused more on Carson than I do on mentoring other people. We’ve talked to him about that, and that’s great, because he’s always wants to help. And he does (help), and he will have experience in certain areas. He’s such a great teammate. I want Carson being the best catcher that he can be for our team. And for him going into the season, I think that’s where the focus needs to remain.

What kind of reports have you received on Moreno? What kind of upside do you feel like he has?

We think he has the ability to be an impact catcher, offensively and defensively. He throws the ball really well. Some of his receiving stuff, we need to continue to work through and improve. He’s gonna be a really good blocker. He is a really good hitter and always has been a good hitter. Since the day he came into baseball. I think that’s the reason that people think as highly as they do. He has the ability to get on base, he makes contact, and he’s got a great two-strike approach. Just a really good hitter.

Both guys are really good hitters. They get on base. I think they’re going to help lengthen our lineup. It is part of what we’ve been searching for in terms of a profile from an offensive standpoint. He does play the hardest position on the field. As you look around the league, the average offense for that position is pretty low. But he has a chance to be a good one back there.

This year, I’m hoping that he has the ability to come in here, play, excel, and take that next step. He obviously hasn’t crossed over the divide between from minor league player to major league player outside of 60-something days in the big leagues. And he was playing on a very good team, so he didn’t really get a ton of opportunity to play. But when he has played, he’s been really good. And we’re hopeful that he’s going to just be able to do that coming in next year.

You mentioned “that hasn’t crossed over the divide.” Was that aspect of the deal any type of a holdup or give you any hesitancy? Were you also looking at guys that were a little more established? How did that play into your thinking?

When we were going through this process, we set a standard that if we were going to trade one of these guys, we weren’t looking for prospects. We were looking for players that were going to be in the major leagues. It complicated the trade quite a bit. Continued to. There are only so many teams that are willing to take multiple players off their major league team. That’s where we ran into some walls in some cases. We would have taken a prospect back in the right case, but we just didn’t find that match that went with the players that we were getting here. So that wasn’t really available to us.

It did not concern me in the sense of when I look back 365 days ago. His profile fits a lot of players that everybody would be telling me not to trade off my major league team right now. He fits that bill and looks exactly like those guys did at that time. And I feel like a year in the big leagues and a full season of play, I think I make a phone call on this player and don’t get a response. I may be wrong on that, but that’s — you look at some of the players we have now, and that’s kind of what I do.

Teams, I think, know that some of the young pitchers that have come up that maybe had some middling performance in Reno came up and dominated for a month — it’s a lot harder to make that phone call now. Teams (say), “We know you’re not going to trade those guys.” And I think that could have been the case in this situation, too.

It seems like, for Moreno, his offensive approach has maybe become a little bit more conservative as he’s reached the upper levels of the minors and into the big leagues, just from a power standpoint. What’s your outlook on him from a power standpoint moving forward?

We have no concern on the raw power. I definitely agree and acknowledge what you’ve noticed. We noticed before two strikes that he does still let it eat a little bit, and then when he gets to two strikes, it’s more of a hitter’s profile where there’s a little impact.

But for a 22-year-old that’s in the big leagues already that has the feel to hit like that? I don’t know how much we’re gonna dive in to try to alter that to hunt power right now. Having a good hitter is a really important thing, for me, in the lineup that we’re trying to construct. We lost some home runs out of our lineup today. But I’m hoping we’re replacing it in a different way.

And then the speed element that is still very much on our team, I’m hoping the contact, the on-base, the ability to hit, the two-strike approach is going to lend itself to making our lineup even tougher to face with the way some of those kids are going to be running around the bases like they did last year. So I feel like a lot of that dynamic offense has a chance to be enhanced with the way he and they — Lourdes as well — hit. But we’ll see.

What are your expectations with all the potential youth that right now looks to be getting major playing time in 2023?

Well, I don’t think it’s changed all that much, honestly. Because if you look at it, Lourdes is replacing Daulton in a lot of ways in the outfield. That didn’t get younger — it got older. And then we added another young player that is going to see, hopefully, significant playing time this year. But we feel like the talent that we’re putting onto the team is going to be significant. Yes, we still are looking at ways of adding some experience to our roster, because I do think that matters as we go into next season. So we still have a lot of work to do. Probably more in free agency than trade at this point, but you never know.

What do you like about Gurriel at the plate, his approach?

Very similar to Gabby in a lot of ways. The on-base — he’s always been a very good hitter. Two years ago, there was a little bit of a power dive a little bit last year. We feel like the hamate could have had something to do with that. That has now been fixed. We’re excited to add this guy into our lineup. We think he has a chance to be one of our better hitters.

Beyond the typical medical review, did you seek additional reassurances from the Blue Jays on Moreno’s thumb surgery from the fractured thumb in July 2021?

Yes. Not from a questioning standpoint, but we asked more questions about it and just assured that they had no expectation that it was gonna linger.

Diego Castillo, can you tell us a little bit about him and what role you foresee for him?

Adding to the depth of our infield. We’ve lost a couple of guys from last year’s team, and we’ll have him in the system. He’ll provide protection on the infield at multiple positions.

How did this trade develop? Was this something that came about last-minute in the last 24 hours or so? Or has it been in the works for a little while?

I think (Blue Jays general manager) Ross (Atkins) and I were the first two people to meet at the GM meetings. He was the first person I sat and talked with for a while. So the expression of interest in both our outfielders and their catchers was pretty immediate. And it just took a long time after that. What we were chasing was difficult. Because in a lot of cases, when they were going to make these deals, they had to have alternative options. Probably not Moreno, in this case, for them, but maybe with Gurriel, they had multiple catchers. We felt the same way, like we could withstand trading one of our outfielders, so we weren’t in that position. But not every team had that dynamic. We were trying to pull players off their team where maybe they weren’t as deep, and that was prohibitive to certain deals.

I think this deal took a long time because when you’re talking about good major league players for good major league players, there’s — (we had) the question before, do you have concern about taking Daulton Varsho off your team? Yes, I do. Do I think they have concerns about taking Gurriel off their team? Yes, I do. From Moreno’s standpoint, I’m sure, but they had a little bit more depth, and he was a little younger. I’m not exactly sure exactly how they would feel there. But that it’s just a tricky dynamic.

When you’re trading a major league player for prospects, it’s a much easier dynamic. The one team that’s getting the major league player is “acquiring” the guy, and the other team isn’t concerned, usually, about it, because they’re trading for prospects. Their intent is to trade for prospects. That wasn’t the case here.

You were saying earlier it became clear as you guys went along that to get back the kind of impact you needed, it was probably gonna have to be Varsho. Can you add any color to that? What would a trade of one of the younger, less-established outfielders been able to get you? What sort of choices were you having to make?

One of the things, in addition to the major league component of it, you’ve seen us make trades where we’ve tried to acquire three or four players, and those trades haven’t gone so great for me. For whatever reason, spreading out, diversifying the risk — we went more after impact in this trade. We were chasing more specific players in these trades versus just trying to acquire as much volume and value as we could. At other points in time, (that) made a little bit more sense to us. As we were building our farm system, we were trying to grow our talent base.

I didn’t feel like that was as much the need (here). There was going to be less, was going to be fewer players. It may have been a one for one, it may have been a one for one where we were ceding a lot of control, which we didn’t feel good about. We felt like taking some of our best young players and trading off that control for where we are right now didn’t make a ton of sense to us. There was more certainty — clearly, we have it too — in Daulton’s performance to this point in his career, and rightly so, that teams were willing to pay more for that. I don’t know that we were ever going to cross that divide otherwise.

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Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

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