Creativity. That’s the word that I think of when it comes to considering your trade options. Early last week, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was on the Toronto Blue Jays and unlikely to be considered an option for the Yankees. But after a deal including him and Gabriel Moreno for the center fielder/catcher Daulton Varsho was struck, Gurriel Jr. suddenly finds himself on a team unlikely to be a championship contender in the next two years, and perhaps available as a flip candidate.
As it stands, the Diamondbacks have multiple options in the outfield for 2023. That list includes Gurriel Jr., Corbin Carrol (the starting CF), Alek Thomas (the starting LF), Jake McCarthy (the likely starting RF), Pavin Smith, and Kyle Lewis (a former rookie of the year). There will certainly be a mix of those players revolving in the corner outfield spots and designated hitter, but simply put, that is too many outfielders and not enough positions!
By trading Varsho but acquiring Gurriel Jr., Arizona still has the same number of options in what was an already crowded outfield. None of these players has the ability to play an infield spot other than first base, and the logjam isn’t any good for the promising prospects in Thomas and Carrol. Those players need full-time jobs to develop their bats. For that reason, the former Blue Jays outfielder seems out of place and a perfect player for a contending team in need of an above average bat. Who could that be?
Arizona could of course hold onto Gurriel Jr. and give the prospects a little leeway, but I don’t see much of a benefit in that with the other options they already have to fill out the roster. The Yankees, a team in need of help against right-handed pitchers, are a perfect candidate for the Diamondbacks to get more future pieces for Gurriel Jr., who has one year remaining before free agency at a salary of $5.8 million.
Gurriel has a history of reverse splits, making him a well above average hitter against righties. In 2021 and 2022, he had a wRC+ of 113 and 119, respectively. He might not be the prototypical lefty bat that would be a perfect fit for the Yankees lineup, but the idea of having a lefty is because the team needs to hit righties, and if Gurriel Jr. does that, then him being a righty doesn’t matter all that much! On top of that, Gurriel Jr. is a serviceable first baseman. That added layer of versatility would be helpful to a team who has been using DJ LeMahieu there as a backup in recent history and could use some further assistance given that both LeMahieu and Anthony Rizzo are liable to miss time.
At a $5.8 AAV, Gurriel would be paid less than the current likely utility infielder, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and is almost a guarantee to be an above average hitter. The financial cost also makes it easier for them to pivot to a different option via trade during the season or via the free agent market after 2023. Gurriel is paid like a role player and has the consistent production to be a valuable one. Sometimes it’s difficult to find reliable options off the bench that can be above average at the plate for 500 plate appearances, need be. Lourdes could be that guy for the Yankees. His defense is below average, but I keep coming back to how Harrison Bader will take slack off of whoever he plays next to. Gurriel wouldn’t be a plus in left field, but he shouldn’t need to be when flanked by an elite center fielder.
It might not be the deal that folks have hoped for, but Gurriel could help this team as a starter or depth option. As it currently stands, this lineup is susceptible to injury, and could be left looking very top heavy, like we saw in the 2022 playoffs. Even if Oswaldo Cabrera takes on the bulk of the at-bats in left, it would only help to have a player like Gurriel Jr. on the roster who comes with some versatility and can help bridge the gap to whoever the team thinks is a longer-term solution.