The Blue Jays made yet another solid trade this offseason, bringing in Randal Grichuk from the Cardinals for Dominic Leone and Connor Greene, a quietly savvy move from Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro.
I’ll be among the first to admit, I was starting to lose patience with the Blue Jays’ front office. It’s been tough to watch the free agent market that boasts plenty of available talent, while we simultaneously looked at the remaining holes on the Blue Jays’ roster. Slowly but surely, Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro have filled the majority of those holes, and they’ve done so in a creatively intelligent way.
They needed to address the middle infield, and did so by trading for Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte. The two of them bring a great deal of versatility, cost certainty, and contract control, while providing a big upgrade over players like Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney from last year’s roster. Each trade impressed me because of what the Jays were able to get without shipping out a premium prospect. Then came the Randal Grichuk trade on Friday.
The Blue Jays managed to get the 26 year old outfielder for reliever Dominic Leone, and prospect Connor Greene. Leone was fantastic last year for the Blue Jays, but John Gibbons‘ bullpen had the depth to make a deal, especially from the right side. Considering they still have Roberto Osuna, Ryan Tepera, Danny Barnes, Carlos Ramirez, Al Albequerque, and more, they should be just fine in that department. Connor Greene has upside, but after struggling in the high levels of the minor leagues, the shine from his star was starting to wear off anyway.
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Meanwhile, Grichuk represents a big upgrade for the Blue Jays in several different ways. He is set to earn just 2.6 million in 2018, and has two more years of control before he is set to become a free agent in 2021. He also bashed 22 home runs and 59 RBI in 416 at bats last season while earning a bWAR of 1.0. He’s also an asset on defence, posting a positive dWAR rating every season he’s been in the big leagues, and he has also played all three outfield positions throughout his career.
Granted, he has had issues with a high strikeout percentage, but as Atkins mentioned on Friday, the Blue Jays believe there is more potential in his bat, and that their analytics data has him as a more valuable player than many other teams viewed him. Even if the Blue Jays are wrong about that and he’s the same type of player he’s been in St. Louis for the last few years, this should still be a win for the Blue Jays for several reasons.
As an added bonus, Grichuk fills the outfield picture without cutting too hard into the remaining payroll. Prior to the trade, it was widely assumed that the Blue Jays had somewhere in the neighbourhood of 15 million to spend. With Grichuk earning just 2.6 million and Leone’s outgoing salary of just over one million, the Blue Jays should still have more than enough money to upgrade their starting rotation, and/or look at upgrades to their back-up catcher spot, and maybe even the bullpen.
By resisting the urge to overpay for the free agents on the market, the Blue Jays have addressed many of their needs on the cheap, while also keeping their top prospects. It may have taken way longer than most of us would have preferred, and granted the job isn’t fully complete yet, but I’m happy to admit that my frustration with the lack of movement was short-sited.