Blue Jays: Why the Cardinals let go of Diaz and Grichuk

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 23: Randal Grichuk
CHICAGO, IL - JULY 23: Randal Grichuk /

Some Blue Jays fans have asked, “if Randal Grichuk and Aledmys Diaz are good, why did the Cardinals let them go?”. Here is my crude explanation of why they were expendable in St. Louis.

The Blue Jays have made some excellent, under the radar additions to their roster for the 2018 season, and if they can add some pitching before Opening Day I’ll be downright impressed with the work of Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins. Bringing in names like Yangervis Solarte, Randal Grichuk, and Aledmys Diaz through separate trades were all pleasant surprises, and signing Curtis Granderson to a meagre five million dollar pact has the potential to be a bargain as well, especially as a platoon partner for Steve Pearce.

I like to think that the savvy Blue Jays fans like myself (insert self-deprecating eye roll here) can see the value in the moves Shapiro and Atkins have pulled off, and that despite the lack of a real needle-moving free agent, it’s been a successful offseason. That said, it’s not hard to find critics of their work, as many fans feel underwhelmed by the additions and are still dreaming bigger, or in some cases hoping for reunions with players like Jose Bautista. You’ll never keep everybody happy.

One of the more common criticisms I’ve read, at least on Twitter, is the question of why the Cardinals would be willing to trade Grichuk and Diaz in separate deals, and if there was any real reason for Blue Jays fans to get excited about players who were expendable on a non-playoff team. It’s a fair question, especially because the Cardinals aren’t unloading veterans in a rebuild, but rather pursuing the playoffs in the National League.

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So, why were they willing to deal the two to the Blue Jays?

I’ll start with Diaz, as the trade for the shortstop came earlier in the offseason. He was dealt in exchange for J.B. Woodman, a former 2nd round pick of the Blue Jays and an underrated piece to the system. He was expendable with the glut of talented outfielders the Jays have in their minor league cupboards, especially for the sake of bringing in a solid infielder.

Diaz was an NL All-Star in 2016, but unfortunately struggled for much of 2017 in his sophomore campaign. At one point he was relegated to the minor leagues, and that’s when his future with the Cardinals got a little murky. After he was sent down at the end of June, Paul DeJong really stepped up his game and claimed the shortstop position in St. Louis for the foreseeable future. The rookie finished with a slash line of .285/.325/562 with 25 home runs and 65 RBI in just 417 at bats. HIs defence was more than serviceable, so suddenly Diaz wasn’t really needed. The Cards could have moved him to second base, but Kolton Wong posted a .376 OBP last year, and they were also in pursuit of third baseman this offseason, which could have shuffled Jedd Gyorko or Matt Carpenter to first or second base if necessary.

For Grichuk, a similar situation that left him out of regular playing time was set up in St. Louis, and the same was even a bit of an issue in 2017. Despite being a talented young player, he was limited to 413 at bats last season mostly because the Cardinals had to find regular playing time for others as well. They’ve also got Dexter Fowler, Tommy Pham, and new acquisition Marcell Ozuna to get in the lineup every day. They felt they lacked a true middle of the order presence in St. Louis, which is why they traded for the former Marlin, and also continued to pursue Josh Donaldson in trades.

While Grichuk still has a great deal of upside at just 26 years old and with three years of affordable contract control, the Cardinals knew that he would be a wasted asset as a fourth outfielder, and they still have Jose Martinez in the fold. Fowler has four years left on his contract and Pham is a budding star, so bringing in Ozuna pushed Grichuk out of the regular playing time picture. With the cost of relief pitching on the market this offseason (oddly enough, several guys got decent contracts early on), the Cardinals were able to turn Grichuk into Dominic Leone, and youngster Conner Greene, which isn’t a terrible return.

That said, and I may be bias here, I believe the Blue Jays have the potential to win both trades by a wide margin. In the case of Diaz and with respect to Woodman, a change of scenery could do him a lot of good, and he displayed his talented in 2016 when he hit .300/.369/.510 with 17 home runs and finished fifth in Rookie of the Year voting. He may need some work to return to that form, but he’s also got minor league options remaining, which gives the Blue Jays some added roster flexibility.

In Grichuk’s case, regular playing time should do him a lot of good, and I really feel like he’s a potential steal for GM Ross Atkins. He’s got power and speed, and is excited about the opportunity to come to Toronto. He’ll need to work on striking out a little less, but he’ll be replacing a guy in right field who set the franchise record for strikeouts in a single season last year, so the bar is pretty low here. At just 2.6 million in salary and looking like an untapped resource, I feel like this could be a trade we look at in almost the same vein as the Donaldson, or even Jose Bautista trade acquisitions in a few years, when the Jays basically got away with highway robbery. And I say that with all due respect to Leone in particular, who proved himself to be a reliable bullpen piece last year. I don’t know that Grichuk will blossom into that type of star, but I do think he’ll be well worth the acquisition cost.

So while Diaz and Grichuk may be “cast-offs” from the Cardinals, that doesn’t mean they should be viewed as players that weren’t deemed worthy of a roster spot in St. Louis. And even if they were, sometimes the old saying of, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is all too true.

Next: Is Kevin Pillar the next domino to fall?