Blue Jays: What should the team do with Randal Grichuk?

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 17: Randal Grichuk #15 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates their victory with Justin Smoak #14 during MLB game action against the Kansas City Royals at Rogers Centre on April 17, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 17: Randal Grichuk #15 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates their victory with Justin Smoak #14 during MLB game action against the Kansas City Royals at Rogers Centre on April 17, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

While Randal Grichuk is certainly not on the minds of many Blue Jays fans, his return will bring to the forefront a very intricate roster problem. The debate begins, does he sit, does he play, or does he go away?

It’s practically futile to try and analyze the dreadful start by young Blue Jays outfielder Randal Grichuk. The numbers are there and they’re not pretty: a slash line of .106/.208/.227, 24 strikeouts in 77 plate appearances and a WAR of -0.4.

For now, Grichuk is hurt, nursing a right knee sprain which will keep him off the field for at least the next week or two. Still, when he returns to the big club, roster spots will need to be shifted around, and John Gibbons and company will need to find at-bats for him. Here are a few options on what the Jays could do with Grichuk once he returns from the disabled list:

Bench Him

This one seems to be the most logical choice. Grichuk has been solid in the field so far this year (0.1 dWAR, 1.6 UZR), but is being outclassed by fellow outfielders Curtis Granderson (.269/.433/.462, 25 BB/120 PA), Teoscar Hernandez (.272/.324/.560, 7 HR, 11 2B), and the pre-injury Steve Pearce (.273/.333/.485, 11 K/72 PA) at the dish.

This season, Grichuk has been inserted into the game during the 7th inning or later five times as a defensive replacement, mostly when the team has the lead and needs some additional defense to protect a small deficit. If he can’t hit, keeping him on the bench as a fourth outfielder specializing in defence wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Play Him

Boy, I can already hear the angry mob. It would be painful to see the reaction from the fanbase if Randal Grichuk was consistently penciled into the everyday lineup. It’s not easy to get into a groove in this league, and giving him more at-bats could (note the keyword could) get him going offensively.

Grichuk has three seasons where he’s amassed 300 or more plate appearances, and in those campaigns he’s slashed a combined .249/.298/.496 with 63 home runs and 174 RBI. Not stellar by any means, but still a ton better than what he’s done so far. If Grichuk is genuinely part of their long-term plans, Gibbons should seriously consider giving him at least some consistent at-bats to attempt to get his bat going.

Get Rid of Him

This is a tough one. Grichuk’s very reasonable contract, along with a couple years of control make this a tough sell to the front office. Young, controllable talent is hard to come by, especially within the current landscape of Major League Baseball. Designating a player for assignment is never completely out of the question, but it seems as though the Jays will not be following that path.

Releasing him outright or trading him are both options, but it’d be difficult to find a trade partner, especially given his early struggles, and releasing would make it so they’d essentially get nothing for him as a player. They gave up a decent amount to get him, so dumping him for nothing seems unlikely.

Keep Him in the Minors

Something tells me this will be the most popular option among Blue Jays fans. It makes sense right? Send him down to the minors, get him some work with the coaches and the player development staff and work towards an eventual return to the bigs. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy. According to MLBTradeRumors, Grichuk is out of options, meaning he must clear waivers before being sent down to a minor league affiliate.

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The question then becomes – will he clear waivers? That is a whole other debate entirely, but at the moment, it’s hard to see him clearing waivers without at least being picked up by another ballclub.

Regardless of which path the Blue Jays take, it’ll be at least another few weeks before this decision becomes necessary. According to a recent tweet by Sportsnet’s Arden Zwelling, Grichuk began taking batting practice and playing in simulated games on Saturday, going on to note that he’ll likely begin a rehab assignment early next week.

All in all, the Jays will probably go with a hybrid of options one and two, playing Grichuk as a defensive replacement but also getting him into some occasional games as a starter. The coaching staff has not been shy about allowing him to play, so it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be stuck on the bench for the remainder of the season.

Let’s hope that whatever the Jays do with Grichuk, it catalyzes his performance on the baseball field. If his bat gets going, he could be a key cog that could really do wonders for this ailing lineup. If that’s combined with his defence and speed, he could really raise his standing within the hierarchy of this team’s crowded outfield picture.

Next: Blue Jays Place Jaime Garcia on DL, Recall Deck McGuire