After an ice cold start to his tenure as a Blue Jay, and an early roster crunch in the season, there was talk of DFA-ing Randal Grichuk. Thank goodness that never happened.
It’s really easy to lose your patience with a professional baseball player, especially when they go through a prolonged slump. When there are other, potentially better, options available, it makes it that much more difficult to take.
Such was the situation the Blue Jays were facing early in the season when they had more outfielders than positions on the roster. Before the campaign had even started they were forced to DFA Ezequiel Carrera because of a lack of room on the roster, and Teoscar Hernandez had to start the year in Triple-A Buffalo in order to make everyone fit. The Blue Jays started the year with a big league outfield that included Kevin Pillar in centre, Randal Grichuk in right, and a platoon of Curtis Granderson and Steve Pearce in left field.
Due to early season injuries from guys like Pearce and Josh Donaldson, Hernandez found himself on the roster and performed very well in the early going. When everyone started to get healthy, the talk started to shift to who should be cut from the roster in order to keep Hernandez around. It’s hard to say how deeply the front office got into the debate, but fans and writers discussed it on the regular, with Kendrys Morales and his .160 batting average in April being the primary target.
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Arguably the second biggest target of disdain would have been Randal Grichuk, who was as bad or worse than Morales in the season’s opening weeks. The soon to be 27 year old has been arguably the team’s best player in recent weeks, but his career as a Blue Jay definitely didn’t start out that way. He slashed just .106/.208/.227 in his first 25 games and 77 plate appearances, and looked completely lost at the dish. When the roster crunch, and the playing time in the outfield, started to get really serious, Grichuk had a well timed injury that landed him on the disabled list.
I say well-timed because the break gave him a chance to get a re-set to what was the worst start to a season in his career. Coming to Toronto was supposed to be his chance to finally claim a full-time starting outfield position, and prove that he’s more than a part-time player. While he was given that opportunity for short stretches in St. Louis, coming to Toronto was a chance to really shine. Knowing that, his early season struggles couldn’t have been easy to digest for the talented slugger, and I’m sure the frustration was starting to compound.
The other aspect was the front office had to have been seriously considering letting him go early in the year. I’m sure it wasn’t going to be something that they did on a whim, as they proved with their patience with Kendrys Morales as well. However, Grichuk was genuinely struggling, and with Teoscar Hernandez proving he deserved a full-time position at the highest level, there was a good argument that there was no spot on the team for Grichuk anymore. His performance had left him with virtually no trade value, and he’s out of minor league options. The choices for the Blue Jays were to ride it out and hope he gets better, which would have forced Hernandez back to Buffalo, or send Grichuk to Buffalo, hoping he would clear waivers.
That “well-timed” injury allowed the Texas native to rehab and come back with fresh slate, and fortunately he’s taken this opportunity and run with it. He slashed .294/.341/.647 with eight home runs and 20 RBI in the month of June, and has the most home runs of any player on the team since June 3rd. He hasn’t been quite the same force at the plate in July, but he’s also showing his value in another way, taking over in centre field for the injured Kevin Pillar.
It just goes to show that patience is a virtue, especially in a sport with a season as long as baseball’s. I’m not suggesting that every player should get an endless rope, but when you have as much raw talent as a guy like Grichuk, there is a reason that coaches have patience. The talent has always been there, and the former Cardinal has shown Blue Jays fans why he was a first round pick back in 2009, and why their own front office brought him in to begin with.
Thankfully Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins had the patience that most of us fans didn’t have early in the season. There have been enough reasons to be frustrated this year, but if Grichuk was performing well in another uniform, after he’d been let go for nothing, that would have been the insult to injury we just don’t need. Fortunately it never happened.