Blue Jays: May be worth a gamble to extend Randal Grichuk
After a successful first year as a Blue Jay, Randal Grichuk has two years of contract control left. His performance might even warrant looking at an extension.
When we look back to what was going on in April and even May of this season, the two biggest “mistakes” on the roster looked like Randal Grichuk and Kendrys Morales. The latter hit just .160/.259/.240 in April, and Grichuk was somehow even worse at .106/.208/.227 in the season’s opening month.
Morales had been signed to a three year deal before the 2017 season, but Grichuk was new to the team after they traded for him from the St. Louis Cardinals during the offseason. The return was useful reliever Dominic Leone and a strong prospect in Connor Greene, but it looked well worth the gamble until the regular season started. An early season injury landed him on the DL, which mercifully ended the first section of his career as a Blue Jay.
Fortunately he’s been a completely different player since then, and someone the Blue Jays have grown to count on in 2018. As of Wednesday morning he had slashed .243/.303/.480 in 346 at bats, adding 19 home runs and 48 RBI for a 1.5 bWAR on the season. It’s been a drastic turnaround for someone that critics were calling for the front office to cut from the roster, and he’s grown into a fan favourite in the Rogers Centre these days.
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The 27 year old has two years of arbitration control remaining, and after earning 2.8 million in 2018 according to spotrac.com, he’s going to get a little more expensive. I think it’s realistic for his agent to seek somewhere in the 5-6 million range, but I’m always baffled by the numbers that get throw around in the process. If he hasn’t another good year in 2019, there’s a good chance that he’ll seek 10 or more million, which would be a win for both parties if he’s earned that kind of dough.
The more I think about his future and the potential that he’s shown in Toronto, I wonder if the front office would explore the idea of extending him beyond those two seasons? It would allow them to skip the arbitration process with Grichuk, something that has the potential to get ugly at times, and likely lock him up at a reasonable rate for beyond the two years he has left. He’s reportedly enjoyed being a Blue Jay, and especially the opportunity for regular playing time, so I’m sure he’d be open to it.
He’s also young enough that the idea makes sense, and could ultimately end up being a bargain for the Blue Jays if he continues to develop into the toolsy outfielder he’s proved himself to be this year. Let’s say for example that the Blue Jays were to offer him three years at 25 million, or four years and 38 million this offseason. They could pay him roughly five million next year, 8-9 in 2020, 11 in 2021 and 14 in 2020, and maybe even build some incentives in there, or throw in an option if they need to.
Who knows if that would be enough to get it done, but right now his agent wouldn’t have the leverage to ask for a lot more, and they may like the idea of a guaranteed contract for a player who has had mixed results throughout his short career. They may also choose to gamble that he’ll continue to perform in the next couple seasons before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2020, but he’ll also be 29 by then and the game isn’t trending well for paying players nearing, or over 30.
The way I see it, it could be a lighter version of the gamble that Alex Anthopoulos took on Jose Bautista after his breakout season in 2010. Grichuk may not develop into a superstar, but to me he looks like the type of player that would be a fine compliment to the group of young stars coming from the minor league system. He’s young enough that his skills should be as good or better by the time the team is competitive again, and his ability to add value on both sides of the ball is definitely a plus.
With the apparent turmoil in the front office and the big focus on the future right now, perhaps the idea of extending any of the veteran players on the roster will be off the table for awhile. However, if the Blue Jays do look for a candidate for such a thing this winter, I think Randal Grichuk makes a lot of sense.