Blue Jays: The Randal Grichuk trade has been a big win so far
The Blue Jays brought in Randal Grichuk to take over in the right field, and despite his ice cold start, he’s put together a solid first season, which has been a big win for Toronto’s front office.
If you asked Blue Jays fans what they thought of the Randal Grichuk trade back in May, they would have told you it was a complete disaster.
To be fair, to that point it had been just that, as Grichuk opened the season by hitting .106/.208/.227 in his first 25 games before the baseball gods mercifully sent him to the disabled list and gave him time for the re-set he needed.
Since his return he’s been a different player for his new team, and has been arguably one of their more valuable contributors in a disappointing campaign. After hitting two home runs against C.C. Sabathia on Saturday afternoon he’s now got 23 for the season. He also entered Saturday’s game with a .243/.301/.478 slash line, and was worth 1.6 bWAR before the two impressive blasts.
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Grichuk had always put up mixed results while he was in St. Louis, but he never really had the unquestioned starter’s role he’s received in Toronto either, and he’s more experienced now that he’s older and has more games under his belt. Saturday was also Grichuk’s 100th start of the season, with his career high coming in 2016 at 111. With the Blue Jays having 15 games remaining, there’s a chance he’ll surpass that total if they run him out there consistently.
Sometimes it’s not as much about what the player you acquired does, as it is about how the traded players are performing away from the Blue Jays organization. In this case, Ross Atkins sent reliever Dominic Leone and minor league starter Conner Greene to St. Louis to acquire his new starting right fielder. Leone had just come off the best season of his career in the Blue Jays’ bullpen, and Greene was regarded as one of the better pitching prospects in the Jays’ minor league system, so it wasn’t a small price to pay.
That said, so far the Cardinals haven’t had a big return on their side of things. Leone has struggled to stay healthy and was absent from the Cardinals bullpen after May 4th, and didn’t appear again until August 26th. Overall he’s made 25 appearances now that’s he’s back, pitching to a 4.29 ERA and a 1.429 WHIP. With three years of arbitration control left he could still be a contributor, but it wasn’t how the first year was supposed to go.
The guy that made me cringe in this deal was Greene, mostly because the Cardinals have a Ray Searage-esque way of drawing out the best in their young arms, I assumed Greene would go on to star in St. Louis and we’d hear griping about this trade for years, but instead the right-hander had an interesting year in his development.
He started the season in AA with the Springfield Cardinals, pitching to a 4.44 ERA in 10 starts and 11 appearances. Upon his promotion to Triple-A, Greene has been used exclusively out of the bullpen, a move that has brought his ERA down to 3.66 despite moving up a level. It’s not a small sample size either, as he’s appeared in 29 games and 39.1 innings. His WHIP has risen to 1.627 with the move to the bullpen though, so that’s less than ideal.
Both of those pitchers could go on to have much better seasons for the Cardinals in 2019, as there is a lot of time left before the jury will be done deciding who won this trade. So far though, it looks like the Blue Jays are the clubhouse leaders, as Grichuk has been a real asset for John Gibbons‘ lineup since he returned from the DL as the player the team hoped he would be. With at least two years of club control remaining for the power-hitting outfielder, he’s also got time to add to his Blue Jays resume as well.
You don’t win every trade, but so far it looks like Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro did pretty well with the move they made to acquire Grichuk last winter. As they pursue a full-on rebuild this offseason, here’s hoping they can find another deal that will work out as well or better in the Blue Jays favour.