Blue Jays could have one of baseball’s best bargains in Randal Grichuk
While the news was overshadowed a bit by the Kevin Pillar’s trade to the Giants, Randal Grichuk’s extension is a really significant move by Ross Atkins and the Blue Jays’ front office, and one that should pay off in a big way.
When this season started I think we all knew that the changes would continue in Toronto, but I’m not sure any of us saw them happening this quickly.
Nearly a week after Kendrys Morales was traded to Oakland on the eve of Opening Day, Kevin Pillar has also been shipped out, moving on to San Francisco and bringing back a trio of prospects to the Blue Jay stables. It wasn’t just trades that made the news though, as the Blue Jays also extended Randal Grichuk with a five year, 52 million dollar pact that will keep him in Toronto through the 2023 season.
For those who haven’t been watching that closely over the last year or so, it might seem like giving Grichuk that kind of money and a more or less guaranteed spot in the outfield going forward might be a little premature. However, if you have been paying close attention, you know that there’s a very good chance the Blue Jays just bought low on a player that could fetch a lot more in free agency two years from now.
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I have to give Ross Atkins and the front office credit here for a few different reasons. First, they identified a player that they can see as a part of the long-term future and they locked him up for a very reasonable rate. In a best case scenario they’ve got themselves a tremendous bargain. In the worst case, Grichik’s contract won’t handcuff them from doing much of anything.
Getting back to that best case scenario for a minute, we may have saw the beginnings of that last season from Grichuk, even if it was easy to miss as the team struggled throughout 2018. The 27 year old notably struggled out of the gate to near epic proportions, however, after coming back from a stint on the injured list he was a completely different player, and one that brought a lot of value to the diamond.
I can’t say for sure that Grichuk has permanently unlocked the potential that made him a first round pick back in the 2009 draft, but having the confidence of his manager and front office can’t hurt one bit. After the All-Star break last season, Grichuk slashed .280/.326/.569 with 14 home runs, 33 RBI, and 21 doubles in just 61 games. If he can put that kind of production together for most of a full season, you’re looking at a very valuable player.
For the first time in his career Grichuk finally got the chance to be a full-time regular last year, but even then it didn’t feel like the job was truly his until after he came back from injury. Now that he’s an unquestioned part of this team, I’m willing to bet we watch his confidence reach new levels, and that will only mean good things for the slugging outfielder. And as a young, veteran piece of this rebuilding roster, he feels like a perfect fit to me.
I don’t know that he’s ever going to challenge for the AL MVP or anything like that, but when you’re talking about a player who can play all three outfield positions, and has the potential to add 30 or more home runs, an AAV of a little more than 10 million could be a pittance by today’s standards. For example, last season Grichuk earned 2.2 bWAR, and Bryce Harper had a mark of just 1.3. I’m not suggesting that Grichuk is or will be a better player than Harper, but he also didn’t command a 13 year, 330 million dollar contract either, and I don’t think we’ve seen the best of the newly inked Blue Jay either.
The biggest difference between those two players in Grichuk’s favour would be his defence, and that asset will be very valuable in Toronto as well. Anthony Alford was called up after Pillar was dealt to San Francisco, and my assumption is that he’ll get the first crack at everyday duties in the middle of the outfield. Grichuk does provide an excellent safety blanket for Charlie Montoyo both now and in the future, as he’s more than capable in centre if Alford isn’t ready for the highest level just yet, or if he doesn’t turn out as a big leaguer at all. If he does, the Blue Jays have two thirds of an excellent defensive outfield with Grichuk in right, which opens up more possibilities in left as well.
While the roster turnover continues in Toronto, even sooner than most of us anticipated, it’s nice to know that Grichuk will be a mainstay in the lineup for a while. He becomes the latest notable player to agree to an extension with his current team, and while he may not have the notoriety of Mike Trout, Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, or Alex Bregman, he could be a significant contributor in Toronto on a very good contract for the ball club. I’m calling that a major win.