Back when the Blue Jays extended Randal Grichuk’s contract, I felt it was a savvy move by the front office. I may have celebrated too soon, as this season has been a struggle for the veteran outfielder.
The Blue Jays entered this season with an obvious focus on youth, and that’s also increased throughout the season as we’ve watched the promotions of guys like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, and the club bringing Lourdes Gurriel Jr. back from Triple-A as well.
During an ideal rebuild, teams will have their young players come into the fold to gain valuable experience, and will have just enough veterans around the clubhouse to help keep things competitive and to guide the youngsters through the early days of their MLB careers. While the competitive part hasn’t really taken place in Toronto this year, that’s one of the primary roles for guys like Justin Smoak, Freddy Galvis, and others which significant big league experience.
While the roster was always bound to see significant turnover, there will likely be a few exceptions to there being a complete overhaul. We still don’t know if the Blue Jays will trade or look to extend someone like Marcus Stroman for example, as he would fit the mold as someone who is young and talented enough to still be an above-average contributor by the time this team is ready to legitimately compete again. The Jays did make that decision with one player already though, and that was with an extension signed earlier this year by Randal Grichuk.
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The Blue Jays handed the 27-year-old a five year, 52 million dollar extension at the beginning of April, effectively anointing him as one of the outfielders of the future of this team. At the time the deal made a lot of sense to me, especially after Grichuk had a highly productive second half in 2018 and looked to have legitimately turned a corner. I even wrote about how much I loved the deal at the time, and I still think there’s a chance it could work out exactly as I described it back in April.
That said, I have to admit that right now things aren’t looking so great, and that I may have celebrated a little too early.
Despite my growing impatience with this 2019 version of the Blue Jays, I really do believe in having patience with a talented player like Grichuk. At his best, he brings power to the plate, above-average speed on the bases, and he’s plus-defender in the outfielder when he’s used in the right way. After he slashed .280/.326/.569 with 14 home runs, 21 doubles, and 33 RBI after the All-Star break (242 plate appearances), he looked like a player that was going to be worth more than a little over 10 million per season. The problem is, he hasn’t been at his best much this season.
In 2019, he’s regressed back to the type of player that the St. Louis Cardinals deemed was expendable, as he entered Wednesday night’s game hitting .226/.285/.419, and he’s been worth just 0.2 bWAR so far. He has hit 12 home runs, but beyond that category, there’s been a lot left to be desired.
Let me be clear, I haven’t totally lost faith in Grichuk by any means, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he put up similar numbers in this season’s second half again this year. With his newly minted contract, it’s also possible that he doesn’t really hit his potential until 2020 or beyond, when he’s still scheduled to be a Blue Jay.
What I will say though, is that I’m less confident that this contract is a slam dunk than I was two and a half months ago. He’s got all kinds of time to turn this season into a better individual campaign, and hopefully he can do just that. Otherwise, the Blue Jays may have acted a little early on locking him up. At least that’s how it’s looking so far.