Blue Jays: Randal Grichuk Proving His Veteran Worth

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JULY 29: Randal Grichuk #15 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates his two-run home run with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. #13 in the sixth inning aKansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on July 29, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JULY 29: Randal Grichuk #15 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates his two-run home run with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. #13 in the sixth inning aKansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on July 29, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /
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Randal Grichuk signed an extension with the Blue Jays earlier this year. He’s proving he’s worth the money.

I’ll admit, I was one of the people who raised an eyebrow when the Toronto Blue Jays announced Randal Grichuk‘s five year, $52 million contract extension. It seemed like a bit of an overpay for an average outfielder. Yet after looking at Grichuk’s career numbers and the recent deals given out to outfielders in free agency, it looks like another smart move by the front office.

Since his debut in 2015, Grichuk has surprisingly been a pretty consistent producer. The following are his year-to-year stat lines:

2015: 103 games, 17 HR, 138 wRC+, 3.0 fWAR 

2016: 132 games, 24 HR, 102 wRC+, 2.2 fWAR

2017: 122 games, 22 HR, 93 wRC+, 1.3 fWAR

2018: 124 games, 25 HR, 115 wRC+, 2.1 fWAR

2019: 114 games, 22 HR, 92 wRC+, 0.8 fWAR prior to Tuesday night’s game

Offensively, Grichuk is a consistent 20-25 home run hitter who has the ability to produce better than the league average hitter. He’s also a solid defensive outfielder shown by his career 24 DRS and 4.1 UZR/150 (though defensive metrics have their limits). When the Blue Jays looked at Randal Grichuk, they probably saw a consistent 1-3 fWAR player. Not a superstar, but a valuable contributor to any team.

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So, is Randal Grichuk worth 5 years and $52 million?  Consider recent contracts given to free agent outfielders that are most similar to Grichuk’s extension:

A.J. Pollock (31): 5 years, $60 million

Andrew McCutchen (32): 3 years, $50 million

Jay Bruce (30): 3 years, $39 million

Josh Reddick (29): 4 years, $52 million

All four contracts have higher average annual values than Grichuk’s extension and don’t end until the age 32-35 seasons. Furthermore, the players themselves aren’t that intriguing to an up-and-coming Blue Jays team.

Pollock is a talented, yet oft-injured outfielder who’s signed until his age 35 season. Bruce is a one-dimensional slugger with clear defensive limitations. Reddick is a fairly similar player to Grichuk in terms of value, but on a more expensive contract. McCutchen’s deal seems to the best out of the four. However, there’s still a lot of risk paying a declining former MVP $16.7 million per year until his age 34 season.

After looking at the market value for outfielders, the Blue Jays were probably very comfortable signing an above-average outfielder to a fair extension. And maybe that’s all the Jays need at this point – a veteran that can be counted upon year-after-year to be a 1-3 fWAR player. After all, they already have Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to lead the charge.

Furthermore, even after Grichuk’s extension, the Blue Jays only have roughly $20-25 million committed to the payroll in 2020-2023. Much of that room will be spent on acquiring pitching, but if needed, the Blue Jays still have the money to sign a George Springer (2020), Charlie Blackmon (2021), or Michael Conforto (2021) as that final piece to the World Series puzzle.

Next. You can't give away player assets for nothing. dark

So in the end, the Grichuk extension looks like another smart, calculated move by the Blue Jays front office. It gives the Blue Jays a solid outfielder to pencil in the roster for the foreseeable future without limiting future signings. The day will come when the Blue Jays need to take big risks in order to win a World Series title. But for now, Grichuk’s extension was a smaller, safer move that needed to be made in order to be ready for that day.

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