Blue Jays: Keep in mind, Randal Grichuk doesn’t have to be the star

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 18: Randal Grichuk #15 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates with teammates after hitting a four-run home run during the ninth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 18, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 18: Randal Grichuk #15 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates with teammates after hitting a four-run home run during the ninth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 18, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /
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Despite hitting his 30th home run of the season on Wednesday night, some still view Randal Grichuk’s season as a disappointment. Let’s not forget his role here.

It’s been an up and down season for Randal Grichuk in his second year in Toronto, but lately he’s been swinging the bat very well.

In fact, rolling into Thursday night’s game against the Orioles he had hit five home runs and collected 10 RBI over his last five games, and reached the 30 home run plateau for the first time in his career. He’s also now played in a career-high 143 games and counting, which is also part of why he’s been able to set career best marks for home runs and also for RBI with 76 so far.

Despite the positives there are understandable reasons to be a little bit critical of Grichuk’s season. The Blue Jays signed him to a five-year extension after the promise he showed in the second half last year, and it’s debatable whether or not that decision was made a little prematurely. That said, his recent play is a good reminder of why the Blue Jays felt keeping him around was a good idea.

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Beyond the immediate production and potential promise of much more, the Blue Jays were able to sign him for those five years for just 52 million, which might sound like a lot of money, but it’s really not in the landscape of today’s game. When you consider that he was worth 2.2 bWAR last season and looked to be trending to a higher value, 10.4 million for an AAV isn’t that bad, especially when you consider how much payroll room the Blue Jays will have over the next few seasons.

The other part of this equation for me is what Grichuk’s role is with this team, both now and in the future, and how that helps him fit into the exciting potential with this group. For the time being he’s valuable as a more veteran player (at least relative to his teammates), and allows Charlie Montoyo to experiment with different outfield pictures because of his ability to switch between centre and right field. He’s a hard worker who provides a good example for his young teammates, and his power bat in the middle of the lineup doesn’t hurt either.

Looking ahead though, that’s when I feel like Grichuk’s role, and salary, will make the most sense. When the Blue Jays get to the point where they start contending with this group, it’s going to be the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Cavan Biggio, and others that are leading this team. Those four are probably going to be hitting in the 1-4 spots in the Blue Jays’ lineup for at least the next five seasons, as Gurriel Jr. won’t be be a UFA until 2025, the first of the group.

Beyond that solid core there will still be plenty of room to add firepower to the offence. If Vlad Jr. can ultimately stick at third base the Blue Jays will be able to utilize first base and designated hitter to enhance their lineup, and should have the payroll to add an impact player there when they’re ready. It’s possible that Rowdy Tellez fills one of those two spots, but if he can’t then there should be solutions one way or another. In that case, imagine adding a DH-type like a Nelson Cruz or a J.D. Martinez (neither is going to happen, I’m just using examples), and how that would lengthen the scorecard.

If we’re now talking about Grichuk being something like a 6-8 hitter in the lineup, then the production, salary, and expectations may line up a lot better in a few years. If we look at successful playoff teams in recent seasons like the Astros, Dodgers, or Brewers. They’ve all carried someone like a Ryan Braun, a Yasiel Puig, or a Josh Reddick who find ways to make important contributions without having to carry the offence, or the team. That’s how I envision Grichuk’s role looking by the time this team is competing for a playoff spot again.

And if that means the Blue Jays are getting a 2-win player who is capable of hitting 30+ home runs out of the 7-hole in the lineup for around 10 million (10.333 million in 2021-23 including the bonus), then I don’t think anyone will be complaining. While he’ll need to improve on his .284 OBP more than anything, I think Grichuk can bring all kinds of value, both now and in the future. It’s just all about keeping things in perspective.

Next. Bichette- "For me, it's about being the best in the game". dark

As long as we keep in mind that he likely won’t be, and won’t have to be the star on this team (and that’s he’s not being paid like one either), then we’ll all be a little easier on ol’ handsome Randy. All things considered, he’s had a pretty decent year, and I expect the best is yet to come from the 28-year-old.

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