Blue Jays: Why his contract makes 2020 a big year for Randal Grichuk

TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 9: Randal Grichuk #15 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits a two run home run against the New York Yankees in the first inning during their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on August 9, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 9: Randal Grichuk #15 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits a two run home run against the New York Yankees in the first inning during their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on August 9, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /
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Randal Grichuk may be locked up with the Blue Jays for the long-term, but the structure of his contract could make the 2020 season an important one for the 28-year-old.

When the Blue Jays revealed their new baby blue alternative jerseys, they used some of their most marketable players to introduce them to the media for the first time. Not surprisingly, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Cavan Biggio were donning the new light blues, and with them was Randal Grichuk, the lone veteran on display that day.

Right away I saw several folks on social media wondering why Grichuk was a part of the foursome, with some people wondering why Lourdes Gurriel Jr. wasn’t the fourth player there that day. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter, at all, but the reason it was noteworthy at all is because of what the image of those players represented. The Blue Jay were showing off their future, both in their jersey, and with the exciting talent that will lead the next generation of this team.

If we’re asking whether Grichuk will be a part of that future, that question was at least partially answered when the Blue Jays signed him to a five-year extension before the 2019 season. My guess is they were banking on his second-half breakout in 2018 being legitimate, and hoping to buy a little early in order to get a discount. However, after an up and down season in 2019, it’s fair to wonder whether he’s a long-term solution or not. And if we’re looking at his contract, I feel like the Blue Jays put in an insurance policy in case he wasn’t.

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The reason I say that is because Grichuk is slated to make 12 million this season in the 2nd year of his deal, and then his salary actually goes down for the last three years. According to spotrac.com, he’s under contract from 2021 at an annual average of 9.33 million, which makes sense for a couple of reasons.

First, the Blue Jays likely wanted to plan for a future that included supplementing their young core with either free agents or veteran trades, and that usually requires payroll. They knew they likely wouldn’t be a contender in 2020, and were able to structure a bigger payment to Grichuk when they knew they’d have the payroll room. As they look to add going forward, not only will Grichuk not get a raise, but he’ll actually become more cheaper and give them a few extra million to play with.

Secondly, I believe that the Blue Jays are in a position where they could move on from Grichuk in a year or two if they don’t think he’s part of a World Series contending solution. By today’s salary standards, 9.33 million is inexpensive for a full-time MLB player, and especially one that could cover all three outfield positions, and even potentially give you 30 home runs. Of course, he has his own shortcomings, but a player like that would be welcome in a place like Pittsburgh right now if the Blue Jay picked up some of his salary, for example.

For that reason, I believe that Grichuk will need to show his worth to the Blue Jays this season if he wants to continue to be part of the core of this team going forward. He doesn’t have to be the star player of the franchise, but he’ll need to get closer to being a 2-3 WAR player like he was earlier in his career, rather than the 0.3 bWAR performance he put up last year.

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If he can do that then he becomes a nice value piece, especially given his reason 9.3 million dollar salary for the next three seasons after 2020. And if he can’t, one could argue that will make him easier to trade as the Blue Jays look to put a championship calibre team together. The 2020 season could be a big year for answering that question for Grichuk and the Blue Jays, and hopefully the former first round pick can truly establish himself with this club going forward.

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