Blue Jays: Could Randal Grichuk Be Traded In The Coming Weeks?
The MLB offseason has been all mouth and no trousers thus far.
Although the Jays have endured a quiet start to the winter, it appears that this waiting game on free agency hold trues for the rest of the league.
Given the imminent pandemic, the financial uncertainty for owners is as high as its been in recent years and it is likely that the owners are waiting for a team to draw first blood on a marquee free agent in order to set the tone for the rest of the market. Until that happens, the market should remain relatively quiet.
While we wait, let’s talk about what we do know as it pertains to the Blue Jays plans. Throughout the course of this young offseason, the Blue Jays have been linked to just about every big-name player. An area of particular improvement for the Jays is CF and defensive help. This is reflected by the persistent talk of the Blue Jays interest in George Springer. In recent days, it appears the interest has only grown as the baseball grapevine has suggested that the pursuit of Springer is a two-way race between the Jays and Mets.
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All things considered, it looks like the Blue Jays priority in the current moment is to shore up CF. If the Jays do acquire a marquee outfielder like Springer, that would make Randal Grichuk the easy odd man out. In light of Hernandez’s newly found silver slugging abilities and Gurriel’s dominant two-way play, another signing would probably push Grichuk onto the bench as he doesn’t possess the ability to shuffle around the infield and the DH spot will likely be clogged up by Rowdy Tellez and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
In view of the roster outlook, it would actually be pretty redundant to keep Grichuk on the books for $28 million over the next 3 years to be an outfield bench bat when he could be a decent contributor elsewhere.
When the Jays first acquired Grichuk, there was definitely reason to believe that he could become an all-star calibre corner outfielder. He only really needed to improve his ability to get on base to become a solid contributor. The athleticism was there, he was going into his age 26 season (approaching the athletic peak), the raw power was obvious and his rookie season with a OPS of .877 provided a desirable ceiling of performance. However, the gaping holes in his game since his acquisition have not seemed to improve in the slightest.
Case in point, Grichuk’s way-to-low walk rate has been a constant deterrent to his production over the course of his Blue Jays career. Since joining the Jays, Grichuk has posted an OBP of just .293 and a walk rate of 5.7%. This is basically on par with his preceding career with the Cardinals where he produced an OBP of .297 and a walk rate of 5.8%.
Across the board, the numbers have really just stagnated. The power has always been there as he has posted a .477 and .488 slugging with the Jays and Cardinals respectively. Moreover, the Jays had good reason to believe that Grichuk would become a solid contributor when they acquired him as the only thing holding him back over the short sample size to begin his career was his poor ability to get on base consistently.
Now that Grichuk is going into his age 29 season, the time for developmental wishes has likely passed and we know what we are going to get from Grichuk, namely a likeable clubhouse bat with 30 homer pop (which the league has an abundance of these days) and extremely poor on-base skills. With the prospect for development likely at its end, this complements a trade scenario even more.
With all that being said, Grichuk is still a decent player with solid tools to help teams win and he’d probably be a decent starter/good 4th outfielder for most major league teams. But with the Jays looking to improve dramatically at CF, it would be less redundant if the Jays traded Grichuk if the Springer scenario ensues. The focal talking point to justify this trade is the movement of dollars and how those savings can be re-spent. In other words, this Grichuk trade scenario opens up the door to retool in bigger areas of need (assuming a CF is acquired).
By the looks of it, the Grichuk contract is very moveable. From the naked eye, $28 million over 3 years seems more than reasonable for a free swinging power bat who can play any outfield spot serviceably. Even if it is slightly an overpay, it would still make sense for the Jays to trade Grichuk and eat a couple million dollars and reinvest the savings.
Leaving Grichuk on the books would be redundant if the Jays signed Springer for a couple of reasons. Firstly, he’d get hardly enough playing time to justify nearly $10 million AAV. In addition, the Jays would be better suited to spend those savings elsewhere. If the Jays did sign a George Springer, then the outfield would instantly become well above average which in turn, would likely shift the front office focus to other priorities.
For instance, there is a lot of uncertainty in the bullpen as far as veteran pitchers are concerned. It could be wise to move Grichuk’s contract and sign a Brad Hand or Liam Hendricks as a dollar for dollar replacement to add some stability to the back end of a bullpen filled with young, inexperienced arms. In the end, this would put the Blue Jays in a status quo position in terms of payroll as the signing could be seen more as a reinvestment on dollars saved from Grichuk.
In the end, Blue Jays fans should not expect a good prospect package in order for this trade to happen. In fact, it wouldn’t be wild for the Jays to give up a prospect along with Grichuk just to get teams to eat the full contract. It would be one thing if Grichuk was controlled under a penny contract but the modest size of his 3 years remaining will likely close the door on any attractive return as far as prospects go.
The offseason movement over the next few weeks should give Jays fans a more definitive idea on where the front office plans to improve. Until then, the waiting game continues.