Blue Jays fans are quick to get frustrated with Randal Grichuk, but it’s hard to imagine where the 2021 roster would have been without him.
I’m not going to pretend that I’ve stayed patient with him all season, and there’s no denying that he needs to improve his on-base percentage in order to reach his long-teased potential. He’s now slashing .251/.285/.450, and unfortunately he’s been really struggling more recently, posting just a .207/.260/.391 line over the last 30 games he’s played.
So why am I about to defend a player that’s performed this way? Because frankly, the Blue Jays have needed him to get to their 63-54 record and keep themselves in the AL Wild Card race.
Despite having a very disappointing on-base percentage, Grichuk has brought some power numbers to the table in 2021. He’s hit 20 home runs and 20 doubles, also adding 72 RBI over the course of 114 games, a figure that still has him in the top 20 run producers in all of baseball. If you narrow that down to the American League, Grichuk is still 13th on the leaderboard. It’s possible that we’ve lost a bit of perspective on this because Grichuk is 4th on his own team in RBI behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (88- 2nd in AL), Teoscar Hernandez (81- 5th in AL), and Bo Bichette (9th- 77th in AL).
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More important than the numbers that Grichuk has provided is the role that he’s played, and that’s covering for an oft-injured George Springer. It’s been a very rough start to Springer’s new 6-year contract with the Blue Jays as he dealt with a pair of injuries that kept him out of the lineup on a regular basis until June 22nd. It was obviously a huge boost to get the 3x All-Star back on the active roster, but it definitely had an impact on Grichuk’s role even if he’s still been playing on a fairly regular basis. However, it’s a different thing to head to the ballpark knowing you’re going to be starting rather than checking the lineup card once you get there.
Now that Springer is on the sidelines again with a new ankle injury, the Blue Jays are fortunate to have Grichuk on the roster and at the ready to take over again in centre field. He responded to his first start of Springer’s absence with a home run, and hopefully he can go on one of his notorious hot streaks. Thankfully it sounds like Springer’s injury isn’t as serious as initially feared, but they have at least an adequate replacement to take his place until he can recover.
Having said all of that, I wouldn’t be all that surprised if the Blue Jays shopped Grichuk after the season, or even if the outfielder might be interested in finding a place that he can have a more defined role. With two years at 10.33 million annually remaining on his deal, I’m sure the Blue Jays could point to his power numbers and his ability to play all three outfield positions, and he’s still been worth 1.1 bWAR thus far this year. On the other hand, they may want to keep him around to play exactly the type of role he’s had in 2021, as a most-days starting outfielder who can keep Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in a DH role, and someone who can spell Springer when he needs a day off his feet, or in the case of this season, when he hits the Injured List.
I absolutely understand the frustration with Grichuk, especially because he’s shown us what a productive player he can be in spurts throughout his Blue Jays tenure, and he’s just never been able to consistently perform that way for a whole season. That said, even with his faults he’s been an important piece of the Blue Jays’ roster in 2021, and I’m glad he’s still kicking around.