Blue Jays: Where does Randal Grichuk fit into the future plans?

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 30: Randal Grichuk #15 of the Toronto Blue Jays flies out in the third inning of their MLB game against the New York Yankees at Rogers Centre on September 30, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 30: Randal Grichuk #15 of the Toronto Blue Jays flies out in the third inning of their MLB game against the New York Yankees at Rogers Centre on September 30, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Blue Jays made a big splash last offseason by signing George Springer to a six-year, $150 million dollar deal. The center fielder was a definite boost to the outfield core, which already consisted of Randal Grichuk, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Teoscar Hernandez, meaning the lineup was going to have to change in order to get Springer into the order on a regular basis.

There were some rumours floating around that the Blue Jays may trade Gurriel Jr. and/or Grichuk prior to the start of the 2021 season, and while nothing ever materialized, it was probably a good thing both players were kept on the roster.

Springer’s debut season with the Jays was marred by injuries, limiting the outfielder to just 78 games, 38 of which were in the designated hitter role as he wasn’t physically able to play in the field while Hernandez also missed a few weeks early in the campaign when he was on the COVID-19 IL.

While Grichuk was needed early in the season, he started to slow down as the season wore on, especially when Corey Dickerson, who was acquired alongside Adam Cimber from the Miami Marlins in late June, was healthy and providing an additional lefty bat off the bench.

Already known for being a streaky hitter in the batter’s box, Grichuk had a great start to the season, crafting a .282/.333/.506 slash line by the end of April with five home runs, 17 RBI, and a .839 OPS. He would hover around these stats until about mid-June and then his slash line slowly started to creep downwards, eventually finishing the year at .241/.281/.423 with 22 home runs, 81 RBI, and a .703 OPS, setting a career-best for RBI this year.

With the current Blue Jays outfield pretty crowded with last season’s signing of George Springer, where does Randal Grichuk fit into future plans?

Defensively, the Texas product was solid as well. He split his time between center and right field and would craft a -2 and 6 bDRS respectively while making some pretty incredible catches, highlighted by this grab he made on September 5th against the Orioles. Fans could feel pretty confident that Grichuk was going to make the routine plays and even throw in a highlight-reel play or two on the year.

Looking at the bigger picture, Grichuk is entering the fourth year of his five-year, $52 million dollar contract he signed with the Blue Jays prior to the 2019 season. This contract does not look too bad on paper but now that the situation has changed with the addition of Springer and the impending raise Hernandez is going to get in arbitration, there is a potential scenario where the money Grichuk is getting paid could be utilized elsewhere.

There are a few different ways the Blue Jays could configure the outfield if all four players are around at the start of next season:

  1. Gurriel LF; Springer CF; Hernandez RF; Grichuk DH
  2. Hernandez LF; Springer CF; Grichuk RF; Gurriel DH
  3. Gurriel LF; Springer CF; Grichuk RF; Hernandez DH

Ideally, you would like to keep Springer in center field as much as possible but you could flip the corner outfielders between the DH and defensively. The only drawback is that you hogtie the DH role to one of these players rather than utilizing someone else in the role like Alejandro Kirk or one of the infielders looking for a day off defensively but still wanting the bat in the lineup.

The Jays could also choose to move Gurriel to somewhere else on the diamond like third or first base but his arm in the outfield is one of the strongest on the team and he seems to have found a home in left field, at least for the time being.

I would also try to avoid having Grichuk become more of a bench player because of the $20.6  million he is owed over the next two seasons ($9.3 million + $1 million signing bonus each season), which is way too much to be paying for a fourth outfielder on the depth charts.

This is where a potential trade scenario opens up, in that teams like the Oakland Athletics, Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Seattle Mariners could be looking for some outfield help this offseason.

I would think the Blue Jays would have to eat some of his salary to make the deal work and acquire a player/prospect that doesn’t sit extremely high on the depth charts. Even if the club ate half of his contract, that would open up another $10.3 million that could go a long way to spending on arbitration players like Guerrero Jr., Hernandez, and Jose Berrios while allowing the front office to explore possible free agents to improve the team or capital to attempt to bring back Marcus Semien and/or Robbie Ray (if they so choose).

A move like this also brings down the guaranteed money the Blue Jays owe heading into the 2022 season from $64,928,570 million to $54,628,570 million, which as I mentioned earlier could be useful for the arbitration-eligible players making more money, bringing back Semien/Ray, or bringing in free agents.

Personally, I have no issue with Grichuk on the team nor do I think he is a bad player, just looking at the current outfield situation, he might get phased out by who is already on the roster, and having him on the bench does him nor the Blue Jays any good in the end.

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He has the ability to start every day and provide value when he is out in the field but he just may not get that opportunity with Springer playing center field and Hernandez/Gurriel Jr. in the corners, especially since Hernandez has stepped up his game defensively in right field this past season.

Do you think Grichuk starts the season Toronto or does he get moved this offseason?