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Toronto Blue Jays: What role is left for Randal Grichuk?

Aug 6, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Randal Grichuk (15) celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Boston Red Sox during the fifth inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 6, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Randal Grichuk (15) celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Boston Red Sox during the fifth inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports /
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Randal Grichuk has filled a fairly big role for the Blue Jays over the last few seasons, but it’s hard to see a lot of playing time for him in 2022.

I say that because of the presence of an above-average trio of starting outfielders in George Springer, Teoscar Hernandez, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who project to be the regulars next season. That was the same case heading into 2021, but a variety of injuries for Springer allowed Grichuk to appear in 149 games last season. However, that number is a bit misleading when you look at the way his regular season ended.

By then Springer has returned to the lineup, and late in the year he was even able to play on defence as well, as he had been limited to designated hitting duties for the bulk of the early games he played in. The Jays had also acquired Corey Dickerson from the Marlins, who was healthy down the stretch and a regular in the lineup. That added up to longer stretches without Grichuk seeing the field at all, or being related to being a late-inning defensive replacement.

As things currently stand with the Blue Jays roster, you could argue that there’s a place for Grichuk to see regular playing time. They do have that starting trio in place in the outfield, but they don’t really have someone that projects to be their regular DH, so in theory they could cycle their outfielders through that spot and still keep Grichuk in the fold on a regular basis. That said, I fully expect the Blue Jays to look for an upgrade in that area, and likely someone who can hit left-handed and provide a bit of lineup balance. Someone just like Dickerson (who is still available as a free agent) would be the ideal fit type of fit in my mind. The unfortunate fact is, Grichuk’s skill set is a bit redundant if the rest of the outfield is healthy. He’s the weakest of the four right-handed hitting options, at least on offence.

That really doesn’t leave a lot for Grichuk as far as projected at-bats, other than serving as depth that was badly needed in 2021. There’s no telling whether the Jays will need that sort of thing again during the upcoming season, and frankly, I doubt they want to pay the 10.3 million he’s owed (according to Spotrac.com) between his salary and signing bonus for someone that has essentially become a depth player.

I’ve maintained for a while that I think the Blue Jays will look to trade Grichuk this offseason, but obviously they can’t work on that during the lockout, which is still ongoing. I don’t know that they can expect much of a return given his decent salary for 2022 and 2023, but putting some of that money in another area of need could be a worthwhile idea to pursue. They’re obviously not completely desperate to part with the 30 year old, as they reportedly passed on a potential swap involving Jackie Bradley Jr. with the Brewers, but that doesn’t mean they won’t look to deal the veteran before next season gets going.

One of the biggest variables affecting Grichuk’s future is likely the lockout, for a few different reasons. Not only are the Blue Jays unable to look at potential trades at the moment, it’s possible they’ll have a very short window to do so depending on when a new CBA can be negotiated, and when the next regular season gets underway. If things drag out, it’s possible that they’ll only have a matter of a few weeks, and we could see a lot more early-season trades than we’re used to as teams try to sort out their roster situation.

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For now I can’t say for sure what the Blue Jays have planned once the lockout is over, but my guess is that Grichuk ends up in another uniform in 2022. I just don’t see there being a big enough for him on this team anymore unless someone gets hurt again, and hopefully the Jays will have much better luck in that department.

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