Looking at the Toronto Blue Jays roster this season, one area that really doesn’t need any more assistance is the outfield. Boasting a core of Lourdes Gurriel Jr., George Springer, and Teoscar Hernandez, it appears that veteran outfielder Randal Grichuk is on the outside looking in when it comes to securing playing time on a regular basis.
Barring a trade that sees Gurriel jr. head elsewhere, Grichuk is slated to be a fill-in for off-days and taking some reps at the designated hitter position. This might not bode so well for Grichuk and the Blue Jays, as his inconsistencies in the batter’s box is one reason why he is in this awkward position and has quickly fallen out of favour with the Jays fanbase.
Don’t get me wrong, when Grichuk is on one of his hot streaks, he is a dependable player that has the ability to put the ball over the outfield wall. This was evident by his start to the 2021 campaign, where he was boasting a .820 OPS with nine home runs and 39 RBI by the end of May. Springer was out with injury and Grichuk saw an increase in playing time, which he took advantage of to begin the year. Once June rolled around, Grichuk started to slow down, finishing the season with a .241/.281/.423 slash line, a 0.8 bWAR, and a .703 OPS, one of the lowest marks in his career as a full-time player.
Truth be told, there are simply better options on the team right now and it might do Grichuk and the Jays more good if the two parted ways. The righty batter has two more seasons left on his deal that sees him paid roughly $20.6 million total, which is a steep price for a player looking for playing time.
With Randal Grichuk on the outside looking in for playing time in the Blue Jays outfield, the Miami Marlins are one team that could use a centerfielder.
Enter the Miami Marlins.
No stranger to the Toronto Blue Jays, the two clubs have made numerous deals over the past decade. Blockbuster transactions like the 2012 deal to salary dumps that we saw last season with Adam Cimber and Corey Dickerson heading North with infielder Joe Panik and prospect Andrew McInvale going to Miami. The Marlins leadership has changed with Derek Jeter no longer the CEO but Kim Ng was the General Manager when the Cimber swap took place, so there is history still there.
Depth wise, the Miami Marlins enter the 2022 season with no real solution in center field while boasting some Major League talent in the corners like Joey Wendle, Avisail Garcia, and newly signed Jorge Soler, who will most likely take over as the club’s designated hitter with the universal DH rule in effect. Garcia is the only member of this group who has experience in center at 90 games while the rest have only played in the corners, with Wendle also playing in the infield as well.
Right now, the club has Bryan De La Cruz and Jon Berti on the roster with the most experience at the position while top prospect JJ Bleday has some experience up the middle but has never appeared higher than AA ball coming into this season. De La Cruz and Berti have similar numbers when it comes to reps in center field but the veteran Berti is more of a utility player and could be used elsewhere on the diamond.
Grichuk would be a sizeable upgrade for this squad at the position and would provide some power in the lineup, with the Marlins ranking 28th in terms of home runs last season (158). He also has the most experience at center field compared to their internal options with over 394 games and a career 4 bDRS through 3123.1 innings. Grichuk did post a -2 bDRS last season when taking over for Springer, so future digression may happen, but one could argue that he would still be an upgrade over the Marlins’ current options.
So what is it going to take to get this deal to work?
Well for starters, the Jays will most likely have to kick in some cash to help cover some of his remaining contract, which makes sense unless the club is willing to take on another contract from the Marlins that they are looking to get rid of. Nobody immediately comes to mind looking at their current contracts for the year, so it most likely will be Grichuk plus cash.
Player-wise, this is a bit of a crapshoot in that the club could see a mid-tier prospect come the opposite way or potentially a bullpen arm, however, the main reason for this trade would be to get rid of his contract and less on the player return. The Milwaukee Brewers approached the Blue Jays earlier this offseason about a Jackie Bradley Jr. for Grichuk swap but it never came to fruition.
Losing Grichuk could also have some negative impacts for the Blue Jays, especially if the outfield core runs into injury issues. The next player on the depth charts is Josh Palacios and he doesn’t possess a ton of MLB experience, so while Grichuk is making more than what a normal bench player should be getting paid, he is a viable security option if things go wrong quickly. Springer is coming off a year where he missed half a season and having Grichuk split time with him in center could help out the former Astros star in the long term.
The Jays could also keep Grichuk around if they plan on trading Gurriel Jr., especially if the return does not include an outfielder heading the opposite way (aka trading for Jose Ramirez or Ketel Marte, who would most likely be put at second). The club could use Cavan Biggio in the outfield but Grichuk does have more experience, so he is that additional depth that could be needed. For example, we didn’t expect to need Reese McGuire last season and after Alejandro Kirk and Danny Jansen went to the 60-day IL, McGuire came in when the club had really no other options.
Could the club put Grichuk in right and have Hernandez suit up as designated hitter? Sure, it is a possibility, but Hernandez has improved on the defensive side of his game over the past two seasons (-3 and -2 bDRS respectively) but Grichuk did post a 6 bDRS in 330.1 innings in right field last season. However, the reason I keep Hernandez in right field over Grichuk has more to do with putting Kirk in the DH spot if Jansen is catching, which would put the former St. Louis Cardinal on the bench. Lots of options for manager Charlie Montoyo when it comes to his four outfielders.
Overall, Randal Grichuk enters this season with no real defined role and could see more playing time if the Blue Jays traded him elsewhere. The Miami Marlins are one team that could use a player with center field experience and with the two sides completing trades in the past, it seems like the Jays and Marlins could try and figure out another deal this season that would see Grichuk head to the sunny shores of Miami.