Blue Jays: Randal Grichuk trade opens up a spot for Michael Conforto
The Toronto Blue Jays made a trade earlier this week, sending Randal Grichuk to the Rockies in exchange for 28-year-old outfielder Raimel Tapia. This was a very interesting trade in my opinion. The club sent a right-handed power bat in Grichuk, who didn’t really have an everyday spot with the Jays, to Colorado in exchange for a left-handed bat that produces very little pop but is more contact/speed orientated.
I like the trade if the Jays make a subsequent move. Grichuk I believe was traded because of his contract, as he is set to make roughly $20 million over the next two seasons. The Jays did send money to Colorado in the deal, but the Rockies are still covering some of the salary.
While saving money is always good, I believe the Jays traded a starting-calibre player in Grichuk, as streaky as he is, in exchange for a guy I’d feel less comfortable giving consistent reps to.
With the Randal Grichuk trade complete, the Blue Jays should sign Michael Conforto to fill his spot in the lineup.
Even without Grichuk, the Jays should have one of, if not the best offense in the game. Their lineup is littered with talent from top to bottom. The one thing this Jays’ lineup lacks is a big left-handed bat. The Jays were in on guys like Kyle Schwarber and Freddie Freeman but ultimately they signed elsewhere.
Raimel Tapia, while being a left-handed hitter, is not a big bat. He ranked in the fifth percentile in average exit velocity and the fourth percentile in barrel percentage last season according to baseball savant. He had six home runs in 533 plate appearances. 68% of Tapia’s batted balls were on the ground and he had just a 76 WRC+ despite hitting .273 as he lacked power.
I believe he can give the Jays some starts in all three outfield positions at times but he shouldn’t be playing every day. He’s the prototypical fourth outfielder who can play pretty good defense (63rd percentile in outs above average) while potentially coming in to pinch run or even pinch-hit for a guy like Danny Jansen in a big spot.
By signing one of the last remaining premium free-agents in Michael Conforto, the Jays would get a big left-handed bat. Even coming off a down year, Conforto is a guy who gets on base at a pretty high level, plays solid defense in right field, and provides a lot of pop on the left-side. From 2017 to 2019, he averaged 29 home runs per season with 81 RBI and that was while playing in a pitchers park at Citi Field and on pretty bad Mets teams with not a lot of protection in the lineup.
In the shortened 2020 season, he slashed .322/.412/.515 with nine home runs and 31 RBI in just 54 games. He was one of the best hitters in the National League. He did struggle in 2021, but missed time due to injury and just never seemed to get into any sort of rhythm at the plate. When right, he’s a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat that would take this Jays offense to yet another level.
Conforto would provide some balance to a lineup that is virtually all right-handed with the exception of Tapia, Cavan Biggio, and Reese McGuire. He’d provide the pop they traded away while being the left-handed bat they acquired, just better. Conforto might not have Tapia’s speed but he’s better an upgrade at pretty much everything else.
Conforto also has some experience playing in the World Series. He was only a rookie at the time but collected five hits in 16 World Series at-bats, which included a two-home run game. Considering most of the Blue Jays lineup with the exception of George Springer has limited Postseason experience, Conforto can help in that regard as well.
It is important to note that Conforto has not specifically answered the question about whether he is vaccinated or not, which would obviously impact this decision as unvaccinated players have to jump through more hurdles to cross the border between the United States and Canada. However, if he is or does end up getting vaccinated, the signing makes a lot of sense.
Since he is still unsigned, I wouldn’t expect Conforto to get this massive long-term deal, which works in the Blue Jays’ favour. They made the trade for Matt Chapman and signed Yusei Kikuchi, signalling they were all in post-lockout, and signing Conforto would be yet another indication of that goal.
He would cost a supplemental draft pick, but the return on investment would be worth it. The Jays have been trading their recent high draft picks anyways and just got draft picks as Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien signed elsewhere after rejecting their qualifying offers. His price is at an all-time low right now and he’d be the perfect fit. I don’t see how this doesn’t work for both sides, it appears to be the perfect match.