Toronto Blue Jays: The 10 worst moves by GM Ross Atkins since 2015

May 15, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays president Mark A. Shapiro and Toronto Blue
May 15, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays president Mark A. Shapiro and Toronto Blue / Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
4 of 11

8. Overpaying on Contract Extensions and Free Agent Deals

While Atkins would make some bad subsequent trades (see above, and more on that below), he did have a decent offseason of trades in 2017/18. He acquired Randal Grichuk from St. Louis for relievers Dominic Leone and Conner Greene, and then in a separate deal with the Cards, he acquired infielder Aledmys Díaz for busted 2016 2nd round draft pick J.B. Woodman. Of course he missed out on trading Josh Donaldson to St. Louis for starter Jack Flaherty, but the the deals he did consummate worked out.

However, after a decent first season in Toronto, where Grichuk hit 25 home runs with 61 RBI and slashed .245/.301/.502/.803 with an OPS+ of 117 and bWAR of 2.5, Atkins offered him a completely unnecessary five-year, $52 million contract extension ahead of the 2019 season. For a rebuilding ballclub, the contract made little sense as Grichuk was notoriously streaky, ground in to far too many double plays (47 over four seasons in Toronto), and was turning 28 that August. It ended up being completely gratutous with the Jays losing 95 games that year.

Grichuk ended up being only an average (to below average) hitter during the rest of his tenure, accumulating a bWAR of only 1.8 combined over the next three seasons in Toronto, with a paltry slash line of .242/.286/.448/.733 and below league average OPS+ of 94. For over $10 million AAV per season, that was poor production, and Grichuk ended up being dumped along with $9.7 million in cash to the Colorado Rockies for Raimel Tapia and prospect Adrian Pinto. In fact, to add insult to injury, the Jays are still paying $4.33 million of Grichuk’s salary this season.

What’s odd is that the front office has also extended other players they’ve acquired via trade like José Berríos, but has yet to extend any of their own homegrown stars including Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk or Jordan Romano beyond their arbitration years. They’ve also offered big free agent deals to George Springer (six-years, $150 million), Kevin Gausman (five-years, $110 million), Hyun Jin Ryu (four-years $80 million, when no other team offered a 4th year), Chris Bassitt (three-years, $63 million) and Yusei Kikuchi (three-years, $36 million, which no other team came close to matching).