If you made a checklist of the things the Toronto Blue Jays have looked for in their trade acquisitions this offseason it would look something like this:
Multiple years of team control
An affordable contract
A buy-low opportunity
When the club traded for Randal Grichuk on Friday afternoon they checked all five of their boxes.
We've acquired OF Randal Grichuk from the Cardinals in exchange for RHP Dominic Leone and RHP Conner Greene.
Last season, Grichuk hit 22 home runs with 59 RBI and 25 doubles in 122 games. pic.twitter.com/624iYWvEx2
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) January 19, 2018
Grichuk is 26 years old, he costs $2.6 million this season, he’s under team control through 2020, he can play all three outfield positions, and he’s coming off a 1.4 WAR year – his worst in a full season.
That doesn’t make him a superstar – far from it. Grichuk’s warts are well documented. His career on-base percentage and strikeout rate is .297 and 29.9 percent respectively. His approach at the plate is undoubtedly questionable and it limits his offensive ceiling. He’s capable of playing in centre field, but he’s not a difference maker there.
For his flaws, though, he represents an upgrade for the Blue Jays outfield. He’s hit 46 home runs over the last two seasons and is almost certainly good for 20-plus again. If he’s confined to a corner spot – which he will be with Kevin PIllar on the team – he can save his pitchers some runs. He’s been worth +10.9 runs by UZR and 10 by DRS in 1558 corner-outfield innings in his career. Fly ball pitchers like Roberto Osuna, Marco Estrada, and J.A. Happ will be glad to have him.
The Blue Jays outfield now consists of Pillar in centre and some combination of Grichuk, Curtis Granderson, Steve Pearce, Ezequiel Carrera, and Teoscar Hernandez in the corners. That likely means Hernandez is ticketed for Triple-A, which could be beneficial to him given his contact struggles. Blue Jays fans won’t be ecstatic about that group, but its not too hard to imagine squeezing league-average production out of them – especially if Granderson is strictly platooned.
To bring Grichuk into the fold, the Blue Jays had to part with one of their top bullpen pieces. Dominic Leone was the second-best reliever on the team to Roberto Osuna in 2017, posting a 2.56 ERA and 2.94 FIP in 70.1 innings. The 26-year-old right-hander leaned on his hard cutter to strike out a career-high 10.36 K/9 while keeping his walks to a reasonable 2.94 BB/9. He had just avoided arbitration with a $1.085 million deal and is under team control through 2021.
Also heading to the Cardinals is pitching prospect Conner Greene. The 22-year-old is an absolute fireballer with an extreme gap between his stuff and his results. Despite touching triple-digits as a starter, the right-hander managed just a 6.24 K/9 at Double-A in 2017 – his second year at the level. Greene has enough issues with his secondary stuff and command that it’s far from a given he’ll be an MLB starter – but given his velocity he could be a weapon as a reliever in the near future.
With Marcell Ozuna, Tommy Pham, and Dexter Fowler in the outfield, the Cardinals didn’t have a starting spot for Grichuk. The Blue Jays do. One of Toronto’s areas of strength is cheap and effective bullpen pieces. The Cardinals figured they could use one of those.
The most entertaining way to look at any trade is to peg one team as a winner and the other as a loser – but this one looks like a win-win proposition.
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