In somewhat of a surprising move, the Blue Jays have announced the acquisition of outfielder Randal Grichuk from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for reliever Dominic Leone and prospect Conner Greene.
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
The trade, which was announced by the club this afternoon, came as a bit of a surprise given the glut of outfield options the Blue Jays have both on their roster and are available via free agency.
26-year-old Grichuk has always hit the ball hard. To that note he hit 22 home runs and slugged .473 in 2017. He was also 6th in all of baseball in barrels per plate appearance (Brls/PA) with 10.0. His average exit velocity of 89 mph also was above the MLB average of 87.32. That said, while Grichuk is able to do damage when he connects, he strikes out often (31.1 K%) and his walk rate is well below average (5.9%), limiting his value as an offensive player. With the acquisition of Marcel Ozuna and the emergence of Tommy Pham, the Cardinals had a surplus of outfielders and had already moved Stephen Piscotty earlier in the offseason – though Grichuk moving was also somewhat expected.
Grichuk was arbitration eligible for the first time this season and signed a 1 year/$2.8 million dollar contract earlier this offseason. He will be under control for two more seasons after 2018.
Leone, was one of the Jays best relievers in 2017 – posting a 2.56 ERA (2.92 FIP) and a 10.36 K/9 rate. It was Leone’s best season since his rookie campaign with the Mariners, and while Leone struggled in 2015/16 there was reason to believe he could continue to pitch well in 2018.
Geene, meanwhile, is the 5th best prospect in the Blue Jays system according to BP’s 2018 rankings. The 22 year-old struggled this season, his second at double-A New Hampshire, posting a 1.1 K/BB ratio and an ERA of 5.29.
In a vacuum, the trade is a bit confusing from the Blue Jays perspective. The Blue Jays have many internal options (Teoscar Hernandez, Anthony Alford, Curtis Granderson, Ezekiel Carrera, Steve Pearce) that don’t appear to be overly different from the newly acquired Grichuk. There are also several free agents available that could have given the team extra cover in the outfield. That said, the surplus mentioned above means that more moves are likely to be coming, so things could become clearer quickly.
Grichuk may provide a slightly higher floor but barring some major changes in his plate approach, he will be a limited offensive player. One interesting element of the trade though, Grichuk has been a solid defensive outfielder that can play some centre – with UZR thinking he’s slightly above average (3.6 in 1289 career innings) and DRS placing him in a group similar to Pillar, with a DRS/150 of +13 (Pillar is + 15).
Giving up Leone, who was one of the Jays most relied upon set up men, seems like a strange move given the Jays roster construction, but Grichuk does come with a longer major league track record than Hernandez and Alford, and likely provides a higher floor than Carrera and Pearce.
Welcome to Toronto, Randal!
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