Posted on January 19, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The free agent market remains stalled this offseason, but that hasn’t stopped the Toronto Blue Jays from adding players via trades. On Friday, the Blue Jays completed a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Randal Grichuk. In return, the Cardinals will receiver relief pitcher Dominic Leone and pitching prospect Conner Greene. It’s the third noteworthy trade the Blue Jays have made this offseason. They have also acquired Aledmys Diaz from the Cardinals and Yangervis Solarte from the Padres.
For Grichuk, the trade to Toronto is a chance to hit the reset button. Over the last two seasons, he’s had trouble replicating the success he had during his breakout season in 2015. Last May, Grichuk’s struggles got him demoted all the way back to A-ball. Grichuk has continued to hit for power the past two seasons. But his average and on-base percentage have suffered. In 2017, Grichuk hit .238 with an OPS of .758.
The move to Toronto also gives Grichuk the opportunity to be an everyday player. With the Cardinals acquiring Marcell Ozuna earlier this winter, Grichuk was in line to be the fourth outfielder in St. Louis this year. Earlier this week, Grichuk publicly stated his disappointment at being the odd man out in the St. Louis outfield.
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“Obviously any time you lose a starting spot, it’s disappointing,” said Grichuk. “I felt like last year was kind of up and down. It wasn’t consistent enough. We needed an impact bat in the middle of the lineup, and, fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you want to look at it, it’s an outfielder. It’s good for the team, rough for me. But I’ll still roll with it.”
With the Blue Jays, Grichuk will have a chance to solidify an everyday job. Kevin Pillar is penciled in as Toronto’s center fielder. However, the two corner spots are up in the air. Grichuk will compete with Steve Pearce, Ezequiel Carrera, and Teoscar Hernandez for playing time. Considering the power Grichuk brings to the table, the Blue Jays are no doubt hoping he will solidify himself as an everyday player in either left field or right field.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, should be fine without Grichuk. Ozuna, Tommy Pham, and Dexter Fowler should all have everyday roles. With youngsters Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill also in the mix, the Cardinals had little reason to keep Grichuk. St. Louis also traded Stephen Piscotty to the A’s earlier this offseason because of their overwhelming outfield depth.
Aside from clearing space in their outfield, the Cardinals also used this trade to add a couple promising pitchers. The 26-year old Leone enjoyed a breakout season with the Blue Jays in 2017, posting a 2.56 ERA in 65 appearances. Leone should add a capable middle reliever to the St. Louis bullpen. Greene, meanwhile, was rated as Toronto’s no. 11 prospect, according to MLB.com. He posted a 5.29 ERA as a starter at double-A last year. But he has the kind of stuff that could turn him into a late-inning reliever in the big leagues.
There’s a good chance that this trade ends up working out for both teams. The Blue Jays get Grichuk with three years of team control without giving up any significant pieces. Despite his struggles over the last two years, his 2015 season is proof that he has a high upside. The Cardinals, on the other hand, traded away a player they don’t need for two pitchers who have a chance to help their bullpen in the years to come.