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Blue Jays trade for Cardinals’ Randal Grichuk

Toronto’s roster is starting to take shape, somewhat.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at St. Louis Cardinals Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

After a mum start to the offseason, the Blue Jays lately have begun to make acquisitions and signings that are shaping their roster. Yesterday, they added another outfielder — Randal Grichuk from the Cardinals, whom they acquired for reliever Dominic Leone and prospect Conner Greene. This came on the heels of them signing Curtis Granderson to a one-year deal worth $5 million.

Grichuk is a 26-year-old outfielder who’s under team control through 2020. He’s been in the league for parts of four seasons, slashing .249/.297/.488 for a 108 wRC+. He’s shown some power during this time, with 20+ home runs in each of his last two seasons. He’s also a good defender, roughly splitting time equally in each corner. He may not be a threat to steal bases, but he does bring some speed to a mostly slow line up and is a good base runner. In fact, his BsR in 2017 would have easily put him as the best base runner on this Bluejays team. On the flip side, his on-base percentage is terrible, and he strikes out nearly 30 percent of the time he steps to the plate.

Most of Grichuk’s success is against fastballs and offspeed pitches, while he tends to struggle against breaking stuff. According to Brooks Baseball, he’s whiffed on 21.4 percent of sliders and 11.6 percent of curveballs as a big-leaguer. Here are his numbers against all pitches in the major leagues:

Image via Brooks Baseball

Even though he was coming off a down year (with a wRC+ of 95), one can see why the Blue Jays were intrigued. Grichuk is young, he’s under control for three seasons and he has the potential to get better. With a move to a smaller park, it’s safe to assume that he can continue to see his power go up. Given that he’s never posted a high walk rate at any level, it’s probably unrealistic to expect he’ll improve his on-base percentage, but if he could make more contact, he could improve his overall numbers significantly. His best year with the Cardinals was in 2015, when he posted a 138 wRC+ and slashed .276/.329/.548.

With the trade, the Blue Jays now have 5 outfielders on their 25 man roster: Grichuk, Granderson, Kevin Pillar, Steve Pearce and Ezequiel Carrera. In addition, they have 4 everyday outfielders — Anthony Alford, Dalton Pompey, Teoscar Hernandez and Dwight Smith Jr. — in Triple-A Buffalo, three of whom made their Blue Jays debut last year (while Pompey was mostly on the DL).

With a logjam like this, I’m not sure how they plan on proceeding. Do they want to carry these five outfielders to Toronto in April, make a deal or hold a garage sale for outfielders sometime between now and the start of the season?

Of this group, Pearce seems to be the most dispensable. Originally brought to potentially platoon with Justin Smoak in 2017, he seems a bit redundant going forward — Smoak seems to have locked up first base, while Kendrys Morales will be holding the DH spot for the majority of the at-bats. Andrew Stoeten recently mentioned that the Jays could look to platoon Kendrys and potentially give some of his at-bats against righties to Granderson, meaning there wouldn’t really be a place for Pearce. Carerra’s reverse splits against lefties mean he can be a fourth outfielder and platoon with Granderson, while Grichuk and Pillar would likely be everyday starters.

The parts of the deal who head to St. Louis, reliever Dominic Leone and prospect Conner Greene, are a tantalizing pair. Leone had a career year last year — in 70 13 innings, he posted a 2.94 FIP and 1.5 WAR to help give the Blue Jays surprisingly strong depth in their bullpen behind Roberto Osuna. Greene, on the other hand, had an up-and-down year, mostly in Double-A, where he continued to struggle with his control. However, given that he had the ability to light up the radar gun with triple digits, it’s mildly surprising that the front office gave up on him without trying him out as a reliever. That could also mean that Blue Jays must feel that Grichuk has the kind of ceiling that would justify giving up a prospect like Greene.

Azam Farooqui is a contributor at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @afarooqui21.