Not long after he expressed displeasure with his upcoming role this season as the St. Louis Cardinals fourth outfielder, Randal Grichuk received a new opportunity. On Friday, St. Louis traded Grichuk to the Blue Jays for prospect Connor Greene and reliever Dominic Leone.
The deal serves as an excellent opportunity for Grichuk to both receive a clean slate in a new organization and places him in an excellent opportunity to put his skills to the test this coming season.
Grichuk, 26, experienced a down season with St. Louis last season. His final numbers in 2017, 22 home runs and a .238/.285/.473 slash line with a 94 wOBA< don't even fully capture his struggles. At one point, St. Louis sent him down to A-ball to work on his swing mechanics then put him in Triple-A for 14 games to try and gather back some of his confidence at the plate and live up to some of the potential that made him a top prospect.
St. Louis hoped they would again find the player who posted a .276/.329/.548 slash line with a.370 wOBA and 138 wRC+ in his first full season in the majors. Instead, Grichuk went on to hit .239/.287/.477 and paired it with a .320 wOBA and 98 wRC+ over his past two seasons. His discipline at the plate just never seemed to improve as his past two years in St. Louis culminated in a 29.8 percent strikeout rate compared to only a 5.9 percent walk rate.
The Cardinals addition of Marcell Ozuna this offseason and the breakout year last season from Tommy Pham opened the door for St. Louis to trade outfielders Stephen Piscotty and Grichuk. In both cases, the organization did an excellent job finding a great landing spot for its players.
Grichuk will slide into Toronto's right field vacancy and start right away. For the young outfielder, the move to the Rogers Centre should fit right in with his skill set as a power bat. With a career 17.4 percent home run/fly ball rate and a lifetime 43.1 percent fly ball percentage, Grichuk's homer-heavy approach should fit in well at a stadium that typically finishes in the top half of baseball in home runs.
While Toronto's lineup isn't as strong as past years with Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista now gone, the team's addition of Yangervis Solarte along with a healthy Devon Travis could add some nice depth to the Justin Smoak-Josh Donaldson pairing.
Grichuk's fly ball rates, career 14.7 swinging strike rate and low walk totals prove all the evidence needed for fantasy owners to know anything over a .305 on-base percentage for Grichuk is extremely doubtful. Realistically, his all-or-nothing approach will likely lead him to a .230-.240 batting average with a sub-.780 OPS.
For fantasy owners, the good news with Grichuk is purely the opportunity for playing time and the chances to hit home runs. Previously set for a bench role, Grichuk should now see 450-plus plate appearances and the chance to crack 25 home runs and 55-plus RBIs.