The writing was on the wall at the St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-up. Outfielder Randal Grichuk was expendable, even after signing a one year deal worth $2.8 million that helped the team and player avoid an arbitration hearing.
Grichuk said it himself, joking that over the winter he joked with departed outfielder Stephen Piscotty that they would both be traded, due to the team having "37 outfielders."
Well, Grichuk's premonition was right. Today, he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for righthanded pitchers Dominic Leone and Conner Greene. Grichuk will join recently traded Cardinal infielder Aledmys Diaz in Canada, and try to put together the pieces in a new setting.
Grichuk is the latest Cardinal to get a ticket out of town, one of the last young promising talents that was supposed to be something more than what eventually materialized. He follows Jaime Garcia (too injury prone), Matt Adams (not enough), Piscotty (personal issues, regression), and Diaz (DeJong emergence, regression).
What did the Cardinals get in return? Who got the better end? Here are five reactions.
5. The outfield log jam lessens. Once Tyler O'Neill came over in a trade for Marco Gonzales, the Cardinals had a Grichuk prototype. Big power, lots of strikeouts, and a decent ceiling. With Harrison Bader and Jose Martinez needing work, Grichuk became extremely expendable.
4. Grichuk already lost his job last summer to Bader. With Dexter Fowler injury prone, the Cards turned to Bader more often than Grichuk, Each started 14 games in September, but the tide was turning towards youth. While neither were set up to start, it's clear the arrival of O'Neill and promotion of Bader pushed Grichuk out the door.
3. Conner Greene hasn't experienced the easiest run in the minors, walking 83 in only 132.1 innings last year at the AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats while sporting a 5.29 ERA in 25 starts. However, he's only 22, throws hard, and dropped into the pros at a very young age. Greene was pitching in the Rookie League when he was 18. Give him time and see how the Cards farm system treats him.
2. Dominic Leone looks like a great pickup. After years of struggles, Leone really came into his own last year, becoming one of the top setup guys in the American League. Leone appeared in 65 games, pitching 70.1 innings, and crafting a FIP of 2.94 to go with a 2.56 ERA. He averaged 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings and a 1.05 WHIP. After years of struggles in Seattle and Arizona, the walk rate and WHIP went down, and Leone became one of the most reliable RHP in the AL. Brooks Baseball shows a lower batting average against Leone's fastball and cutter in 2017. By polishing up a couple pitches, his overall performance improved mightily. He's also just 26 years old. Leone is a big add to the Cards pen.
1. The time to trade Grichuk was now. He's 26 years old and found a way to crank 22 home runs and 50 overall extra base hits last year in only 122 games. He will thrive in Toronto, with a chance to blast 30 homers easily in that dome. The Cards made the right move in getting something valuable while the value on Grichuk was there.
This was a simple supply and demand deal. The Cards had an outfielder that Toronto needed, and the Blue Jays had a bullpen arm the Cards needed. It wasn't Josh Donaldson, but that can wait until July. Perhaps this is a conversation starter for another deal at midseason.
Randal Grichuk is gone, but the Cardinals got a couple good arms, including one diamond in the rough in Leone.
Thanks for reading and have a good weekend.