St. Louis Cardinals: Cards trade Randal Grichuk to the Blue Jays

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ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 24: Randal Grichuk
ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 24: Randal Grichuk /
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The off-season for the St. Louis Cardinals received a jolt Friday afternoon as Randal Grichuk heads to Toronto.

Sometimes all it takes is a little spark to get things going again. The St. Louis Cardinals certainly made their spark by trading outfielder Randal Grichuk to the Toronto Blue Jays this afternoon. What comes after this is anybody’s guess, but for now we say goodbye to Grichuk.

In his four years with the St. Louis Cardinals, Grichuk hit a meager .249, with sixty-six home runs and 182 RBI. His best season was his 2015 campaign where he hit a solid .276, with seventeen home runs and forty-seven RBI in just 107 games. Following the 2016 season, the Cardinals tabbed Grichuk to be the staring left fielder, replacing the longtime fan favorite Matt Holliday.

Unfortunately, Grichuk’s struggles at the plate continued with him from his 2016 season. In 2017, Grichuk hit an awful .238 in 122 games. He managed to hit twenty-two home runs and drive in fifty-nine runs. He also struck out 133 times and walked only twenty-six times in 442 plate appearances.

The two biggest factors in Grichuk’s departure from St. Louis would be his struggles at the plate and the trade for Marcell Ozuna this past winter.

The was no question the St. Louis Cardinals were going to move an outfielder, especially after the trade for Ozuna. However, the question was simply which outfielder would go? The fact is the Cardinals have too much depth in their system right now. Grichuk’s value at this point is never going to be higher than it is, so it makes sense for the Cardinals to move him before Bader.

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That being said, Grichuk’s struggles at the plate did him no favors either. After having a nice breakout season in 2015, his 2016 and 2017 seasons were a complete step in the opposite direction.

Unfortunately, those struggles caught up with him in the end.

If it’s worth anything, my favorite memory of Grichuk is when he teed off on Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 of the NLDS in 2014. He took Kershaw’s best pitcher and hammered it into left field. It’s as sweet a swing you’ll see, but I wish we saw it more often.

In return, the St. Louis Cardinals receive pitchers Dominic Leone and Conner Greene.

Greene is ranked eleventh on the Blue Jays top-30 prospects, so it’ll be interesting to see where he fits in the Cardinals already stacked pitching system. Leone has already made his big league debut and would likely battle for a spot in the Cardinals bullpen this spring.

Here is a look at what MLB.com has to say about Greene:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 70 | Curve ball: 45 | Slider: 50 | Change-up: 55 | Control: 45 | Overall: 50

Taken by the Blue Jays in the seventh round of the 2013 Draft, Greene spent his first three seasons in Rookie ball before breaking out in ’15, when he excelled at both Class A levels and finished the year at Double-A New Hampshire at age 20.

Though he pitched well last season back in Florida State League and held his own after a mid-year promotion to Double-A, Greene’s overall control regressed and he missed fewer bats than at any point in his career, a trend that’s carried over into his return to the Eastern League in 2017.

Pure projection when he entered the Blue Jays’ system, Greene has since started to grow into his athletic frame and seen his stuff tick up as a result. That physical growth shows most through his plus-plus fastball, which, after topping out at 92 mph in high school, now sits in the mid- to upper-90s and routinely hits triple digits.

Related Story: Bader besting Grichuk for 4th outfield spot

His best secondary pitch is an above-average, fading change-up that he throws with convincing arm speed from the same slot as his fastball, giving him a weapon against left-handed hitters. Greene’s hard slider in the mid-to-upper 80s is ahead of his fringy curve ball, but his release point for both offerings will vary, in turn affecting their shape and action.

Greene struggles to both get ahead of and put away hitters in 2016, often picking at corners rather than trusting his stuff and attacking hitters. He’s continued to post solid ground-ball rates and keep the ball in the park, and his athletic delivery and high three-quarters slot leaves room for improved control and command. If it all clicks, Greene could develop into a No. 3 starter, though a late-inning bullpen role may be a more realistic option for the right-hander.

As far as Leone, he managed to have a pretty good year with the Blue Jays. In 70.1 innings, Leone pitched to the tune of a 2.56 ERA with a whopping eighty-one strike outs. His K/9 was right around 10.4, while his WHIP was right around 1.052. He only gave up six home runs in 2017 and seven in 2016.

My guess is Leone will have more than a fighter’s chance at cracking the St. Louis Cardinals’ bullpen this Spring. If he pitches as well as his 2017 campaign, don’t be surprised to see him thrown into the closer’s mix. As you can see from the video, Leone has a nice slider and fastball combo. If I had to guess, the best role for him would probably be in the seventh inning or as the set-up man in eighth. He is just twenty-five years old as well, so there is some growing to do.

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Perhaps the most inriguing thing now is where the St. Louis Cardinals go from here. Adding another two pitchers to their stacked system makes me wonder what will happen next.

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