Looking back on the St. Louis Cardinals’ decision to trade Randal Grichuk
The St. Louis Cardinals have traded away promising players to fill holes on the major league roster. How have they fared on other rosters?
As I touched on in my last look-back, the St. Louis Cardinals had an outfield glut heading into the 2017-2018 offseason, with Tommy Pham, Dexter Fowler, Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty as their top four players on the grass and Jose Martinez, Harrison Bader, and Magneuris Sierra looking for playing time. This overflow allowed St. Louis to make a few changes to shake up the roster.
On Dec. 14 that winter, the Cards made a pair of moves, sending Piscotty to Oakland and bringing in Marcell Ozuna from Miami. Of course, those trades resulted in a stronger overall starting trio, but they still left the Cardinals with surplus outfielders. Given that, there was still some clearing out to be done.
Grichuk, probably most famous as the player drafted (also by the Angels) just ahead of Mike Trout, had been basically an average player overall for the Cardinals, with his mid-20s home run power helping to offset an awful strikeout-to-walk ratio that kept his on-base percentage under .300 more often than not. He also offered solid defense in left, center, and right field.
With Grichuk reaching his arbitration years, that average performance was starting to get more expensive, so with similar options bubbling up through the minor league pipeline, the Cardinals sent Grichuk to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for relief pitchers Dominic Leone and Conner Greene.
After another typical Grichuk-type season in 2018, the Blue Jays signed him to a five-year, $52-million dollar contract. Inking an average player to a reasonable deal seemed like a smart decision, but he has underwhelmed with Toronto.
Grichuk has shown no growth with the bat, exhibiting the same solid power and awful plate discipline he demonstrated in his early 20s. And as he now moves into his 30s, his defensive decline has made him mediocre at best in center and right fields, the only two fielding positions he’s played for the Blue Jays with the exception of a single game in left in 2018.
With two more years remaining on his contract, Toronto has looked into trade possibilities for Grichuk off and on for a while, hoping to find a taker (and possibly sending some money to incentivize another team) and free up playing time for other options.
For the Cardinals’ part, they didn’t get much in return from this deal. There had been some hope Leone would compete for the closer role, and he was allowed to finish 19 games during his two seasons in St. Louis. However, he earned just a single save during that time while sporting a 5.15 ERA. Leone was released after the 2019 season and spent the next two years with Cleveland and San Francisco, respectively.
Greene made no impact with the Cardinals, being waived after the 2018 campaign. He has bounced among the Royals, Orioles, and Dodgers organizations since then, having yet to establish himself firmly in the majors. Greene currently is a free agent.
Grichuk’s status as the 24th overall pick in the 2009 draft certainly gave teams plenty to dream on. And it’s not that he’s been a bad player, just rather vanilla. Poor plate discipline and middling power don’t get teams excited, though sometimes boring has its virtues.
The wild winter the Cardinals had following the 2017 season provided several intriguing storylines to follow. While Grichuk’s certainly seemed like it could be captivating, it’s been anything but. This wasn’t a good or bad trade from the Cardinals’ perspective. It just sort of happened.