The Cardinals entered the offseason with an outfield logjam that needed to be cleared and plenty of other weak spots in the organization. They began by trading Magneuris Sierra and Stephen Piscotty in December, and on Friday they moved another outfielder, sending Randal Grichuk to the Blue Jays in exchange for reliever Dominic Leone and righthanded pitching prospect Connor Greene.
Grichuk adds power to a Blue Jays offense that ranked 26th in the majors in runs scored and 24th in slugging percentage last season. The Cardinals meanwhile cleared space to deploy an outfield of Tommy Pham, Dexter Fowler and Marcell Ozuna with Harrison Bader and Jose Martinez available off the bench, at least to start the season.
Blue Jays acquire:
Randal Grichuk, OF
Grichuk brings back-to-back 20 home run seasons with him to Toronto, and the ability to play all three outfield positions. However, he was slated to be a bench bat in St. Louis after the Cardinals acquired Marcell Ozuna, and he wasn’t happy about it. Grichuk’s OPS has dropped precipitously the least three years because of immense difficulties controlling the strike zone and limiting his strikeouts, so much that the Cardinals demoted him all the way to high Class A last summer to rediscover some semblance of plate discipline. Grichuk’s inability to lay off balls outside the zone cuts into his on-base percentage and limits his overall offensive impact, but when he gets ahold of one can drive the ball a long way. He fits into the Blue Jays starting outfield and will stay there as long as he keeps his strikeouts and plate discipline reasonable, which he still has to prove he can do. He will make $2.6 million this year and won’t be a free agent until 2021.
Dominic Leone, RHP
The Cardinals needed bullpen reinforcements after letting Trevor Rosenthal and Seung Hwan Oh go this offseason and get one in Leone. The power righthander went 3-0, 2.56 in 65 appearances out of the Blue Jays bullpen last year, with 81 strikeouts and 23 walks in 70.1 innings. Leone averages 95 mph on his fastball and backs it up with a swing-and-miss 88-90 mph cutter, a power arsenal that has made him effective in late, high-leverage situations. He will slot into the back end of the Cardinals bullpen immediately.
Connor Greene, RHP
Greene brings the heat with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and has reached 101 mph, but that has not equalled success. He went 5-10, 5.29 at Double-A New Hampshire last season with 92 strikeouts and 83 walks in 133 innings. Hitters have a surprisingly easy time squaring Greene’s fastball up because it lacks movement and he doesn’t command it. He also lacks a putaway secondary, with his 79-81 mph curveball and 86-88 mph changeup fringe-average pitches in evaluators’ eyes. Greene’s youth, durability and power arm are exciting, but the Cardinals will have to do significant work on his mechanics, arm action and mental game to unlock his potential. It’s a risky proposition, but the reward could be significant.