Blue Jays rework bench trading Grichuk to Rockies for Tapia, Pinto

Hazel Mae caught up with Randal Grichuk after being traded to the Colorado Rockies, to discuss his bittersweet feeling of leaving such a great clubhouse and great group of guys, but also excited for a fresh start in a hitter's friendly ballpark.

TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays reworked their bench Thursday by sending right-handed-hitting Randal Grichuk and cash to the Colorado Rockies for fellow outfielder Raimel Tapia, a left-handed batter, and minor-leaguer Adrian Pinto.

Tapia is a high-contact (95th percentile whiff rate) and speedy (81st percentile sprint speed) 28-year-old who has played 266 of his 329 major-league games in left field. He joins Cavan Biggio and Reese McGuire as the only lefty bats currently expected to be on the opening day roster, although non-roster invite Greg Bird is being given an extended look this spring.

None is the type of everyday, impact lefty hitter the Blue Jays could use to balance an almost exclusively right-handed lineup, but Tapia gives manager Charlie Montoyo options for speed and defence off the bench and a platoon opportunity for the starting lineup.

The Blue Jays have checked in on free agent Michael Conforto, the sole remaining impact left-handed bat left in free agency, according to another industry source, although that’s not necessarily indicative of anything other than due diligence. Newsday’s Erik Boland reported earlier this week that they’ve also shown interest in longtime Yankees nemesis Brett Gardner.

Trading Grichuk and the $10.33 million he’s due this season and next frees up some cash with Tapia set to earn $3.95 million this year. He has one more year of arbitration left before hitting free agency after 2023.

Rob Gillies of the Associated Press reports that the Blue Jays are sending just over $9.7 million to the Rockies — $5,383,333 this year and $4,333,333 in 2023 — covering a little more than half the $18,666,666 owed to Grichuk.

Trading Grichuk is not without risk, as his power profile should play up at Coors Field. With 394 career games in centre field, he also offered strong protection behind George Springer while Tapia, with only 189.2 innings over 37 games at the position, is much less experienced there.

Still, Grichuk was somewhat of a redundancy in an outfield that also includes Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in the corners and he struggled last season when moved into a part-time role, which barring injury was likely how he’d be used this season, too.

His name had come up in trade chatter throughout the off-season and into the spring after the lockout, when one framework floated was Grichuk for infielder Didi Gregorious of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Instead, the Blue Jays settled on Tapia, who gives them a few different looks, as he can change a game with his speed, pressure the defence by putting the ball in play and serve as a platoon-advantage option. Last year, he stole 20 bases in 26 tries, while batting .273/.327/.395 in 533 plate appearances over 133 games.

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