Tapia traded to Blue Jays; Rox get Grichuk in return

March 24th, 2022

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays traded outfielder and cash to the Rockies for and infield prospect Adrian Pinto on Thursday.

Grichuk has two seasons remaining on the five-year, $52 million extension he signed with the Blue Jays back in early 2019, but he was looking up at a crowded outfield picture in Toronto behind George Springer, Teoscar Hernández and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Grichuk got into 149 games last season while Springer missed time with multiple injuries, but there were not expected to be as many outfield or DH opportunities in '22.

In Tapia, the Blue Jays add a left-handed bat to their outfield, which has been a priority given their righty-heavy lineup. The former Top 100 Prospect came up with some legitimate hype and an advanced ability to hit for average with the Rockies, which he’s flashed at times in the big leagues. There isn’t much power to Tapia’s game when compared to Grichuk, with a career high of nine home runs in 2019, but he does offer speed and contact with a low strikeout rate.

"Tapia is exciting. He's extremely talented,” said Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins. “There's a lot of tools and a lot to like about how he complements us with the contact ability, the defensive ability, the run tool and obviously being left-handed. We love the teammate. We’re excited to acquire him.”

Over six seasons with the Rockies, Tapia hit .280 with a .721 OPS, peaking at 20 stolen bases in 2021. The upside to Tapia’s bat can be found in the shortened '20 season, though, when he hit .321, ranking him ninth in MLB.

Earlier this week, Tapia and the Rockies settled on a $3.95 million salary for 2022, avoiding arbitration. He has two years of team control remaining, and while he expressed a sadness to be leaving the organization he’s spent a decade with, he recognizes the opportunity ahead on a Blue Jays team with World Series aspirations.

“I feel great going to a team like that,” Tapia said through an interpreter. “They’re really good. I feel like I can go out there and help them win, hopefully make the playoffs and win the championship. That’s what my goal is.”

Tapia should slide right into a similar role to what Grichuk held, just with a much different profile. This balances the Blue Jays’ outfield depth and gives them some speed off the bench when needed, though it remains to be seen how Tapia’s defensive responsibilities will shake out. After the Rockies signed Kris Bryant to play left field, Tapia was in a competition of his own for everyday reps in Colorado.

“It’s just a better complementary piece,” Atkins explained. “Randal Grichuk is a great baseball player, but his skillset was very similar to our other outfielders. This is a very complementary piece for us.”

Left field has been Tapia’s primary position in the big leagues, but he’s played some right and center. He did play much more center field in the Minor Leagues, though, which should come in handy as the Blue Jays work to ensure that Springer stays healthy over a full 162-game slate.

Atkins expects Tapia to be part of that solution in center and play all three spots, but the club will know more once they get him into camp -- which could be as early as Friday -- and see him in game action. The speed element could be an underrated piece to this deal, too. The Blue Jays have improved their team’s athleticism across the board over the past five seasons, but haven’t traditionally had a standout threat on the bases.

“The baserunning tool is elite,” Atkins said. “Not just base-stealing, but one of the fastest baserunners in the game, first to second, first to third, second to home. There’s a lot of ability for him to impact our offense.”

The prospect involved in this deal, Pinto, comes with some legitimate intrigue of his own. The 19-year-old comes from Caucagua, Venezuela, and enjoyed a fantastic start to his pro career in 2021, winning MVP in the Dominican Summer League. Pinto hit .360 with a .487 on-base percentage, walking more than twice as often (38) as he struck out (18). Listed at just 5-foot-6, Pinto played primarily shortstop in the DSL, but he also got some time at shortstop and in center field.