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The free agent market is starting to cool down, but we still have some wheeling and dealing going down with Opening Day now under two weeks away.
The Blue Jays and Rockies swapped outfielders on Thursday, with Randal Grichuk headed to Colorado and Raimel Tapia coming to Toronto. The Rockies will reportedly receive $9.7 million in the deal while prospect infielder Adrian Pinto was included along with Tapia for the Blue Jays.
Grichuk still has two years and $18.7 million remaining on his five-year, $52 million contract signed with the Jays back in 2019. He’s a notable winner in this deal from a fantasy perspective, as he’ll get to play half of his games in the hitter-haven of Coors Field. The move gives the Rockies some options for their roster with the advent of the universal DH. Grichuk or Sam Hilliard could play center field and Charlie Blackmon could slide into the DH spot. In other words, don’t give up on a breakout for Connor Joe just yet.
What you see is what you get with Grichuk at this point. With a flawed approach, the 30-year-old holds a .245/.293/.473 batting line for his career. He posted a career-low (for a full season) .703 OPS with 22 home runs over 545 plate appearances last season. Grichuk has actually dramatically improved his contact rate over the past two seasons, but his quality of contact has declined along the way. For example, his barrel rate was in the 98th percentile in 2017 and the 96th percentile in 2018, but it checked in at 51st percentile last season.
The recent trends aside, it’s not crazy to envision Grichuk finding his way back on mixed league rosters with regular at-bats in Colorado. It’s something to keep in mind in the later rounds of drafts this month.
As for Tapia, he gives the Blue Jays a left-handed option in a right-heavy lineup, but odds are he’ll be more of a part-timer with Lourdes Gurriel, George Springer, and Teoscar Hernandez projected to serve as the primary outfielders. If anything, this should allay concerns about Alejandro Kirk’s at-bats out of the DH spot. He remains a very interesting option at the catcher position in mixed leagues.
Tapia turned 28 last month and slashed .273/.327/.372 with six home runs, 50 RBI, 20 steals, and 69 runs scored over 133 games last season. He avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.95 million deal earlier this week and will remain under team control through 2023.
Pirates right-hander Mitch Keller is no stranger to most fantasy managers. The only issue is that his early MLB results haven’t matched up with his prospect pedigree just yet. Maybe that’s about to change.
Keller tossed three hitless innings Thursday against the Phillies in his second outing of the spring. He walked one batter and struck out a pair while continuing to show impressive fastball velocity. Per Justice delos Santos of MLB.com, Keller has now thrown 21 pitches of at least 97 mph after throwing just 41 pitches at that velocity through his first 170 1/3 innings in the majors. He averaged right around 94 mph with his fastball last season. Well, hello there.
Obviously the increased velocity doesn’t solve everything. Keller has struggled to throw strikes in the majors — including 49 walks in 100 2/3 innings last season — but he’s certainly more interesting right now.
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Spring Training Quick Hits: Andrew Miller announced his retirement on Thursday, closing the book on a successful 16-year career in the majors … Walker Buehler has been officially named as the Dodgers’ Opening Day starting pitcher … The Red Sox plan to platoon Jackie Bradley Jr. and J.D. Martinez in right field this season … Bobby Witt Jr. went 2-for-3 with a go-ahead three-run homer in Thursday’s Cactus League contest against the Reds … Phillies manager Joe Girardi has announced Aaron Nola as his Opening Day starter … Carlos Rodon made his Cactus League debut Thursday against the White Sox and allowed one run in 2 2/3 innings with four strikeouts … Francisco Lindor reached base three times and hit his first homer of the spring Thursday against the Astros … The Angels have signed catcher Max Stassi to a three-year, $17.5 million extension with a $7.5 million club option for 2025 … Logan Gilbert impressed with six strikeouts over three innings with one run allowed Thursday against the Guardians … Tony Gonsolin spun three perfect innings Thursday against the Rockies as he attempts to win a rotation spot … Jon Gray gave up one run in two innings with four strikeouts in his Cactus League debut Thursday against the Athletics … Mike Minor (shoulder) may have to open the 2022 season on the injured list … Mets prospect catcher Francisco Alvarez launched a massive homer in Thursday’s Grapefruit League game against the Astros … Jorge Alcala has yet to make his Grapefruit League debut due to a torn nail on his right finger … The Mariners added veteran reliever Sergio Romo on a one-year, $2 million contract … Evan White exited Thursday’s Cactus League game after tweaking his surgically-repaired left hip …