It’s my belief the Jays did a good bit of business here, and that the trade that brought Raimel Tapia to the Jays is already a win.
In fact, I’d argue that the 28-year-old Tapia is far too over-hated and has had a better season than Randal Grichuk. This is because once you dig into why Tapia struggled at the start of the season, you can see that he’s a darn good fourth outfielder.
Not just that, but the Jays have a chance to cut payroll next season while getting a pretty darn good prospect in return. Let’s look at each one of these things, starting with the MLB player they got in return.
At face value, Tapia’s.264/.290/.374 slash line with 4 homeruns isn’t great. Especially when you factor in his Fangraphs WAR of -0.4, but let’s dig deeper into the numbers.
Let’s take you back to April 13th when Teoscar Hernandez injured his oblique. This injury devastated the Jays for multiple reasons. For starters, Teoscar has been one of the better hitters (I’d argue the best) over the past two seasons.
The second reason is due to the lack of depth in the outfield, and due to the injury, Tapia played a little more than the team probably wanted.
Between the start of the season and Hernandez’s return (May 7th), Tapia posted pretty awful numbers. He slashed .222/.237/.289 in 95 plate appearances with a wRC+ of 42. This also included a K% of 18.9%, which isn’t too bad, until you see his BB% of 2.1%. For this time, Tapia had an fWAR of -0.7, the worst on the team.
Raimel Tapia – Toronto Blue Jays (4) pic.twitter.com/Bl4bAYmGfs
— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) July 10, 2022
After Teo’s injury? He’s slashing .296/.329/.437 with three homers in 151 plate appearances. Tapia K% is still quite low at 17.9%, but his BB% increased to 4.6%. In this stretch of time, he has a wRC+ of 114. Not just that, but Tapia is slightly above replacement level, as his fWAR in this time sits at 0.3
So since Hernandez has returned and Tapia has moved into the fourth outfielder role, his offense numbers have improved quite a bit. What about his defense?
When you look at the worst outfielders according to Outs Above Average, you need not scroll down too far before you see Raimel Tapia’s -3 OAA. You may look at this and think “oh my, he’s tied for the 14th worst OAA for outfielders, he sucks!”
As you can guess, we’ll dig deeper into statistics to prove that isn’t quite the case… sort of.
There’s really no sugar coating it, Tapia is absolutely terrible in right field. He’s played 195.2 innings and has posted a -6 Defensive Runs Saved and a -3 Outs Above Average.
If we are to compare his right field OAA to all 48 qualified right fielders, Tapia has the fourth worst right field OAA, trailing Gavin Sheet (-4), Nick Castellanos (-7) and… Juan Soto? What?.
Using Fangraphs’ Advanced Fielding, we can see that his ARM is the reason for this, as it sits at -1.8. Combined with a -0.6 range factor, you can see why.
After doing hours of research (literally), Tapia played around 130 innings in right field during Teo’s injury. These innings account for 66.44% of the time he’s played in right field, meaning he’s played there out of necessity, rather than by choice.
After Teoscar returned, he only played about 65 innings in right, meaning the Jays made a conscious effort to avoid playing him at the position where he’s not very good defensively.
Now you may be saying that he isn’t very good in centre, which just isn’t the case. Yes, his range doesn’t get exposed as of -1.4 according to Fangraphs. Not just that, but his arm issues are quite prevalent at centre, as he has a -1.0 arm statistics.
— For Future Considerations (@PodcastFFC) July 4, 2022
However, in his 137.2 innings played at the position, he only has a -1 Defensive Runs Saved and Tapia is actually an average defensive centre fielder according to OAA, as it sits at 0.
While he’s not someone you want to put in a late game situation, the Jays actually have Bradley Zimmer, who is a pretty darn good defender. For the offense he provides, his average defense is sufficient.
Now we come to his defensive home, left field. While Tapia has taken a step back from 2021, his DRS sits at 0 and OAA at -1. Again, he’s average for the position, but he did have a DRS of 7 last season.
Tapia isn’t a guy who should be a defensive replacement, but he does provide value once you look past a period of the season where he was being misplayed due to necessity.
What about Grichuk?:
So we learned that Raimel Tapia is a solid fourth outfielder, but what about the outfielder they traded to get him? I speculated when this trade happened that Grichuk could benefit from the thin air of Coors. Instead, he has actually regressed quite a bit.
This season, Grichuk is slashing .244/.281/.387 in 288 plate appearances. He’s still striking out quite a bit, as his K% is sitting at 25.3% (more than the past two seasons), while his BB% has dropped to a career low 4.2%.
— Baseball Today (@dailymlbtweets) July 14, 2022
Not just that, but he’s only hit nine homers (again, Denver’s air makes the ball yeet) and has a wRC+ of 73, below Tapia’s season wRC+ of 84, which includes the span filling in for Teo’s injury.
Defensively, Grichuk has been better than Tapia, but not by much. In right field (412.2 innings), he has posted a 1 DRS a -1 OAA. This is down from his 2021 where he posted a 6 DRS and 0 OAA at the same position.
Grichuk’s struggles in centre field has continued, as he has a -2 DRS and -2 OAA in 210.1 innings fielded at the position. Last season, I wrote an article about why Grichuk should be appreciated more, which largely focused on his defense, but he has regressed quite a bit since moving to Coors.
As you may know, Grichuk was signed to a fairly large contract which he had two seasons remaining heading into this season. His payroll salary for the final two seasons was about $9,333,333 for each season.
The Jays traded Grichuk and cash ($5,383,333 in 2022, $4,333,333 in 2023) for Raimel Tapia and Adrian Pinto (we’ll get to him). This season, Tapia is making $3,950,000 and when added with the cash sent, this equals the same amount of the Grichuk contract.
However, the Jays technically don’t have to tender Tapia. This means if Tapia walks, the Jays would have cleared about $5,000,000 in payroll for the 2023 season.
Even if they do sign him, I’d expect Tapia’s last year of arbitration to come somewhere around the $5,000,000 mark.
So the Jays technically have an option to reduce payroll, or keep Tapia and have the same payroll they’d have if they kept Grichuk. What’s important is that they have a choice.
How this trade could get even better:
I mentioned Adrian Pinto earlier, but the 19-year-old is very intriguing.
In 2021, the diminutive second base/centre fielder won the Dominican Summer League MVP as he posted quite impressive stats. In 224 plate appearances, he had a .360/.486/.543 slash line. His hitting tool was on full display, as he had a K% of 8% and a BB% of 17%, which is absolutely crazy. Furthermore, he stole 41 bases in 49 attempts.
Pinto also had three homers, which doesn’t sound all too impressive until you consider these few things: Pinto is only 5’6 and he would’ve finished second on the 2021 DOSL Jays team, only one behind power hitter Cristian Feliz. All in all, Pinto had a wRC+ of 185, which is insane.
Pinto's second hit of the night.
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) April 27, 2022
The 19-year-old skipped the Florida Complex League entirely, joining the Dunedin Blue Jays in 2022. In 194 plate appearances, he has posted a .242/.375/.363 slash line with two homers. His BB% sits at 12.4% while his K% sits at 16.5%. His wRC+ is still above average at 121.
While he’s regressed, Pinto is still -2.2 years younger than the average position player. Not just that, but he’s been an above average batter while making the difficult jump to Low A.
There’s a lot to like about Pinto, and while he’s still at least three or four years away, if he continues to track well, this trade could become one of the best from the Shapiro era.
What to make of the trade currently:
All things considered, I like this trade. I’d argue that Tapia is better than Grichuk and he had fit a need heading into the season (left handed batting fourth outfielder). Not just that, but there’s an opportunity to clear $5,000,000 in payroll for 2023, enough to sign a good reliever.
Lastly, this trade can become really darn good depending on how Pinto develops. While there aren’t a lot of 5’6 players in the MLB, one comparison I’ve made is to Jose Altuve. If he could become half the player that Altuve has been in his career, we may be robbed Colorado blind.
As of right now though, this trade is starting to look pretty good.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D. The Rockies are my second team, so I have know about Tapia for awhile.