Right-handed batting outfielder Trey Mancini signed with the Chicago Cubs on Saturday evening, but the best outfielder who fits the Blue Jays’ needs still remains available on the market.
I’ve been pushing the “Jays should sign Robbie Grossman” narrative for a while now, and it’s time I finally write an article about it. This idea stems from a thread I created on Twitter back on Thursday evening.
Let’s look at his general stats in 2022, before taking a deeper dive as to why I have so much interest in him.
To say that Grossman struggled in 2022 is an understatement. With the Detroit Tigers and the team from Atlanta, he slashed .209/.310/.311 with seven homers in 477 plate appearances, for a career-worst 82 wRC+.
Defensively, he played above his career norm, posting a 3 Defensive Runs Saved and a 0 Outs Above Average in right and left field. For his career, he has a -17 DRS and -10 OAA in left field, and a -1 DRS and OAA in right field.
That’s obviously not great, but let’s do a deep dive.
Grossman is a left-handed pitching masher:
When you think of available free agents that are left-handed pitching mashers, there aren’t many available options remaining. The only other player who fit this bill was Andrew McCutchen, but he was slightly above average in 2022 and is on the wrong side of 30, plus he signed with the Pirates the other day.
Unlike McCutchen, Grossman had fantastic numbers against lefty pitching in 2022. The 33-year-old switch-hitter slashed .320/.436/.443 with a single homer in 149 plate appearances. He had a 16.8 BB% and a 24.2 K% for a 157 wRC+.
Not just that, but his career numbers against lefty pitching batting right-handed are superb. He’s slashed .279/.377/.413 with a 13.1 BB% and 19.6 K% in 1082 plate appearances, with 21 homers for a 122 wRC+.
If the Blue Jays’ need is just a right-handed batter who hits left-handed pitching well, Grossman is by far the best available (and most realistic option) on the market. Duvall is a great defender, but he’s never had a wRC+ over 105 with more than 300 plate appearances. Furthermore, Duvall just doesn’t hit right-handed pitching that well.
However, I believe Grossman can offer more than just a lefty pitching-mashing outfielder.
His numbers against righties were bad in 2022, but it’s not the same for his career:
So how does a guy with a 122 wRC+ against left-handed pitching end up with an 82 wRC+ on the season? Well, Grossman was absolutely awful against right-handed pitching from the left side of the plate in 2022.
In 328 plate appearances, the 33-year-old slashed .163/.253/.256 with six homers (take note of this), along with a 9.5 BB% and a 28.4 K% for a terrible 48 wRC+. Despite having a much higher wRC+ batting right-handed, Grossman evidently has more power batting left-handed. It’s also worth noting that he was never this bad against right-handed pitching in his career.
For his career, Grossman has slashed .232/.335/.363 with a 12.7 BB% and a 23 K% in 2814 plate appearances as a left-handed batter against right-handed pitching. More importantly, he had a slightly below-average 96 wRC+ and has hit 59 homers, including 15 in 2021.
Speaking of his 2021 season…:
Looking at career numbers doesn’t do us much good when he was once a great player, but Grossman’s best season was just two seasons ago. The 2022 season was Grossman’s worst season, but the 2021 season was by far his best.
With the Tigers in 2021, he slashed .239/.357/.415 with a career-high 23 homers, along with a career-high 14.6 BB% for a 116 wRC+. Interestingly, he slashed .221/.347/.387 with 15 homers and a 15.3 BB% and 24.3 K% in 465 plate appearances against right-handed pitching in 2021, so that’s notable.
If you want to expand the scope to include the COVID season, he slashed .239/.354/.430 with 31 homers in 863 plate appearances, along with a 13.8 BB% and 22.4 K%.
This is all to say that while he struggled in the 2022 season, it was more of an anomaly, as he was an above-average player as recently as 2021.
He likely fits the payroll as well, and the Jays have shown interest in the past:
On one of the more recent The Walkoff podcast, Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi noted that the Jays may not spend more than $3 million on a single free agent this off-season. The 33-year-old outfielder made an average salary of $5,000,000 the past two seasons, so it’s not impossible to envision him losing a little bit in salary after a poor season. It’s hard to predict how much he would want, but he could very well fit the Jays’ planned payroll.
Say Grossman performs at his floor, which is his 2022 season. At the very least, the Jays are getting an average defender who mashes lefties, but struggles against righties (with some added power.)
His ceiling though? Imagine if they could sign Grossman to a bounce-back contract, and he produces as he did in 2021. They would get a left-handed pitching masher and add an additional power threat from the left side of the plate.
Grossman is the perfect fourth outfielder and fits the Blue Jays’ biggest need. Toronto should do everything in its power to sign him, as the ceiling and floor are just too good to pass up on.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Brennan_L_D.