The Toronto Blue Jays tapped former Colorado Rockies outfielder Raimel Tapia for deployment Tuesday, marking the end of his tenure north of the border. While he showed improvements in a few key areas compared to previous years, keeping him for 2023 was clearly not enough for Toronto.
Tapia was acquired by the Colorado Rockies for outfielder Randal Grichuk prior to the 2022 season. With that in mind, let’s reevaluate trading.
Colorado Rockies or Toronto Blue Jays: Who Did Better in 2022 and Does the Raimel Tapia DFA Automatically Make the Rockies the Trade Winners?
First, let’s take a look at how Tapia has fared compared to when he was with the Rockies. He put down his best numbers for a full season without COVID offensively, seeing his wRC+ go from mid-70s to 90s. This was due to a drop in his groundball percentage from 67.4% in 2021 to 54.7% in 2022. That’s still a high number, but a significant improvement from the season before. His hard hit rate, per Statcast, was also the highest of his career at 37.5%.
Where his shot profile scored was his BB% and K%. His BB% dropped to 3.7% from an already low 7.5%. His K% jumped from 13.1% to 18.7%. While a higher K% isn’t always the worst thing for a player, the combination of this and a drop in BB% prevented them from performing even better. This is probably just getting used to moving outside of Coors and training his eyes again as a batsman, but it’s held him back a bit this year.
However, the main thing that has held him back this season has been defense. He saw a noticeable drop that limited him to an fWAR and bWAR of just 0.3 in 2022. He had a DRS of -4, a UZR/150 of -5 and an OAA of -5 (putting him in the 12th percentile). This is a stark contrast to his performance in 2021 with the Rockies, where he was 76th percentile in the OAA. Though he improved offensively in Toronto, his presence on defense weighed on him.
Now let’s look at Randal Grichuk. His season with the Rockies had some similarities to Tapia’s…but none of them are great. He had an fWAR of -0.2 and a bWAR of 0.3. His wRC+ of 88 was a few ticks above his 85 mark in 2021. His BB% went down slightly and his K% increased by 3%. For the most part, he was the same hitter in Colorado as he was in Toronto.
But similar to Tapia, his downfall was on the defensive side. He had -4 DRS and -2.5 UZR/150 and -1 OAA, placing him in the 32nd percentile. According to FanGraphs’ Defensive Score, he was -11.1, easily the worst grade of his career and just a tad worse than Charlie Blackmon, whose defense is heavily vilified in the Rocky Mountain Twitterverse. His mark in 2021 with the Blue Jays was -2.5, and that looks like the start of what could be a very negative trend. You can’t be a bad defensive outfielder at a stadium like Coors Field, and it’s even worse to be a retreating one. The Rockies have another year of this defense to work with.
The final point to consider in who won the trade must be team success. While neither played a huge factor in their team’s success, Toronto had the better season, making the playoffs while the Rockies stumbled to 68 wins and a last-place finish in the NL West. According to the WPA, Raimel Tapia’s impact on the Rocky Mountains was slightly worse than Grichuk’s. Tapia finished with a -0.27 WPA and Grichuk had a -1.37 WPA.
When all is said and done, it feels pretty clear that the Blue Jays won the trade, although neither side is thrilled with what they received. Tapias WAR outperformed Grichuks, Tapia was the slightly better hitter and arguably a better fielder as well. Grichuk saw a negative field of regression and there aren’t many signs of things getting better any time soon, which doesn’t bode well for the Rockies. So even though Toronto had DFA Tapia, they got a little more out of the deal and likely avoided a negative year from Grichuk in 2023.