Why the Grichuk Contract Announcement is No Big Deal

photo: Randal Grichuk (David Banks/USA TODAY Sports Images)

There was a surprising amount of angst demonstrated by a segment of St. Louis Cardinals fans on Thursday afternoon when Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY reported that the club and outfielder Randal Grichuk had come to terms on a one-year contract for $2.6 million. This has not yet been announced by the team.

Some who do not like the strikeout-prone power hitter would like him to become an ex-Cardinal, so they took the information badly.

The reality is that Thursday’s news was extremely minor.

Randal Grichuk (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Grichuk was already committed to a 2018 contract. That occurred for him, Michael Wacha and Tyler Lyons back on December 1, this year’s non-tender date. With Grichuk holding considerable value, turning him loose for nothing in return would have been ridiculous. Of course, that would never happen.

For those still hoping for a trade, one could argue that Grichuk’s 2018 salary now being settled might make him slightly more appealing to other teams as an acquisition candidate. However, that benefit is small, especially considering the ample supply of free agent outfielders who could be signed without compensation.

Rather than wait for the December 1 date, the Cardinals released injured reliever Trevor Rosenthal, since he is unable to pitch during his last season ahead of free agency. Upon his trade to St. Louis, Marcell Ozuna joined the other Cardinals arbitration-eligible players.

The next key milestone is today, Friday, January 12. Player and team are required to submit their respective requests on salary amounts for a one-year contract. They are not precluded from a longer-term deal, if both sides are interested.

Up until a February arbitration hearing, the two sides are allowed to continue to work toward an agreement, but once the hearing is held, all sides are bound to accept the ruling of one salary or the other.

However, there is a rub. Last year, the Cardinals announced a “trial-and-file” approach to arbitration. Once the two sides exchange arbitration figures in January, the club ends negotiations and plans for the hearing. Yet, the Carlos Martinez case of a multi-year deal being announced during that time window indicates that exceptions can occur – at least on big deals.

Speaking of big deals, the team’s newest acquisition, Ozuna, looks to be in line for the largest contract of the group. So he could also have the largest gap between his desires and the club’s offer. It will be interesting to watch.

Wacha may be heading back for a repeat hearing. Last February, the club won its arbitration case against the right-hander. His 2017 salary was set at the team’s offer of $2.775 million, compared to the $3.2 million Wacha and his agent sought. The Cardinals had not gone through a hearing with a player since 1999.

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at thecardinalnation@gmail.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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