The Cardinals have optioned outfielder Randal Grichuk to Class-A Advanced so that he can put in extensive work on his pitch-recognition, GM John Mozeliak tells David Solomon of KTRS 550 AM (Twitter link). Per a team press release, the Cardinals have also activated outfielder Jose Martinez from the disabled list.
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The move comes as somewhat of a surprise, but Grichuk’s struggles at the plate recently have been pronounced; he’s hitting just .222/.276/.377 this season and has fanned in 30 percent of his plate appearances. The month of May, in particular, has been a rough one for the 25-year-old, as evidence by a .202/.253/.333 triple slash.
Strikeouts have long been an issue for Grichuk, though despite his penchant for whiffs he was a productive member of the Cardinals’ lineup in 2015-16. Over the course of those two seasons, Grichuk appeared to have solidified himself as a regular in the St. Louis outfield, hitting a combined .255/.306/.508 with 41 homers through 828 plate appearances. He also turned in quality defensive work in both center field and left field in addition to above-average contributions on the basepaths.
Grichuk’s demotion likely means more playing time for hot-hitting Tommy Pham, who has forced himself into the team’s outfield mix with a brilliant .333/.410/.621 batting line and five homers through 78 plate appearances since being recalled from Triple-A. Dexter Fowler, of course, will continue to serve as the primary center fielder, with Stephen Piscotty handling right field duties.
Grichuk’s production in the minors will likely determine the length of his stay (barring other injuries in the Majors), but it doesn’t seem likely to impact his long-term control. He needs just 67 more days of big league service time to reach three full years of Major League service, which would put him on track to qualify for free agency following the 2020 season. While it’s possible that he does spend a fair chunk of time in the minors, it’d be a surprise to see him spend enough time there to delay his free agency by a year. The Cardinals made a somewhat similar move early last June in optioning Kolten Wong to Triple-A — a stay that lasted only a couple of weeks.