The Toronto Blue Jays designated former Colorado Rockies outfielder Raimel Tapia for assignment on Tuesday, marking the end of his tenure north of the border. While he showed improvements in some key areas compared to years prior, it clearly was not enough for Toronto to keep him around for 2023.
Tapia was acquired from the Colorado Rockies for outfielder Randal Grichuk prior to the 2022 season. With that in mind, let’s re-evaluate the trade.
Colorado Rockies or Toronto Blue Jays: Who made out better in 2022 and does the Raimel Tapia DFA automatically make the Rockies the winners of the trade?
For starters, let’s take a look at how Tapia did compared to his time with the Rockies. He put up his best numbers for a full, non-COVID season offensively by seeing his wRC+ jump up from the mid-70s all the way to 90. That was driven by a decrease in his ground ball percentage from 67.4% in 2021 to 54.7% in 2022. That’s still a high number, but much improved from the season prior. His Hard Hit Rate, per Statcast, was the highest of his career as well at 37.5%.
Where his hitting profile took a hit was in his BB% and his K%. His BB% dropped from an already low 7.5% to 3.7%. His K% jumped from 13.1% to 18.7%. While a higher K% may not always be the worst thing for a player, the combo between that and a drop in BB% limited him from performing even better. This is likely just getting used to pitch movement outside of Coors and training his eyes again as a batter, but it held him back a little this year.
The key thing that held him back this season, though, was defense. He saw a noticeable drop that limited him to both an fWAR and bWAR of just 0.3 in 2022. He had a -4 DRS, -7.2 UZR/150 and -5 OAA (which puts him in the 12th percentile). This is a stark difference from his 2021 performance with the Rockies in which he was in the 76th percentile in OAA. Even though he improved offensively in Toronto, his presence on defense had a negative impact.
Now, let’s look at Randal Grichuk. His season with the Rockies had some similarities to Tapia’s … but none of it is great. He had a -0.2 fWAR and an 0.3 bWAR. His wRC+ of 88 was a few ticks above his mark in 2021 of 85. His BB% dropped 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 a -2.5 UZR/150 and -1 OAA, putting him in the 32nd percentile. Per FanGraphs’ Defensive Value he was -11.1, easily the worst mark of his career and just a touch worse than Charlie Blackmon, whose defense is much maligned in the Rocky Mountain Twitterverse. His mark in 2021 with the Blue Jays was -2.5, and that appears to be the begin of a potentially very negative trend. In a ballpark like Coors Field, you can’t be a bad defensive outfielder and it’s even worse to be a declining one. The Rockies have another year of that defense to work with.
The last piece to consider for “Who won the trade” has to be team success. While neither played a large factor in their team’s success, Toronto had the better season by making the playoffs while the Rockies stumbled their way to 68 wins and a last-place finish in the NL West. Raimel Tapia’s impact was just a little worse than Grichuk’s to the Rockies, according to WPA. 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 while no side is stoked with what they received, the Blue Jays won the trade. Tapia’s WAR surpassed Grichuk’s, Tapia was the slightly better hitter and was arguably a better fielder as well. Grichuk saw negative regression fielding and there aren’t many signs that it will get better soon, which doesn’t bode well for the Rockies. So, even though Toronto DFA’d Tapia, they got slightly more out of the deal and likely avoided a negative year out of Grichuk in 2023.