According to Ken Rosenthal, Jason Grilli will be re-signing with the Pirates (for real this time). It’s a two year deal worth $7 million, pending a physical.
Grilli is 36 and didn’t have a great second half in 2012, but he has been a valuable part of the Pirates’ bullpen since Neal Huntington snatched him from Philly last summer. In 2012 he was quite effective as an 8th inning set-up man and posted the fourth-highest strikeout rate in baseball, behind only Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman, and Kenley Jansen. Obviously, that gives him significant value and there seemed to be a very strong chance that some other team would be willing to give him big bucks, possibly as a closer. While Grilli still got a nice deal from the Bucs (and very well might inherit the closer role), he reportedly turned down more money from another club to stay in Pittsburgh. That’s pretty cool.
A two year $7M deal for a 36 year old reliever makes me a little uneasy–it’s fine if Grilli maintains his performance, but we all know relievers can be extremely unpredictable (though Grilli’s strong strikeout rate reduces that concern somewhat). The Pirates are already going to be paying Joel Hanrahan around $7-8M this season, so that’s a fairly large chunk of the payroll (more than 10%) for two guys that won’t even account for 10% of the pitching staff’s total innings. That’s why a lot of folks think Hanrahan might be on the way out now that Grilli is back. Initial rumors have not been encouraging in terms of a return for Hammer, and the Bucs don’t HAVE to trade him, but if they can manage to find a decent starting pitcher in exchange, they should (and likely will) ship him out.
I’m glad Grilli will be back because the Pirates bullpen in 2013 is shaping up as a very inexperienced group, and having his strikeouts and leadership should help that a lot. It’s a somewhat risky signing and we’ll certainly need to re-evaluate the situation if Hanrahan is moved, but for now I feel better about the 2013 Bucs with Grilli in the mix.
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