Baseball’s winter meetings were held this week in Nashville. That usually means a week full of rumors, Twitter blowing up every hour or so with a big new trade or signing, and general chaos. For the Pirates, that was not the case this year.
Neal Huntington admitted that signing Russell Martin was going to be the Bucs’ “big move” of the offseason, which is disappointing but not surprising. Especially after letting Jeff Karstens ride into the sunset, you’d think that Neal would be going after pitching–not a big name, obviously, but some mediocre type guy like Kevin Correia or some non-tenders from around the league. That’ll still probably happen eventually, but we barely even heard a rumor this week. Heck, the Bucs didn’t even make a pick in the Rule 5 Draft.
There is one free agent the Pirates do appear very interested in signing: Jason Grilli. After posting a career year in 2012 (at age 35), the former journeyman is looking to hit it relatively big on the open market–something he’s never really done before. Grilli made himself into a very valuable commodity after becoming a strikeout machine and an effective setup man this season (and part of last season), and some teams are potentially looking at him as a closer. He’ll reportedly be getting at least a two-year deal and has drawn interest from several teams. His agent, interestingly, is former big-league outfielder Gary Sheffield.
On Thursday morning, there were reports saying that Grilli (who stopped by the meetings in Nashville) would make up his mind by 10 AM. He had narrowed his choices to the Pirates, Blue Jaus, Cubs, and Giants (apparently the Giants are now out of the running). Then around noon there were some reports saying that he’d be signing with the Pirates…but Grilli himself denied that rather emphatically. The rest of the day, there wasn’t really any more news regarding the GrillMaster. He’s certainly drawing this out quite a bit…to the point where it’s getting kind of obnoxious.
Although an expensive two-year-deal for a 36 year old reliever scares me quite a bit (especially after he struggled somewhat in the second half of the season), the Pirates’ bullpen desperately needs his strikeout ability and experience. It would also make a Joel Hanrahan trade a lot easier to swallow (and if Grilli re-signs, a Hammer trade would appear to be quite likely). A few initial rumors regarding Hanrahan haven’t been encouraging in terms of a potential return, but the logic appears to be that Grilli could close (which I agree with) and that Joel could bring back a useful starting pitcher or something like that. I don’t know if one year of Joel’s services can bring back anything all that useful, but expect the rumors to really heat up if Grilli signs with the Bucs.