When Jason Grilli came out of last night’s game against the Nationals in the ninth inning, things didn’t look good. Grilli’s face was mired in a pain induced grimace, and both he and the coaching staff looked visibly concerned. We haven’t gotten any more substantial news yet detailing how serious Grilli’s injury is, or how long he’ll be out, but if Grilli misses any time, extended or otherwise, the Pirates need to solve the problem internally.
This year, the Pirates lead the N.L. in team ERA, sitting at 3.09 on the year. The bullpen ERA is second best in the N.L., at 2.77 (Atlanta is in first, at 2.66), and while the bullpen has seen significant use, the Pirates shark tank is as deep as any in the game when you include it’s junior members at AAA Indianapolis. The guys at Indianapolis that have been given chances have performed well at the major league level, and are continuing to dominate in the International League.
The trade market this year is definitely a seller’s market. There’s short supply, and high demand. Just look at what the Rangers gave up to acquire Matt Garza as a rent-a-player. This is not a year that’s going to be kind to the buying teams on the market.
The Pirates have two or three guys who can step up into the bullpen in the absence of Grilli, in Duke Welker, Ryan Reid and Vic Black. They have an eighth inning man in Mark Melancon who you could make a strong case for as being better than Jason Grilli this year, who can easily step into the role of closer in Grilli’s absence. Grilli’s injury is legitimate cause for concern, but it is not by any means legitimate cause for panic.
The Pirates have organizational depth in the bullpen, and if any team is prepared for the potential disaster of losing their closer for an extended amount of time, it is this Pirates team. The Pirates have bigger needs (such as a right handed power bat) than relief pitching help as the trade deadline draws close, and they would be smart to look within to deal with this problem. There’s no need to hamstring the future of the organization to deal with this problem. Let’s trust that Neal Huntington and company do the right thing in dealing with replacing Grilli.