Right around this time last offseason, the Pirates completed a deal with to send Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox in exchange for Jerry Sands, Stolmy Pimentel, Ivan De Jesus, and Mark Melancon. Based off the season had by Melancon alone, it’s pretty easy to tell that the Pirates did very well for themselves in dealing their closer and his expiring contract. If they can find an interested team (which shouldn’t be terribly difficult) this is the exact time for the Pirates to make a similar move with Jason Grilli.
Grilli had a fantastic 2013 campaign going, that ended up being marred by an elbow injury he sustained in July against the Washington Nationals. When he initially returned from the injury, he had a tough time getting back into form, but he found his stride in time for the Pirates N.L. Wild Card showdown with the Reds, and their NLDS series with the Cardinals, coming out of the postseason without being tagged for any runs in four appearances. In addition to his quality numbers, Grilli certainly provides some (although it’s impossible to quantify either way) veteran leadership both in the bullpen and in the clubhouse at large. He has clearly taken the closer’s mentality on, and it’s working for him, and for the Pirates, but the time has come to move along.
Jason Grilli is thirty-seven years old, has a history of elbow trouble, and has an expiring contract. It would be silly for the Pirates to extend him after the 2014 season, given his age and injury history. However, there are always teams willing to pay for closing help. In addition to this, the Pirates have one clear option to replace him for the long haul in Mark Melancon, and Tony Watson is clearly ready to step into an eighth inning/high leverage stopper role.
The Pirates are a small market team, with an abundance of bullpen help, in need of either a first baseman or a right fielder in the immediate future, and have other needs that may become more pressing in the further future. They have a piece that could and should easily be dealt for a solid return, an ultimate buy low/sell high scenario. The Pirates need to carefully examine their motives for keeping Grilli around for 2014. He’s as lovable as they come, an excellent pitcher, and a positive influence in the clubhouse, but he is an expendable piece.
Hopefully the Pirates show a Tampa Bay Rays mentality in dealing with Grilli’s expiring contract and begin to (unless they already have been quietly) shop him around this winter. The cost/effect is far too good to pass up at this time, and the Pirates bullpen is set. If the Pirates deal Grilli, we’ll miss him for a while, but winning heals a lot of hurt, and the Pirates would clearly have a better chance at sustaining their winning ways if they dealt away Grilli.