In 39 Days…

Jason Grilli (39) days until Opening Day.

After being plucked from the Phillies’ Triple-A roster in July of 2011, “Grilled Cheese” has improved with age and was one of the best setup men in all of baseball last season. With the departure of Joel Hanrahan, Grilli slides into the closer role after signing a new two-year deal in December.

Three questions about number 39…

1. How will he adapt to the closer position? There’s been a lot of debate over the “closer mentality” in Major League Baseball. Some believe that only a select few can succeed in the role, while others say it is position that can be easily filled. Grilli shows plenty of emotion on the mound, often exhibiting unreal fist pumps after a big out. The mentality seems to be there for him, but can the National League’s oldest closer get the job done in the ninth?

2. Will he stay remain productive as he gets older? As previously stated, he’ll be the oldest closer in the NL in 2013. Despite his recent success, Grilli will inevitably slow down in the future, as he enters his age 36 season. He did struggle in September, allowing a .317 opponent batting average and posting a 6.52 ERA. Between a ninth inning workload and getting up there in age, hopefully Grilli can stay healthy and earn his two-year, $6.75 million contract.

3. Can he continue to strike batters out at a ridiculous rate? Grilli was off-the-charts in 2012 with a tremendous 13.8 K/9. Fellow National League bullpen hurlers Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman topped Grilli at 16.7 and 15.3, respectively. If he can strike men out at a high clip again in 2013, he could be very successful as the Bucco closer.

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Go Bucs

Grilli to re-sign with Pirates

Plenty of rumors started flying around last Wednesday morning when these tweets surfaced:




[tweet] beat writer Tom Singer made a lot of people think that “headed here” meant signing with Pittsburgh. However, Grilli had yet to make a decision, but his market was certainly heating up. Around ten teams were said to be chasing the veteran reliever.

More shenanigans ensued on Thursday, as Grilli was rumored to have his list down to four teams (Pirates, Cubs, Giants, Blue Jays) and that he’d be choosing by 10:00 am. But that deadline passed and all was quiet until there were rumblings that he’d be returning to the ‘Burgh. Grilli then denied those claims, saying “I have not made a decision. I don’t know where all these reports are coming from, bit it’s not helping me one bit.”

However, news broke shortly before 4:00 pm on Monday afternoon that he’ll be returning to Pittsburgh in 2013.


Bob Nightengale of USA Today says that Grilli turned down extra cash:


Grilli, who turned 36 last month, posted a 2.91 ERA last season in 64 appearances. He was impressive in the setup role throughout the year, until he stumbled a bit down the stretch. He had a 7.27 ERA and opponents hit .324 against him in his last 10 games. To his defense, the entire team had an abysmal last month of the season, so he’s certainly not the scapegoat.

The deal is for two years and worth $7 million. Many teams wanted to sign Grilli to become their new closer. Obviously, Joel Hanrahan is still on the roster and headed for arbitration. He’s due for a huge raise though; it doesn’t make much sense to keep two high-paid hurlers in the bullpen on a small market team like the Pirates, especially when they still have other needs to address. The Hammer, who’s already been the subject of trade talks this offseason, could be dealt sooner rather than later.

Some Jason Grilli highlights, courtesy of Drew Brown (@_DrewBrown on Twitter):

Go Bucs