Source: Grilli back to #Pirates. Two-year deal. Pending physical.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 10, 2012
After a weirdly suspenseful week, word leaked out this afternoon that Jason Grilli will be back in Pittsburgh on a two-year deal worth $6.75 million.
I am of two minds here: one is that the Pirates' obviously didn't trust any of their electric young right-handed bullpen arms (Victor Black, Bryan Morris, Duke Welker) enough to contribute down the stretch last year. Since then, Chris Resop was shown the door and Joel Hanrahan seems likely to be traded this winter, which means that the bullpen could be entirely made of those guys, who could quite possibly be very good relief pitchers but who are hugely untested. Grilli provides some nice stability in that situation and given his exploding strikeout rate and increase in velocity last year, it seems like there's a good chance he's found a groove with the Bucs that will make him more consistent than he was earlier in his career. If he can match his level of performance from 2012 in 2013-2014, he's a bargain at $3+ million a year.
The other is that Grilli is 36-years old and it's ridiculous for small market baseball teams to hand out two-year deals to 36-year old relievers with almost no track record of consistent performance across their careers. That Grilli's groundball rate plummetted last year and he gave up a bunch of home runs, which concerns me going forward. That it's now possible that the Pirates will pay upwards of $10 million in 2013 to two relief pitchers (Hanrahan will make around $7 million if he's not traded), and that all of this is just bad business for a team like the Pirates.
I suppose in the end, we'll have to see what else Neal Huntington has in mind for the winter before really picking a side.