As they mull over potential bullpen options, the Yankees have discussed signing free agent right-hander Jason Grilli, reports Sweeny Murti. Murti makes it sound like the team was talking about Grilli as a potential replacement for David Robertson should their incumbent closer sign elsewhere this winter. Then again, it’s the bullpen. There are several spots to fill. Grilli’s agent is Gary Sheffield, by the way. (Yes, really.)
Grilli, 38, has a 4.00 ERA (3.37 FIP) in 54 innings split between the Pirates and Angels this past season. He had a 2.82 ERA (2.42 FIP) with Pittsburgh from 2012-13 and was their closer in 2013 before losing the job earlier this year. Grilli seemed to figure some things out while in Triple-A with the Phillies in 2011, and was able to carry his success over into MLB. Here’s a quick breakdown of his last three seasons:
|IP||ERA||FIP||K%||BB%||GB%||HR/9||RHB wOBA||LHP wOBA|
Grilli’s fastball has consistently sat in the 92-94 range these last three years and he throws a frickin’ ton of sliders — 33.3% in 2014 and 29.5% from 2012-13. Only 16 of the 88 relievers who’ve thrown at least 150 innings over the last three seasons have thrown a higher percentage of sliders than Grilli. I guess that explains why he missed most of the second half of 2013 with a flexor strain in his elbow. Grilli also missed the entire 2010 season following right quad surgery and about a month this summer with an oblique strain.
If the Yankees were to lose Robertson to free agency, I like the idea of signing someone like Grilli to take over as the traditional one-inning closer. It doesn’t specifically have to be him — others like Sergio Romo, Casey Janssen, and even Rafael Soriano could work in that role — but the point is keeping Dellin Betances in that multi-inning setup role he was so damn good at in 2014. Let the inferior reliever start the ninth inning fresh with the bases empty while Betances handles the most high-leverage spots.
Grilli isn’t the sexiest bullpen option there, but he’s likely to take a one-year contract given his age and is just as likely to adequately close out ball games as any other low-cost option out there. If the Yankees won’t spend big to re-sign Robertson, then they probably won’t spend big for Andrew Miller either. Someone like Grilli is the best of the rest.