Pirates closer Jason Grilli spent most of his 20’s and early 30’s bouncing from organization to organization — he pitched for the White Sox, Tigers, Rockies, and Rangers. Between 2004-09, working almost exclusively as a reliever, he posted a 4.62 ERA. He suffered a knee injury during spring training in 2010 with the Indians, forcing him to miss the entire season. The Phillies picked him up going into 2011 and stashed him in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he thrived with a 1.93 ERA in 32.2 innings. With no spot for him in the Major League bullpen, the Phillies had to let him go and the Pirates quickly snapped him up. From there, the rest is history.
Grilli posted a 2.48 ERA in 32.2 innings pitching mostly in middle relief in the second-half of the 2011 season in Pittsburgh. His performance merited a promotion to set up for closer Joel Hanrahan in 2012, and Grilli once again prospered, posting a 2.91 ERA in 58.2 innings. During the off-season, the Pirates traded Hanrahan to the Red Sox for a handful of prospects, opening up the closer’s role to Grilli.
This afternoon, Grilli nailed down a 1-0 save against the Astros, bumping his MLB-leading total up to 17 on the season and lowering his ERA to 0.92. Grilli, now 36 years old, stands out among a very talented group of relievers across baseball that includes Mariano Rivera, Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen, Jonathan Papelbon, and many others. The Pirates, often a punchline when it comes to player development, were able to strike gold in Grilli as a reclamation project.
A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.
Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.
For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.
The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.
Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.