Though it's a bit cliched, sometimes a change of scenery and fresh start is all a player needs to get back on track. That's what the Los Angeles Angels and Pittsburgh Pirates are hoping for on Friday after they agreed to swap struggling former closers Ernesto Frieri and Jason Grilli in a straight up, one-for-one trade.
Grilli, 37, will move west just one year removed from an All-Star appearance as Pittsburgh's closer. His momentum was slowed in the second half of last season after he missed five weeks with discomfort in his right forearm, but he was able to return to form in time for Pittsburgh's postseason run.
This season has been a different story, however. Grilli came out of the gates struggling and hasn't been able to get on track. Through 20 1/3 innings, Grilli posted a 4.87 ERA with a 1.62 WHIP and has only converted 11 of 15 save chances. Manager Clint Hurdle removed Grilli from his role for good this week, naming Mark Melancon his new closer.
At that point, it appears the Pittsburgh front office decide it was time to move on, which could end up benefiting all parties involved.
“We are appreciative of all that Jason has done for the Pirates and in our community,” said Pirates general manager Neal Huntington in a statement. “We believe that adding Ernesto Frieri was a good move for our bullpen. He has been an effective late inning reliever who, despite his struggles to date this season, has solid indicators that cause us to believe he will be a quality addition to our bullpen this season and potentially beyond.”
Frieri, 28, has been even worse than Grilli, posting a 6.39 ERA and 1.36 WHIP early in 2014. But it's easy to see why Huntington would make the swap. Given his age, Frieri provides more long term upside. He's also enjoyed success in the closers role for the Angels, saving 60 games between 2012-2013. so they know what he's capable of doing when he's locked in.
In the case of both pitchers, it's a matter of patience and hope now. Both are likely to be eased into roles in their new locations. Angels manager Mike Scioscia already indicated as much for Grilli.
#Angels Scioscia said he'll wait and see where Grilli fits in.— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) June 27, 2014
It's seems like more of a risk for Los Angeles, simply because they're giving up on a younger arm that has succeeded in late inning situations. With that said, they're obviously focused on the here and now, and prefer the more experienced and established arm in this scenario.
We'll see how it works out for both sides in due time. In the meantime, welcome to the official open of trading season around MLB. The fun is only just beginning.
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