Looking like his career may be coming to an end, Jason Grilli turned back the clock and gave the Blue Jays some big, late-inning appearances in 2016
It was a tale of two seasons for Jason Grilli, having begun the season with the Atlanta Braves and ending the year with the Toronto Blue Jays. Grilli struggled with the Braves and looked like he might be ready to hang it up, but he was rejuvenated by May 31st trade and performed much better for the contending Jays.
He finished the season with a 4.12 ERA over 59 innings, and showed that he’s still got some gas left in the tank.
Grilli’s 2016 was not going well prior to being traded, but things turned around quickly with his new team. He lowered his 5.29 ERA to 4.39 at the end of June, and 3.68 by the end of July. In a season of bullpen frustration for manager John Gibbons, the veteran’s arrival couldn’t have come at a better time.
The 39-year-old took over the 8th inning role, and was lights-out through August, even lowering his ERA to 2.73 at one point in the season. He provided a great deal of clubhouse energy, and veteran guidance for the young pitching staff. All this for a minor league arm named Sean Ratcliffe (also Canadian), and Atlanta even paid most of his salary.
All told, the former 4th overall pick finished the season with a 3.64 ERA with 58 strikeouts for the Blue Jays over 42 innings pitched. He also threw 3.2 scoreless innings in the postseason, being among the small group of trusted relievers during the playoffs.
Before Grilli had arrived in Toronto, there was legitimate reason to think his career was coming to an end. Over 17 innings with the Braves, the 39-year-old looked like he was done. He had a 5.29 ERA, a WHIP of 1.706, and was no longer the closer in Atlanta. The Braves are in the midst of a deep rebuild, and players like Grilli can get lost pretty quickly in favour of youngsters looking for big league experience.
The Michigan native significantly turned around his season in Toronto and was dominant from June through August. Unfortunately he did start to show signs of wear in September, but he was also heavily relied on by John Gibbons, perhaps too much.
He had a couple bad outings in the season’s final month, getting beaten up by the Yankees twice, and struggling to find his command at times. That said, he managed to contribute some big outings down the stretch, and kept the faith of John Gibbons, if for no other reason than a lack of depth.
Grilli came to the Toronto with a $3 million dollar option for 2017, which has already been exercised by the Blue Jays.
He’ll return to a bullpen anchored by Roberto Osuna, and one that will likely see some turnover before next year. The Blue Jays are also potentially losing Brett Cecil, Joaquin Benoit, Scott Feldman, Gavin Floyd, and starter R.A. Dickey, so there will be some new faces in 2017. Grilli will be 40 before the end of next season, and very well could be entering the final season of his career.
In what will be his 15th big league campaign, the Blue Jays would love nothing more than to send the fiery veteran into retirement than with a big ol’ championship ring.
Other Toronto Blue Jays ‘Year in Review’ Profiles:
Michael Saunders Ryan Goins Ezequiel Carrera Joe Biagini
Chris Colabello Aaron Loup Kevin Pillar Melvin Upton Jr.
Justin Smoak Francisco Liriano Ryan Tepera Devon Travis
J.A. Happ Roberto Osuna Marcus Stroman