The Blue Jays designated Jason Grilli for assignment on Tuesday afternoon, ending a short, but sweet tenure in Toronto. Now that the move has been made, what does it mean for the team going forward?
As manager John Gibbons said in a pre-game interview, “it was a tough day” for the Blue Jays, their fans, and especially Jason Grilli. The 40 year old veteran was designated for assignment prior to the series opener against the Baltimore Orioles.
Despite his popularity in the clubhouse and with the fan base, it’s hard to blame the front office for cutting ties with the former set up man. He was struggling badly this year, losing his late inning role, and pitching to a 6.97 ERA in 26 appearances, throwing 20.2 innings. It was a far cry from the 3.64 ERA he provided after arriving at the deadline last year.
Major League Baseball is a business, and for that reason the team had no choice but to open up a roster spot for someone who can hopefully fare a little better. Grilli had surrounded 9 home runs in those 20.2 innings pitched, and lost the confidence of the manager to be used in the late innings. After losing his grip on that role, it became difficult to find situations to use him at all, as Gibbons indicated in the interview as well.
Beyond removing a struggling player from the roster, the Blue Jays had other incentives to make the move as well. Gibbons indicated that they’ll get a chance to look at a few other guys as well, which would obviously include Chris Smith, who was called up on Tuesday and made his first appearance, a scoreless ninth inning.
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It’s likely the team will give Smith a shot to see what he can do, and may also look at a few other youngsters as we enter the summer months. Having Grilli out of the picture also creates some roster flexibility, in the event that they decide to add to the bullpen from the outside as well.
With Roberto Osuna, Joe Smith (when healthy), Ryan Tepera, Danny Barnes, Aaron Loup, and Joe Biagini (eventually), the Blue Jays have six of their seven spots filled up. They won’t send down Barnes or Tepera because they’ve been too valuable, and Loup is out of options. (Joe) Smith, Biagini and Osuna aren’t going anywhere either, barring injury or otherwise.
When J.P. Howell eventually gets back to 100%, he’ll have to perform in order to maintain his job with the club as well. It’s entirely possible that he could be the next DFA candidate for the Blue Jays, but they likely won’t make that move until they need the roster spot.
All of this said, they’ll need to start winning sooner than later if the roster flexibility ends up mattering much, on the trade front at least. I’m sure Atkins and Shapiro have been making some phone calls, but there won’t be assets traded away unless the team starts to get into contention.
Perhaps this move helps the team take that step in the right direction, even if it stings a little.