This afternoon, the Blue Jays made a decision that many have anticipated for weeks. The organization has released relief pitcher Jason Grilli. The move should not come as a surprise, as Grilli has had an awful season thus far. Even so, it will be difficult to part with one of the more prominent figures from the 2016 playoff run.
Jason Grilli has been DFA'd and Chris Smith has been recalled.
Dwight Smith Jr. also optioned and Ezequiel Carrera has been activated.
— #SmoakTheVote (@BlueJays) June 27, 2017
The Blue Jays acquired Grilli from Atlanta on May 31, 2016. He had posted an ERA of 5.29 and a BB/9 of 6.88 up to that point. In short, he looked like a lottery ticket. Grilli took off after that. The veteran rode an impressive month of June, and eventually took over as the team’s setup man. Grilli’s second half was much more respectable, as he had an ERA of 3.48. The bullpen had been in disarray prior to his arrival, and he provided it with some stability.
Grilli had a $3M team option this past winter, which the Blue Jays wisely picked up. Based on how his second half played out, and the increasingly high price for good relief pitchers, the deal seemed like a bargain. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.
Grilli finishes this season with the Jays with an ERA of 6.97, a BB/9 of 3.92, and a HR/9 of 3.92. He cannot pitch on back-to-back days, and he cannot pitch multiple innings. That removes any possibility of using him as a mop-up man. With unreliable stuff, and an inability to pitch long outings, there really is no place left for him in the bullpen. Grilli infamously allowed four home runs to the Yankees on June 3rd, and was walked off by the Royals last week. It was a tumultuous end to his tenure with the Jays.
Whether Grilli will find somewhere else to pitch remains to be seen. Jays fans ought to thank him for his contributions in 2016. As for 2017, the organization is in a position where they simply cannot rationalize keeping him on the roster.
In a corresponding move, Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the Blue Jays will promote right-handed pitcher Chris Smith. As Nicholson-Smith writes, Smith had an excellent season in the upper minors last year, and eventually earned a September call-up. Smith continued to impress during spring training this year. Unfortunately, an injury derailed his season, and he has not yet found the same success as last year. The Jays will hope that his velocity will play up, and that he can continue to keep batters from walking against him.