The Toronto Blue Jays have bolstered their bullpen with a trade for a veteran reliever according to various news reports. Jason Grilli, who has been the Atlanta Braves closer since the start of 2015, has been acquired for a minor league pitcher.
The deal was first announced by Robert Murray of Baseball Essential. MLB Network national baseball reporter Jon Heyman confirmed the deal on his Twitter account. Mike Wilner of Sportsnet also confirmed the deal.
Grilli is 39 years old with several years of experience pitching at the back end of the bullpen. He has 71 of his 76 career saves in the last four seasons. It would be expected Grilli would move into a role in the later innings, supplementing Gavin Floyd, Joe Biagini and Drew Storen in the seventh and eighth innings.
It’s seems doubtful that Grilli has more than 35 or 40 innings left in his arm this season based on his usage patterns over the last few years. Grilli is still striking out batters at a rate of 12.2 per nine innings this season. His walk rate, though, has ballooned to 6.9 per nine innings. After an awful April in which opponents hit .313 off him with an .877 OPS, he has settled down somewhat in May with a .176 opponents’ average and an OPS down to .682.
Grilli will find a familiar face behind the plate in Russell Martin. They were teammates in Pittsburgh in 2013 and 2014. Martin has caught 51.2 innings from Grilli; only Ivan Rodriguez and Chris Iannetta have caught Grilli more. Together opponents’ OPS+ with Grilli pitching to Martin is an very good 87 (where 100 is average).
The Braves are reportedly receiving minor-league pitcher Sean Ratcliffe, a native of Ajax, Ont., who was the Jays’ 18th-round pick in the 2013 draft. Ratliffe has yet to pitch this season, and was on the roster for the short-season Class-A Vancouver. Ratliffe threw 40 innings in 22 games for the Canadians last season with a 3.60 ERA.