Jays From the Couch looks into the season of Toronto Blue Jays RP, Jason Grilli, and looks for possible solutions
The Toronto Blue Jays have not seen the best version of Jason Grilli so far in 2017. In fact, the argument can be made that he has been a disappointment for the club who exercised his $3M option this offseason without batting an eye. It is at the point now that many are calling for the club to cut ties with the 40 yr old reliever in any way, shape or form. Trade him, cut him, etc etc etc…
Perhaps, the single most disappointing night of his season came against the New York Yankees when Grilli gave up 4 home runs in a single inning. That outing set a rather unfortunate club record for home runs allowed in an inning by a Toronto reliever. While that is an odd factoid that will likely be forgotten, it stands out as the final straw for many fans watching, and perhaps the team’s manager.
Since then, we have rarely seen Grilli in key situations. He’s found himself in the proverbial doghouse, looking to earn his way back into the good books of John Gibbons. In order to do that, he’ll have to overcome a few things. Conversely, he could be shipped elsewhere, which we’ll get into a bit later.
When looking for an explanation for Grilli’s issues, there are several places to go that provide several pieces of information. For example, look at the breakdown of pitches from Baseball Savant.
This may surprise the crowd who felt that the slider was the main issue for Grilli, since it looks like his fastball is causing the most issues. But, check this out:
His slider is far and away the offering seeing the highest slugging rate (SLG%). He’s seeing more flyballs on his slider than any other pitch (Fangraphs shows a 33.33% mark for his HR/FB rate). And, that would make sense, since he is grooving so many of them:
This is a dramatic change from we saw from him last year when he was oh, so good out of the bullpen. Looking at Brooks Baseball, Grilli didn’t start seeing a spike in grooved pitches until late in the season last year.
This season, he is leaving a lot of balls in very hittable spots. On the left, you see where he is leaving pitches this season. Compare that to 2016, on the right.
All of this is to say that Grilli is struggling this year, which we already knew. He’s giving up more extra bases thanks to an increased amount of grooved pitches in the wrong spot. All of this is a change from what we saw last year. Now, the argument could be made that it is not surprising for a guy who is 40.5 years old. You can’t expect to be effective at that age, right? OK, fine. Even if we just accept this as the explanation for his struggles, it doesn’t exactly answer the question about what to do with him.
Well, there are a few different scenarios for the Blue Jays. None of them are ideal, so whichever happens will likely fall under the ‘lesser evil’ category.
Scenario 1: Cut him!
This may come as a shock, but there is a section of fans who simply want their team to cut bait from a guy who is struggling as bad as Grilli has. Since the team is only on the hook for minimal money (in the grand scheme of baseball), they wouldn’t be losing out on a whole lot. And, with a guy like Glenn Sparkman close to joining the big league club, a roster spot will have to be given up.
Would the Blue Jays actually considering simply parting ways with a reliever who throws upwards of 95 mph? Would it make sense to throw him away for nothing? Likely not. Releasing a player outright doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. This is getting rid of an asset for nothing; it isn’t good business sense. Also, take into account the revolving door the Blue Jays’ bullpen has been. They’ve needed as many options as they can get beyond that left field wall. It doesn’t make sense to just toss one of them away. The frustrated section of fans may not care, though.
Scenario 2: Trade him!
If the Blue Jays really are done with Grilli, they would likely explore the trade option before they consider Scenario 1. So, if that happens, you can bet that Scenario 2 didn’t pan out. The challenge here is convincing other teams that Grilli isn’t “done” as those frustrated fans would have you believe. Could a team like the Nationals, who are desperate for bullpen help, be interested in giving up a small little price for Grilli? It is likely.
If a trade partner was found for Drew Storen, you can bet that there is at least one team out there that would take Grilli. Remember what a change of scenery did for him last season. He was struggling in Atlanta before coming to Toronto. A GM could believe that lightning can strike twice. Of course, the other side of this is that said GM would have to have something the Blue Jays would consider a valuable return. It isn’t as easy as MLB The Show would lead you to believe.
Scenario 3: Keep him!
As much as I try to shake it, I can’t help but think that Grilli can turn this around. His previously stated 2016 turn around sets precedence. He’s turned things around before. He hasn’t really lost velocity, as you might expect in an aging pitcher. It’s just that he has the worst slider he has ever had. Can he rediscover that pitch?
Is it possible that his slider is eluding him over a 20 inning sample size? It is not unheard of for bullpen arms to go through ebbs and flows. Perhaps, it is possible that there isn’t a need to jettison Grilli. Perhaps, 20 innings is not enough to say that he is finished. Maybe, it isn’t even enough to say that his slider has gone AWAL. There is a nagging feeling that jumping to any of the above scenarios is missing out on the potential that Grilli offers.
Whether you are a hopeful lunatic like myself, or chomping at the bit to cut ties, the dilemma that Jason Grilli presents is an interesting one. We’ve seen the Blue Jays hang on to players way too long (see Goins, Ryan) and we’ve seen them dump them as quick as possible (see Upton, Melvin). As the July 31st Trade Deadline approaches, Ross Atkins may have to decide what he will do with his veteran reliever. There are options available. Which will he choose?
Scroll down to the comment section and tell us what you would do with Jason Grilli
*Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.