The Pirates on Monday apparently reeled in the big bullpen piece they had hoped to retain, as right-hander Jason Grilli agreed to a two-year contract to remain in Pittsburgh, according to multiple reports. Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network and FOXSports.com first reported the agreement, upon which Pirates general manager Neil Huntington had no immediate comment. The Pirates had no plans for making any announcement on Monday. Before the potential agreement can become official, Grilli will probably have to undergo the obligatory physical. The club, involved this week with its annual caravan, may choose to delay any announcement until this weekend's PirateFest.
Grilli's choice to re-up with the Bucs, with whom he dramatically revived his career last season, was originally rumored on the last day of last week's Winter Meetings. The 36-year-old, however, denied those premature reports, and his decision indeed was complicated by one of his other suitors having sweetened the pot. Ultimately, Grilli opted to take Pittsburgh's two-year offer for a slightly lower salary than he'd been offered by another club. The two other finalists for his services were the Cubs and the Blue Jays, with the Giants having earlier dropped out of the picture. Grilli reportedly signed for $6.75 million -- or approximately double his previous earnings across a 10-year career. This is a huge deal for the Bucs, on several levels. They have both a key reliever and another stage in their ongoing facelift. First, the Bucs had swooped in to seize free-agent catcher Russell Martin away from the Yankees. Next, they have successfully competed for Grilli with other teams that had made comparable two-year offers for the veteran. Pirates fans might have to get accustomed to their team getting, and keeping, players other teams covet. But forget the bragging rights. Manager Clint Hurdle's bullpen retains a premiere setup guy, who in 2012 boasted one of the best strikeout rates among all big league relievers, with 90 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings. Grilli achieved that by cranking up his fastball to an average speed of 94 mph. Furthermore -- and this doubtless was part of the pitch that kept him in Pittsburgh -- the Bucs have someone on-deck should efforts to trade Joel Hanrahan eventually bear fruit. Huntington is delighted that Grilli will be able to "keep mentoring our young pitchers and continue to strike out hitters at a quality rate for us." Hurdle is even more pleased to keep on his side a veteran in whom he had immense confidence during a 2012 season in which his bullpen played a large role in keeping the Bucs in postseason contention into September. Hurdle likes the security of being able to wave for Grilli, whether he will be doing so in the eighth or in the ninth inning.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.