Grilli officially re-signs with Pirates
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington shares a laugh Wednesday with pitcher Jason Grilli, who agreed a new two-year, $6.75 million contract.
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Jason Grilli's decision to re-sign with the Pirates was re-affirmed in a cab on the way to PNC Park.
"I told the cab driver, just rolling up over the Clemente Bridge and going around the corner, I said, this is my office space," Grilli said Wednesday, the day he and the Pirates made his two-year contract official. "This is how I do my best work."
Grilli, 36 a free-agent reliever who became an ace setup man for the Pirates in 2012, agreed to a two-year, $6.75 million contract with the Pirates after rejecting offers from other teams. Grilli will make $2.75 million in 2013 including a $500,000 signing bonus, according to a source, and will make $4 million in 2014.
Grilli mulled his offers for several days, leaving, as he said, no stone unturned, but said he decided to return to the Pirates because he was comfortable with the club and excited with the team's direction.
"I've been on 10 different teams," Grilli said. "The grass is never always greener. It's really all the same. There's just something fitting here. It's just a baseball town and it bugs me as much as it bugs everybody else in this city. They want this so bad."
Grilli's return raised questions regarding the future of closer Joel Hanrahan, who is eligible for arbitration for the final time and will be a free agent after the 2013 season. General manager Neal Huntington said he would be comfortable taking Hanrahan through the arbitration process, where he is expected to make roughly $7 million, and starting the season with Hanrahan and Grilli on the roster.
"They were a dynamic pair at the back end of the bullpen last year, and, if that's our best team, absolutely," Huntington said.
The Pirates might trade Hanrahan, who has drawn interest from other teams, now that they have a closer candidate in Grilli for the next two seasons. Huntington said dealing Hanrahan would have to come as part of a baseball trade that improves the team and that the Pirates won't trade him for the sake of trading him.
"We fully believe that whether it's with Joel or without Joel, Jason's going to be an important part of our late-inning closing out games that we're supposed to close out," Huntington said.
Grilli cited familiarity with the franchise as one reason he declined other offers.
"There's sometimes not enough money that can be a good trade-off to being comfortable and to know what to expect," he said.
Grilli's experience with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who managed Grilli while both were with the Colorado Rockies in 2008-09 in addition to Grilli's tenure with the Pirates, created a loyalty to Hurdle, Grilli said.
"When I was with the Rockies, he asked me what I wanted out of my career," Grilli said. "I said, if I'm going to be a reliever and I'm getting out of tough situations in the middle of the game, why can't I do it in the back of the game when it really matters? That, to me, is more rewarding, more exciting."
That's exactly what Grilli did in 2012 as the main eighth-inning reliever. He struck out 90 in 582/3 innings, or 13.8 batters per nine innings.
The Pirates signed Grilli in July 2011, meaning he participated in the recent surges to contention near the All-Star break and the ensuing falls to sub-.500 seasons.
"I've got a good feeling here," Grilli said. "We've inched closer and closer, and I don't want to miss that because I know what it feels like when the city just goes bananas over a winning team."
Grilli pitched for the Detroit Tigers in 2006, the year they went to the World Series.
Grilli, a first-round pick in the 1997 draft, signed the largest contract of his career at age 36. His career has included elbow surgery and a knee injury that kept him out for the entire 2010 season. He was pitching in Class AAA Lehigh Valley in the Philadelphia Phillies organization shortly before the Pirates signed him.
"I wasn't supposed to play this game again," he said. "My leg was ripped off. I had two elbow surgeries. Cards were stacked against me. I'm not fearful for any obstacle or any challenges that's presented for me. Neal and I even had our own challenges, and we worked through them and that's why I'm here."
"You're getting a snapshot of the man that Jason Grilli is," Huntington said. "What Jason's come through would have broken a lot of lesser men's spirit."
First Published December 13, 2012 12:00 am