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Braves sign reliever Jason Grilli to a two-year deal

The Braves have added Pittsburgh's former closer to the back of their bullpen.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

John Hart aired his grievances with the current state of the Braves bullpen and delivered a Festivus miracle, signing former Pirates closer Jason Grilli to a two-year deal with a club option for a third year, according to Fox Sports reporter Ken Rosenthal.

At first glance, this deal seems similar to the one inked by former A's closer JIm Johnson earlier this winter. After a strong trio of years with Pittsburgh in which the 38-year-old Baldwinsville, New York native compiled a 2.74 ERA with similar peripherals, including a successful stint as the team's closer in 2013, Grilli, a right-hander, had a tough 2014. He lost the closer's job to Mark Melancon in mid-June, and was traded to the Los Angeles Angels for Ernesto Frieri at the end of the month. He ended up with a 4.00 ERA for the season, seeing a drop from 36.6% to 24.3% in his strikeout rate, as well as a slight increase in his walk rate.

Despite his bad stats on the surface in 2014, it should be some consolation that he still struck out a quarter of the hitters that he faced, and his SIERA of 3.28 suggests that he wasn't quite as bad as his ERA would suggest.

Grilli, who has also played for the Marlins, White Sox, and Tigers in the Majors and was the fourth overall pick in the 1997 draft, rose to prominence in 2011 after spending the early years of his career languishing as a quad-A middle reliever. With improved control and strikeout numbers, he was a key member of the Pirates' bullpen, serving as a set-up man in 2011 and 2012 before becoming the team's closer in 2013.

His arsenal consists of a fastball that sits in the low-to-mid 90's, used approximately sixty percent of the time, a low 80's slider that is used as a strikeout weapon and thrown about a quarter of the time, and a sparingly-used mid-80's "show-me" changeup. Grilli is generally a bit better against righties than lefties, although he doesn't have any particularly steep differences in his career platoon splits. He's a fly ball pitcher through and through, with a ground ball rate that hasn't gotten above 33% for the past three seasons.

I'm guessing that this deal will be for a fairly low AAV. I suppose it's a bit concerning that the Braves have decided to give a reliever guaranteed money in his age 38 and 39 seasons, but I'll wait to see the financial details until I complain too much. It seems to make sense that the Braves would give Grilli a shot, as the departures of Anthony Varvaro and Jordan Walden have lessened the Braves' right-handed bullpen depth. Steamer projects a 2.86 ERA, along with a 3.42 FIP, in 2015, numbers that would be just fine for a seventh or eighth inning guy. Of course, if the Braves find themselves out of the playoff race down the stretch (either this season or the next), they could opt to deal Grilli to a contender in need of bullpen help, provided that he's still healthy and pitching well.

Update #1

CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports that the two-year deal is worth approximately $8 million.

Update #2

The deal is official, per the Braves' twitter account.

<center><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">#Braves</a> agree to terms with free-agent RHP Jason Grilli (<a href="">@GrillCheese49</a>) on 2-year contract for 2015-16, with a club option for 2017</p>&mdash; Atlanta Braves (@Braves) <a href="">December 24, 2014</a></blockquote>

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