Can't blame Phils for passing on Pirates' Grilli

Jason Grilli has excelled as the Pirates' closer since opting out of his Phillies deal in 2011.
Jason Grilli has excelled as the Pirates' closer since opting out of his Phillies deal in 2011. (JUSTIN K. ALLER / Getty Images)
Posted: May 26, 2013

ESPN used to have a show that listed five reasons you couldn't blame someone for something even though it appeared as if that someone really deserved the blame. One episode focused on why you couldn't blame Mitch Williams for the Phillies' 1993 World Series loss.

The exercise here will be similar. This will focus on why you can't blame Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. for letting Jason Grilli opt out of his contract in the middle of the 2011 season.

That move looks terrible now because Grilli leads the National League with 19 saves and has a 1.25 ERA for the Pittsburgh Pirates entering play Saturday. He'll likely be making his first all-star appearance this summer in New York. Since joining the Pirates in the middle of the 2011 season, he has a 2.47 ERA in 116 games, not to mention 161 strikeouts in 113 innings.

Yes, he'd look good in a Phillies uniform.

Here's why you can't blame Amaro and the Phillies for letting Grilli walk: He wasn't even the best pitcher on the triple-A Lehigh Valley team in 2011 and he was 34 years old with a career 4.74 ERA in eight big-league seasons.

He pitched great during his one season with Lehigh Valley, posting a 4-1 record with three saves and a 1.93 ERA in 34 games, but a lot of younger guys who the Phillies were far more invested in pitched great that year, too.

Michael Stutes, 24 at the time, got an early-season promotion and went 6-2 with a 3.63 ERA as a rookie.

Justin De Fratus, 23 at the time, went a combined 6-3 with a 2.99 ERA and 15 saves at double-A Reading and Lehigh Valley. He struck out 99 batters in 751/3 innings.

Phillippe Aumont, 22 at the time, went a combined 2-5 with seven saves and a 2.68 ERA at Reading and Lehigh Valley. He struck out 78 batters in 532/3 innings.

Michael Schwimer, 25 at the time, went 9-1 with 10 saves and a 1.85 ERA. He struck out 86 batters in 65 innings.

Joe Savery, 25 at the time and a former first-round pick, went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA and two saves in 18 games and showed mid-90s life on his fastball.

Andrew Carpenter, 26 at the time and a former second-round pick, went 5-1 with a 1.79 ERA and struck out 65 batters in 601/3 innings.

Scott Mathieson, 27 at the time, went 2-2 with a 3.28 ERA and five saves. He struck out 83 batters in 821/3 innings.

Mike Zagurski, 28 at the time, went 4-0 with 11 saves and a 2.65 ERA.

That's eight guys, all younger than Grilli, who showed tremendous bullpen promise in 2011.

Here's the Phillies' problem: The eight guys mentioned above went into the weekend with a combined 5.13 ERA pitching for the Phils in the big leagues. Not one of them has become an established big-leaguer.

|
|
|
|
|