The Angels have traded struggling reliever Ernesto Frieri to the Pittsburgh Pirates for struggling reliever Jason Grilli. After two good seasons with the Halos, Frieri, 29, lost his closer job twice in the past two months due to a 6.39 ERA / 4.97 FIP / 1.355 WHIP in 31 innings. In 2012, he posted a 2.31 ERA in 66 innings. In 2013, “Ernasty” had a 3.80 ERA over 68 2/3 frames. His numbers have been better outside of the closer role, but it appears the Angels had enough and felt they needed a fix ASAP.
On the other side of things, Grilli, 37, lost his role as the Pirates’ closer after excelling in that spot for the past two seasons. He had three straight seasons of success there, combining for a 2.74 ERA in 141 1/3 innings. In 2014, however, Grilli has a 4.87 ERA / 5.36 FIP / 1.623 WHIP in 20 1/3 innings.
This is a very interesting move. Perhaps a change of scenery was needed for both hurlers. But here’s what I think is really happening with this trade… Frieri is making a $3.8 million salary in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Grilli, 37, is in the final year of a two-year contract, and he is making $4 million for this season. This was a salary swap, and a trade of obligations, present and future.
Frieri will be under control through 2016. Grilli is a free agent after this season. This trade allows the Angels to just release Grilli or let him go via free agency, which will free up another $2 million on top of the $30 million coming off the books from the expirations of the Vernon Wells, Joe Blanton, and Sean Burnett contracts, respectively.
I think this move was about more than just fixing the bullpen. It looks to me like the Angels are thinking ahead here. Plus, this may be an indication that the Angels were not only tired of Frieri, but that Jerry Dipoto also had enough of Mike Scioscia trying to work Frieri back into the closer role, where everyone on the planet knows Ernesto is at his worst. And in case you’re wondering, Mike Scioscia already stated that Grilli will not jump into the closer role.