Three bullpen rumors this afternoon, since it seems like the Pirates are serious about upgrading that area of the team:
-Ken Rosenthal reports that the Pittsburgh Pirates are eyeing Baltimore Orioles reliever Koji Uehara. Uehara has been excellent this year, with a 1.84 ERA in 44 innings, along with a tremendous 58:8 K/BB ratio. He’s also proven that he can start, with a 4.05 ERA in 66.2 innings over 12 starts in 2009, with a 6.5 K/9 and a 1.9 BB/9 ratio. One downside is that he has a $4 M 2012 option that vests with 55 appearances. He currently has 40, and would be a near lock to reach 55 this year, which would leave the Pirates on the hook for a $4 M reliever in 2012. That might not be as bad if they use him as a starting option.
-Rosenthal also reports that the Pirates could soon be acquiring Jason Grilli from the Philadelphia Phillies. Grilli is on a minor league contract with the Phillies, and has received at least one major league offer. The Pirates are interested, so the offer could be from them. The Phillies have three days to decide whether to promote Grilli to the majors, or lose him to a team offering a major league spot. Rosenthal mentions that Grilli has been throwing 93-95 MPH with a power slider. He struggled in 2009, but had a good year under Clint Hurdle in 2008 with a 2.93 ERA in 61.1 innings out of the bullpen.
Honestly, the move doesn’t make much sense for the Pirates. Chris Leroux is pitching well, albeit in a small sample of games. Meanwhile, Grilli is more of a depth option, filling out the bullpen rather than upgrading the late innings. One benefit is that the Pirates move Leroux down to AAA with the move, giving them available depth in the event of an injury. Of course, they run the risk of downgrading the last bullpen spot if Grilli doesn’t return to 2008 form, which really isn’t a massive blow to the team.
-I tweeted this last night, but Jon Heyman of SI reports that the Pirates are looking at Padres relievers, mentioning Heath Bell, Mike Adams, and Chad Qualls. Honestly, I’ve never really been a fan of Qualls. He’s good, but I’d rather stick with Jose Veras and Chris Resop in the late innings. As for Bell and Adams, they’d both be upgrades in the late innings, although the price to get them would be high, and those resources might be best used on offensive upgrades.