On my way to work this morning I listened to the episode 892 of the Baseball Prospective podcast Effectively Wild (hosted by the excellent Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller). They had Carson Cistulli on to talk about the crowdsourced MLB broadcasting rankings he had done over on Fangraphs.

Given that the rankings weren’t too scientific and there was no way even Carson had listened to enough broadcasts to say anything for sure, all three were very careful not to be too definitive in their judgments. They also understandably didn’t have enough time to explore each team’s broadcasting team, but in the minute they devoted to Toronto, they said that the general sentiment was that (a) it was two colour analysts and no play-by-play guy, and (b) Buck and Tabby were too critical, unpleasant, and attacking, which was a big reason for their 31st place ranking.

I have no problem with that dismal ranking, but that characterization seems way off to me. While I am biased and will always love Buck and Tabby, my criticisms would’ve been milquetoast, repetitive, narrow-minded, dull, and predictable.

Case in point, their commentary on the trade that sent Jason Grilli to the Blue Jays in exchange for 21-year-old Low-A righty pitching prospect Sean Ratcliffe. Paraphrasing from memory here:

Buck: “This deal reminds me a lot of the LaTroy Hawkins deal from last season. The Jays are bringing in a guy with a lot of experience, who was a great closer for years, and that’s going to be valuable no matter what his performance.”

Pat: “You have to remember that Grilli is 39 years old, but just being in the clubouse…he’ll be a guy that the other guys in the bullpen go to for little things – tips and tricks – that he knows because he’s pitched in this league for so long.”

Buck: “Absolutely. He’s had a rough start to the season, but he doesn’t have to pitch all that well to make a contribution here.”

Pat: “Oh I agree. He’s a 39 year old recovering from a nasty injury so he might not get back to what he was, but that’s just fine with the Jays.”

And so it continued well into the night. They repeated each other around five times, and then actually went on to rehash the exact same narrative (veteran pitcher brings intangibles to team) with Mark Buehrle.

Anyways here’s my analysis of the deal: The Jays scored a low-risk, medium reward piece that could help bolster their greatest weakness and did so with an optimal trade partner in the Braves. With any other team, a less marginal pitching prospect or more financial relief might have been requested in exchange for Grilli. But according to Braves GM John Coppolella, “The main reason for the trade was to give opportunity to our young arms.”

With Grilli in the fold and lefty Brett Cecil approaching return, here’s what the Jays ‘pen will potentially look like in a few weeks.

JaysPen

That’s a substantial improvement that Toronto is essentially getting for nothing as Atlanta is paying the majority of Grilli’s contract. And if Grilli manages to weather the early drop in velocity (his fastball and slider – the bread and butter of his arsenal – are each down 2 MPH) we’ve seen this season, the Jays have the option to resign him for around 3M for next year, which ain’t too shabby.

GrilliVelo
Grilli’s declining fastball velocity.

The dramatic improvement from a 3.71 to a 3.48 average ERA is not 100% accurate because the inning distribution won’t work out evenly over the course of the season. But with every other bullpen in the AL East looking way stronger than Toronto’s (especially with the return of Aroldis Chapman and Brad Boxberger, and the emergence of Alex Colome), this was a necessary move by Ross Atkins, and hopefully not the last thrifty bullpen addition the Jays make before the deadline.

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