The Los Angeles Angels swapped one disappointing closer for another, sending Ernesto Frieri to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jason Grilli.
The Pirates officially announced the move on Twitter:
In 34 appearances this season, Frieri is 0-3 with a 6.39 ERA and 11 saves. Grilli's been only slightly better, posting an 0-2 record, 4.87 ERA and 11 saves in 22 appearances. The two have combined to blow seven saves.
Mike Scioscia has already confirmed that Grilli will only be given late-inning duties to start out, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times:
Scioscia: Grilli will pitch in back end but not necessarily close, at least not now.— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) June 27, 2014
The L.A. Times' Mike DiGiovanna reported that Joe Smith will take over as the team's closer:
Not that there was any doubt, but #Angels MGR Mike Scioscia said Joe Smith is his closer for now.— Mike DiGiovanna (@MikeDiGiovanna) June 25, 2014
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto is banking on the trade to help Grilli return to his 2013 form, per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register:
Dipoto: "We traded a struggling closer for a struggling closer with the idea that a change of scenery will help both." #Angels— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) June 27, 2014
Grantland's Jonah Keri doesn't think that these kinds of closer swaps happen often:
Grilli to Angels, Frieri to Pirates per @MikeDiGiovanna. Trying to remember the last challenge trade of (more or less) closers.— Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri) June 27, 2014
Rob Neyer of FoxSports.com argued that neither team will really win the trade this year, with both pitchers' projections for the rest of the season in line with one another:
based on projections, Frieri-for-Grilli swap is precisely even. Love challenge trades!— robneyer (@robneyer) June 27, 2014
At least with Grilli, the Angels are getting a more experienced pitcher who's had a more consistent stretch over the last few years. It's easy to forget that the 37-year-old made the National League All-Star team last year. He finished tied for seventh in the NL in saves, with 33.
Although Grilli's performance has tailed off this season, it's not even close to Frieri's decline from last year to now. The guy who saved 37 games is nowhere to be seen.
Perhaps the change of scenery will help both players. The Angels are hopeful that Grilli can regain some confidence and eventually be transitioned back into the closer role. If that happens, Smith will be able to move back to late-inning duty, where he's been used throughout his career.
This was a low-risk deal from Los Angeles' perspective, and if it can get back a consistent closer, then offloading Frieri will have been more than worth it.
Note: All stats are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.