The Tigers shipped righthanded reliever Jason Grilli to the Rockies for minor league righthander Zach Simons. The trade facilitated both teams in their reliever merry-go-round. Detroit cleared room for Francisco Cruceta, who missed spring training while trying to secure a visa, and Colorado was feeling short-handed after losing relievers Luis Vizcaino and Micah Bowie to injury—and Ramon Ramirez in a spring-training trade.
The Big Leaguers
Grilli, 31, spent time in four organizations before making good on his promise as the fourth overall pick (from Seton Hall) in the 1997 draft. The Giants drafted him but shipped him to the Marlins at the 1999 trade deadline in a deal for Livan Hernandez. The White Sox made him a major league Rule 5 pick for the 2004 season, but he limped to a 7.40 ERA in 45 innings. The Tigers plucked him off the scrap heap in February 2005, and he made an impact the following season for the AL pennant winners, going 2-3, 4.21 with 31-25 K-BB in 62 innings. Used more as a multi-inning reliever in 2007 (more than six batters faced per game), Grilli posted a 4.74 ERA despite an improved 62-32 K-BB ratio. Opposing batters see a steady diet of low-90s sinkers from Grilli, but he’ll mix in a few sliders—and even a changeup for lefties. Through 14 innings with Detroit this season, Grilli went 0-1, 3.29 with 10 strikeouts and seven walks. His career ERA stands at 5.11 through 252 innings.
Simons, who turns 23 on May 23, moved to high Class A Modesto this season after two years with low Class A Asheville, the second of which he spent as a reliever. Colorado’s second-round pick in 2005 from Everett (Wash.) CC, Simons began this season by going 1-0, 2.70 with 14-9 K-BB in 13 innings out of the Nuts’ bullpen. He’s gone 15-7, 4.91 in a four-year career, with 178 strikeouts and 112 walks in 279 innings.
Despite his high draft status, Simons has not lived up to expectations as a pro, mirroring Grilli’s early career. Grilli, though, spent his entire minor league career as a starter, converting to relief only upon reaching the big leagues.