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Ten years ago (yesterday), the Angels traded Ernesto Frieri to the Pirates for Jason Grilli

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Sorry, I don’t know why I forgot to post this yesterday. I even remembered to post it to the Pirates’ subreddit.

On June 27, 2014, then-Angels GM Jerry Dipoto spent seven minutes negotiating a trade that he called a swap of “struggling closer for struggling closer.” Frieri arrived from San Diego in May of 2012 in exchange for Donn Roach and Alexi Amarista. Frieri hadn’t pitched in leverage situations in San Diego, but put up a ton of strikeouts balanced against a ton of fly balls and too many walks. He was closing games for the Angels by the end of that month and put up 23 saves that season.

2013 was rockier; Frieri still recorded 37 saves but was a lot more erratic. The Angels’ bullpen was hit by so many injuries that there wasn’t really anyone to take his job. A guy named Dane De La Rosa took it for a couple weeks in August. Frieri ended up with a 3.80 ERA (99 ERA+) that season. In 2014, Frieri was horrible in April, very good in May, and then horrible once again in June until he was traded.

Jason Grilli had kicked around MLB since he was drafted fourth overall in 1997 (one pick after Troy Glaus and one pick before Vernon Wells). Grilli started to get serious traction as an MLB reliever in 2006 but didn’t become good until he joined the Pirates in 2011. He had worked as a closer and made his first All-Star team as a 36-year-old in 2013, but 2014 was off to a worse start. He lost his job to Mark Melancon and apparently wasn’t taking it well.

Neither guy could get a direct flight between Kansas City (where the Angels were playing) and Pittsburgh. They met for the first time when they ran into each other in a bathroom at Chicago O’Hare while they were both waiting for connecting flights. How about that.

Frieri ended up throwing 10.2 innings in Pittsburgh and allowed 12 earned runs in that time. He was sent to the minors in August and released in September. Grilli bounced almost all the way back with the Angels and was part of an excellent back-end bullpen with Joe Smith, Kevin Jepsen, and the soon-to-be-acquired Huston Street. Grilli was a free agent after the season, but he stuck around his new team longer than Frieri did – the Angels definitely won this trade.

A much deeper dive into this trade can be found at the Trades Ten Years Later Substack, linked there. Future Angels trades on the schedule include Huston Street (coming to town on July 19) and Rich Hill (shows up on July 1, allows 3 walks and a hit while recording no outs, gets released).

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