Atlanta Braves closer Jason Grilli is likely done for the season after rupturing his left Achillies tendon on Saturday.
Grilli suffered the injury while attempting to cover first base during the ninth inning of Atlanta’s 3-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies.
It looked like a routine play until Grilli made it about half way to the bag, then he suddenly went down and immediately grabbed the back of his left leg. It had all the earmarks of an Achilles injury, and unfortunately that would be confirmed by the Braves following the game.
One bad step. That’s all it took for Grilli’s season to be ruined. That’s all it took for the 38-year-old veteran’s long-term future to come into question. And, in the big picture around MLB, that’s all it took for the Braves and several other teams to alter their short-term plans and reevaluate potential trade targets.
It’s no secret that Grilli was on the radar for multiple teams currently seeking bullpen depth. Given his closing experience and resurgent production following a disappointing 2014, Grilli was seen as a valuable commodity in the eyes of general managers and managers seeking a reliable late-game option. As recently as Friday, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman mentioned both the Dodgers and Blue Jays as potential landing spots. The Cubs, Nationals and Tigers were also believed to be interested, and that list may have only grown as the trade deadline neared.
Assuming the Braves do become sellers, which is more likely now with Grilli sidelined and Atlanta’s bullpen losing some depth, they are losing a trade chip that could have landed one or two notable prospects or a major-league ready talent. Now they have to reshuffle the deck on several fronts, including shifting veteran Jim Johnson into the closer’s role.
Johnson is also having a resurgent season, so perhaps a couple good weeks at closer will put him on some wishlists. In 43 appearances, the 32-year-old has posted a solid 2.14 ERA. That’s way down from his 7.09 ERA last season with Oakland and Detroit. Johnson also has previous closing experience, including consecutive 50-save seasons for the Baltimore Orioles in 2012-2013, so there’s definitely value.
For now, though, the thoughts and concerns remain with Grilli and the long recovery he faces. But make no mistake the impact of this injury wasn’t just felt in Atlanta. It was league wide.
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