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With Jason Grilli back, how will Pirates' bullpen shape up?

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Justin K. Aller

Here's a look at the Pirates' bullpen now that Jason Grilli is back in the fold. If the Bucs broke camp tomorrow, I think the 'pen would look something like this:

Joel Hanrahan
Jason Grilli
Jared Hughes
Tony Watson
Justin Wilson
Bryan Morris (out of options)
Vin Mazzaro (out of options)

I'm reasonably happy with this. Hanrahan walked an ungodly 5.43 batters per nine innings last season, and it will simply be very hard for Grilli to remain anywhere near as good as he was in 2012. But those two pitchers should provide at least some semblance of stability while the Pirates sort out which of their considerable number of interesting but inexperienced relievers are ready to contribute. That includes Wilson, Morris, Mazzaro (who I think might turn out to be more than we expect if used as a reliever) and Chris Leroux, along with Vic Black and Duke Welker.

In this scenario, I'm giving Wilson, Morris and Mazzaro the inside track on jobs. The Pirates just don't seem to like Leroux much, for reasons I've never been quite able to figure out. And Black and Welker will almost certainly start the year in the minors.

We'll see whether Hanrahan is traded, and how the market perceives him. On one hand, he's a closer. On the other hand, there were all kinds of warning signs in his performance last year, and at $7 million, he won't be cheap. The Pirates might not get a great offer for him, in which case it might make sense to just keep him until July, particularly because the Bucs' own bullpen would be so green without him. I don't really want the Pirates to trade him unless they can get a reasonable baseball return, and I'm not positive they'll get one.

If the Pirates trade Hanrahan, I would expect them to make a move or two to improve their bullpen. If they don't, they still might get someone. We might see something like we have the past couple years with Juan Cruz or Jose Veras, in which the Pirates signed players to minor-league deals with the plan that they would have inside tracks on jobs in Spring Training.