The Blue Jays recalled right-hander Chris Smith from Triple-A Buffalo to take Grilli's spot in the bullpen. In another move, outfielder Ezequiel Carrera was activated from the 10-day disabled list and outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. was optioned to the Minor Leagues.
"It's only been a year but there were so many incredible memories made in, and with Toronto," Grilli wrote on Twitter. "Playing for a championship with a great bunch of players was an honor! Thank you to the Blue Jays fans for such a warm embrace."
Grilli packed his bags and left Rogers Centre before the media was allowed into the Toronto clubhouse on Tuesday afternoon. At his locker, Grilli's nameplate had been removed and in its place was a handwritten message to his teammates that said: "Stay in the fight!"
The 40-year-old Grilli went 2-4 with a 6.97 ERA in 26 appearances for the Blue Jays this season. He started the year as the primary setup man for closer Roberto Osuna but lost that job in April and never really got his season back on track. The final straw came on Friday night, when he allowed a walk-off double to Kansas City's Whit Merrifield.
"He understood it, he told me it wasn't his first time but Grilli has done a lot for us and he's one of the good guys, you know?" Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "That always makes it doubly tough. But he plans on keep going. Maybe someone will grab him, we'll see what happens."
Grilli joined the Blue Jays last June in a trade with the Braves and was credited with helping to salvage Toronto's bullpen. He posted a 3.64 ERA while striking out 58 over 42 innings and along the way became a fan favorite for his on-field emotion and the "Fire Up the Grilli" slogan that was displayed prominently throughout Rogers Centre when he came into games.
Last year's success prompted the Blue Jays to pick up his $3 million option for 2017. The velocity was still there but the command was not, and a slider that caught too much of the plate led to frequent issues this season. Toronto initially remained patient but by the end Grilli had been removed from all high-leverage situations.
"He was struggling, we couldn't really find a role [for Grilli]," Gibbons said. "This will hopefully give him a fresh start somewhere else and maybe he'll go somewhere and do for somebody what he did for us. He really saved us last year."
Smith joined the Blue Jays late last season as a September callup but he never got into a game. He had a 3.93 ERA with 15 strikeouts over 18 1/3 innings after missing some time with an injury for Triple-A Buffalo earlier this season. He is particularly tough vs. righties, as he holds a .176 opponents' batting average and 0.66 WHIP against them.
"We had high hopes coming into spring," Gibbons said of Smith. "He had a so-so spring and then started down in Triple-A with some elbow issues. But he has a good arm and this gives us a little bit of a chance to look at him too."