3:50 PM Eastern
Zaun out, Kevin in – that’s the way it seems to be with the Jays all but set to announce the signing of former Marlins and Cubs closer Kevin Gregg to a one-year deal with a couple of team options.
It seems like Cito Gaston wasn’t kidding at the State of the Franchise when he kept referring to an additional closer candidate that Alex Anthopoulos might bring in.
Gregg will likely be the closer for the Blue Jays this year, and probably makes a trade of Jason Frasor or Scott Downs the team’s next move.
It’s really a win-win move here for both the Jays and “the player”. As I’ve said many times, this coming season isn’t about winning, it’s about giving guys a chance to play, not blocking players who have a chance to make an impact down the road and about gathering assets. Gregg is an asset.
No, he’s not a great closer, and there’s plenty of debate that he’s even a good one, but that’s OK. He’s an established, durable guy with a good arm who is only costing the Blue Jays $2.75 million. And he’s all but guaranteed to be a Type-B free agent next season. So, at worst, the Jays just spent almost $3 million to secure themselves another top-40 pick in 2011.
At best, Gregg comes in and blows the doors off, Bryan Harvey-Marlins-style, and the Jays either reap the benefits on the trade market in late July or use the club options to their advantage on the trade market in the wintertime.
He’s not going to displace anyone who was guaranteed to be a successful reliever. There’s still room for Frasor, Downs, Carlson, Tallet, Accardo and Roenicke. Casey Janssen and Shawn Camp will be up against it now, barring a Frasor/Downs trade, and they’ll have to find room to squeeze in a Zech Zinicola. Unfortunately, Hey Dirkhurst is no longer in the running – he’s having arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder on Friday, here’s hoping they don’t find a torn labrum or a major rotator cuff issue.
When you can get a guy like Gregg – whose numbers are kind of enigmatic – for less than three million bucks, you do it, even if the only reason is to turn him into a sandwich pick a year down the road. If one of Carlos Delgado, Johnny Damon and Jermaine Dye would come that cheap, I’d be all over that, as well.
As far as those numbers are concerned, Gregg is one of the weird right-handed pitchers who tends to fare much better against left-handed hitters. This can be a huge asset if it’s something of which the manager is aware and willing to utilize. In 2009, lefties OPS’d .592 against Gregg, compared to righties’ .860. In 2007, his first year as a closer, it was .514 for the lefties and .732 for the righties. 2008 was more even, with only a 67-point difference between the two sides, and he was actually better against righties.
His home runs allowed spiked last year, which you would think was natural since he went from working in a very pitcher-friendly ballpark in Florida to a very hitter-friendly one on the north side of Chicago, but the numbers don’t bear that out. He actually did a very good job of keeping the ball in the park at Wrigley, but gave up nine homers in 32 innings of work on the road (three of them over an inning and a third in FLA).
Gregg’s road numbers were awful last year – a 7.59 ERA, 1.72 WHIP and a .906 OPS against. He did have three terrible outings in which he gave up a combined nine runs in just two innings of work, but then he had an outing at home in which he gave up four runs without recording an out, and he wound up with a 2.21 ERA, .573 OPS and a WHIP under 1.00 at home, so that doesn’t exactly explain things.
Bottom line, this isn’t a guy riding in on a white horse to be the next great closer in Blue Jays history. He might wind up being Joey McLaughlin or Randy Moffitt, but that’s about the point in the Blue Jays’ development at which we stand right now. The great benefit to bringing in Gregg is his ability to bring back tasty stuff for the future, whether that comes when they trade him or when he leaves as a free agent, as well as what could potentially come in a Frasor or Downs trade, since Gregg’s arrival pushes that door open a little bit wider.
For a small investment, with what are sure to be team-friendly options, that’s a good deal.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!