Feb 4, 2010, 5:20 PM EDT
Sometimes a team just wants a proven closer. It doesn’t matter if he’s any good or not; it’s just the safe play. If the proven closer fails, then it’s his fault. If the unproven closer fails, it’s management’s fault.
The 2010 Blue Jays, a team destined to finish in fourth or fifth place, now have their proven closer in Kevin Gregg. The $2.75 million guarantee is hardly so excessive as to make it one of the worst deals of the winter. In fact, it’s a little less than I thought he’d get. Still, it’s hard to see how he’s worth it when Guillermo Mota was forced to settle for a minor league deal the very same week.
Gregg, too, likely would have had to settle for a minor league contract this winter if not for the stroke of good fortune that landed him in Florida in 2007. After three years of pitching in obscurity in Anaheim, he quickly took over as the Marlins’ closer and saved 32 games in 36 chances. He was solid again in the first half of 2008, but knee problems took a toll and he ended up blowing nine saves in 38 chances before losing his closing job at the end of the year. Traded to the Cubs, he was handed the closer’s role over Carlos Marmol last spring, but he turned in a dreadful season. He blew seven saves in 30 chances, gave up 13 homers and finished with a 4.72 ERA in 68 2/3 innings.
In all, Gregg has a 4.03 ERA in 335 career relief appearances, about half of which came in the NL. The man he’s expected to supplant as Toronto’s closer, Jason Frasor, has a 3.78 ERA in 342 appearances, all of them coming as a Blue Jay. Going strictly by ERA, he’s had two seasons better than Gregg’s best and none as poor as Gregg’s worst.
Frasor, though, isn’t a favorite of Jays manager Cito Gaston’s. So, he’s set to return to a setup role, barring a trade.
It’s my opinion that Scott Downs, Frasor, Jeremy Accardo and Josh Roenicke are all better bets than Gregg for 2010. Casey Janssen might be as well, but he’ll have to show he’s healthy. The Jays also have Brian Tallet, Jesse Carlson and Shawn Camp coming back, though Tallet may begin the year in the rotation. There won’t be room for all of them, so either Downs or Frasor could be traded and Roenicke might return to Triple-A.
Perhaps that will work out if Downs or Frasor could bring back a talented young outfielder capable of stepping in right away. Still, the Jays could have gone that route with or without Gregg. Their $2.75 million was better utilized elsewhere.
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