The Jays announced early Friday that 31-year-old reliever Kevin Gregg has passed his physical and has agreed to terms on a one-year contract for $2.75 million. In addition, there are club options for one more season ($4.5 million) or two years ($8.75 million). It seems like an unnecessary personnel move for a team that is already deep in iffy closers like Jason Frasor, Scott Downs and Jeremy Accardo.
Gregg was 5-6 with a 4.72 ERA with 23 saves in 30 opportunities for the Cubs in 2009. He appeared in 72 games, losing the closing role in mid-season to Carlos Marmol.
It's not the amount of money for Gregg that seems questionable, it's more the addition of another pitcher whose value in 2010 to the task of assembling an improved, fan-satisfying on-field product seems minimal when compared to others already on hand that could do basically the same job.
Perhaps the club option years tagged onto the deal are the keys for GM Alex Anthopoulos. One bonus is that the addition of a veteran arm like Gregg for less money than Downs ($4M) and basically the same salary as Frasor ($2.65M) allows the 32-year-old GM to explore trade options for either of those bullpen guys to help the team build in other areas. In that way it makes sense, but in strict terms of adding wins to the balance sheet in 2010, it makes no difference.
However -- and here's where A.A. may be hedging his bets -- looking ahead to 2011 the Jays can gauge as this season unfolds whether they have any chance at all of contending in the AL East 2011. If they do, they can pick up the Gregg option for one year or two and then try to upgrade their closer, using Gregg in his proper setup role. Fact is he is not a true closer for a true contender.
In terms of the Jays' option years on the contract, it's the same situation as when the club signed catcher Bengie Molina back in 2006. They gave him a one-year deal plus a ridiculous option that they knew they were unlikely to pick up, but it's like throwing a bone to the agent and the player. The agent can point to the total number and show his client he's looking out for him, while the player can tell himself that he's a cut above all the other unsigned free agents still looking for a job in early February.
The Jays' bullpen has room for seven men on opening day. Here is a list of 15 invited-to-camp relievers with major-league experience. Accardo, Shawn Camp, Jesse Carlson (L), Downs (L), Frasor, Gregg, Dirk Hayhurst (DL), Sean Henn (L), Casey Janssen, Josh Roenicke, Brian Tallet (L), Merkin Valdez, Lance Broadway, Willie Collazo and Steven Register. Downs is the only one there making more than $3 million. Oh check that. I forgot about B.J. Ryan's big gulp $10 million deal for one more year of doing nothing.
That will be a battle worth watching at training camp with remaining player options playing a huge role. If other major league teams find they are a little short of bodies out in the bullpen as the spring unfolds, they have Alex's number. Not all of these guys are Vegas bound if they don't open with the Jays. It also looks like Tallet will be given a shot at winning a starting job at the back-end of the rotation.