Kevin Gregg and the Toronto Blue Jays' New Monkey Wrench
The Toronto Blue Jays have apparently signed closer Kevin Gregg, and (stop me if you’ve heard this one) it begs a lot of questions.
That’s the best way to put it, because answers are still forthcoming.
The only thing left to do is ponder, so it’s time to ponder. Prepare for the ultimate scattershot article.
Gregg is a right-handed reliever who played the closer role for the Cubs last year and for the Florida Marlins two years prior. Gregg was an effective closer until last season. Statistics show a decline in his performance, including his failure to stop pelting the fans with home runs.
The Jays already have Jason Frasor, who filled the vacuum left by Scott Downs and B.J. Ryan’s injuries/abysmal play. Frasor (also a right-hander) was a solid bookend for the bullpen to the extent that he eclipsed Downs entirely as the closer.
They also have Downs (surprise, surprise), who is hoping to return to the bullpen after a year with more ups and downs than any joke about a porn star. Downs was doing fine as the Blue Jays closer until Philadelphia decided to claim another victim.
So why sign Gregg?
Look to the policies of Alex Anthopoulos first. The Jays GM has spent the entire season flirting with move after move, seeking the one that will better his team. Anthopoulos either feels A) pressure to do something and came up with Gregg or B) that this is a smart acquisition.
There’s no barometer in Anthopoulos’ office, so the only visible answer is B.
Gregg is a buy low/sell high move for some. If he rebounds, the Jays have a viable closer that can be moved for more pieces, or Toronto will keep him and ship out either Downs or Frasor. It’s no secret that Anthopoulos covets a young shortstop for his team, and at the worst, one of the three could net the Jays another building block towards that.
Which then brings forth the question: Why not just trade Downs or Frasor? The possible loss of Dirk Hayhurst (depending on what his exploratory surgery says) is overruled by the returns of Josh Roenicke, Shawn Camp, Jeremy Accardo, Casey Janssen, Jesse Carlson, and Brian Tallet. It's getting crowded.
Two thoughts on that: First, there’s the off chance that Anthopoulos just wants to stack his bullpen and watch his minions fight to the death for a spot. Well, who doesn’t enjoy some good old-fashioned competition? The more arms the Jays have, the better the ones who play will be. Anthopoulos is then free to trade the remainder.
This also ties into the fact that Toronto is returning a lot of young potential starters who will have their innings limited as the season goes along. Brett Cecil, Marc Rzepczynski, and Ricky Romero may be rested and replaced by Tallet or (if he winds up back in the bullpen) Scott Richmond by late August or September. This means the Jays will need to have relievers on hand to fill in for those moved from the bullpen to the rotation.
An alternative to the above is that the Jays were faced with an administrative quandary (assuming they plan to keep Gregg, Downs, and Frasor).
Cito Gaston and Anthopoulos were staring at the return of a now healthy Downs and the lifetime Blue Jay Frasor. Downs was the established closer (and did a fine job) until he was felled by a faulty at-bat in Philadelphia (say that 10 times fast...or don’t). Frasor was then moved into the role in Downs’ absence and showed that he could excel in the role, surpassing Downs when he returned.
As pitchers and catchers are soon to report, the Jays now had two players with a legitimate claim to the closer spot. Picking either one could bruise the other's ego and promote more of that fantastic clubhouse chemistry fans heard of at the end of last season.
Putting Gregg into the closer role (if he earned it) gives the Jays someone that has played the position for the entire season and brings greater credentials (like a 20-save season) than Downs or Frasor.
Then there’s the furthest possibility that Gregg could be coming to Toronto for a relief role that’s not the closer. Possible, but one has to wonder how long Gregg would be happy in that position and that it would still make someone in the bullpen redundant. Gregg's been a closer since he left the pearly gates of Anaheim, so the assumption that he’s here to close is safe.
Oh, the possibilities. Either the Blue Jays have gained serious trade bait or they’re about to squander some of their best assets. It’s either subtraction by addition or multiplication by division.
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