Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Making sense of the signing

Such is the state of the excellent and on-point Blue Jays blogosphere that often if you ain't first, you're last. I likely don't have any original "analysis" to add to the discussion, but hey - here you are and so am I, so read on.

Yes, the internets were scratching their collective heads on Tuesday when the word broke that the Jays had signed ex-Marlin and Cub closer Kevin Gregg. On the surface, the move is just that - a head scratcher. Standing alone, it's difficult to find the logic. Is Gregg really an upgrade over Jason Frasor? Scott Downs? Jeremy Accardo? Was there really a need to add another relief arm considering the club also has Shawn Camp, Brian Tallet, Josh Roenicke, Jesse Carlson, Dirk Hayhurst, Casey Janssen, Scott Richmond, Merkin Valdez, and rule-5 dude Zech Zinicola looking to eat some innings?

No, probably not. But there's the rub - it's probably unfair to judge this move on a stand-alone basis. Consider some possible scenarios:

(1) Anthopoulos has a deal in the works to trade one (or more) of the more notable bullpen arms - think Frasor, Downs, Accardo - thus the need for an experienced late-inning reliever to handle the 8th/9th. It's problematic in that it seems to be working backwards, but we've seen the domino-effect already this winter - the Jays/Phils/Mariners/A's deal as a prime example, and the Yankees/Tigers/Diamondbacks trade being another.

Lots of overly-optimistic speculation out there that the signing is a precursor to a deal to bring in the exciting young shortstop the club covets, but I'm not buying it. Young franchise shortstops aren't traded for spare bullpen parts - unless they're packaged with big-time talent. Which could happen, I suppose (lending credence to my oft-stated belief that a young starter is on the way out....), but I'm not holding my breath.

The question then becomes, who/what are the Jays targeting in return if the primary asset on the move is Frasor/Downs?

(2) As a Type-A free agent who wasn't offered arbitration, he comes to the Jays free of draft pick obligations, and the club hopes he holds that value throughout the season, effectively netting picks when he signs elsewhere in 2011. This can't be the primary motivation. Can't be. Way too risky, for a multitude of reasons.

For one, the Jays would have to offer arbitration to qualify for compensation, and the market clearly penalizes relievers designated with Type-A status. Gregg could very easily accept the arb, and the Jays are not only left pick-less, but with a contract (and player) they don't want. For two....do we really think Gregg can maintain that Type-A status? Type-B maybe, but that's a big to-do for a sandwich pick.

(3) The Jays are aware of the arbitration risk, and instead hope Gregg pitches well enough to garner interest at the trade deadline, netting prospects in return. If this is the case, I don't see how Gregg ups his value pitching in the AL East. Best case scenario, he hits the deadline being viewed as potential bullpen help for a contending team - who'd be willing to offer contract relief and not a lot more in return.

(4) Gregg has a nice enough arm, the Jays felt he was undervalued in the market, and it's a $2.75M play for bullpen depth. That can't be it, can it? The Jays have been stockpiling relief all winter, and it's not like Gregg suddenly became available. He's been out there all winter with nary a peep until, uh, now.

Something has to give. I've mentioned thirteen arms above vying for major league innings. Half of those will make the team (yes, 6.5 of them). It's not like the rest can all go straight to Vegas, leaving no room for other prospect arms and rehab stints.

Reviewing the possibilities, it seems there has to be something in the works, no? Forced to choose, I'd say more trades are coming. I just wouldn't get your hopes up on that franchise shortstop we all dream on....yet.

34 comments:

DaveC said...

Loved your take on the "sign him for picks" theory- as you said, seems like no team is in the market of offering middle relievers arbitration at the moment.

I wouldn't be surprised if a couple more smaller deals are on the horizon. I think Anthopoulos is trying to get some value out of the bullpen arms the Jays have, relievers being the most volatile commodity year to year.

Or he's a really firm believer in the "you can never have enough pitching" theory.

The Man with the Golden Arm said...

I have no idea what is going on. It doesn't make sense.

Mike said...

So looks like a few relievers will be out the door this week. How many I wonder?

Tony Viner said...

Look,

It pays to keep the opposition, and fans for that matter, off balance and guessing. Do you think I would allow a short-sighted contract signing of any kind to take place? Understand this: I am in total control of your baseball dreams, and you must trust my suave demeanor and tactical brilliance. After all, who else can you rely on?

Rest assured, I have more than a few tricks left up my fine Kashmir sleeves.

Truthfully,

Handsome Tony Viner

The Southpaw said...

I'm not a big fan of Shawn Camp and Camp clearly had a better year against tougher competition than Gregg had last year - hell it was pretty much as good as Gregg's BEST years when you figure the divison.

this gets a big honking "WTF?" from me.

William said...

Nice post and congrats on making Mr. Neyer's Wednesday Wangdoodles.

Dustin McGowan's Sideburns said...

Just when I was getting confused enough about the Gregg signing, we go and sign Wade Townsend. Former 1st rd pick (twice), never played above AA ball it looks like. He must have some good stuff???

Roy said...

I'd rather have .5 Dirk Hayhurst than 1.0 Kevin Greggggg.

mike in boston said...

the hope is for a SS of the future but Downs/Frasor could easily be packaged with Overbay and a young starter for some B prospects at 3B or CF. those are positions of need as well.

at the end of the day the next major move will be signing a big time FA next off season. this team cannot plausibly hope to compete for the playoffs in the next 5 years by trading their spare parts and building through the draft.

bronxbrain said...

Hi. Hope you all will excuse this pinstripe interloper. (Blame Neyer for linking the rest of us to the Tao.) My question: Do you all think that Downs is healthy? Has he begun his decline?

If he's physically sound, and if his gastank isn't nearing empty, then I would bet he has real value to the Sox, Phils, Yanks, et al. Problem is the $4 million he's due this year and his age (34). Still, paired with a mid-rotation starter, he might just net you a high-ceiling prospect.

But, again: Is he healthy? Is the team that trades for him gonna get stuck with a fat, useless contract? What's your honest assessment? Thanks for accommodating an Evil Empire troll. Best wishes, seriously, on building a winner.

The Ack said...

Heyo - Neyer love. He's a smart guy and a good writer - big fan here.

re: Downs - it seems the problem with him (health-wise) the past few seasons have just been bullshit fluke little ankle/toe injuries - from such athletic endeavors as awkwardly running to first during an interleague at-bat or stumbling off the mound while fielding grounders.

When he's right, though, he's a weapon out of the pen.

dave57 said...

I heard about this deal and keep thinking back to AA talking about trying to package 5-6 players for a young SS. Not sure if anyone out there really needs 5 new bullpen arms and a shiny slightly used overbay but maybe. Stranger things have happened.
I guess today we wait for the other shoe to drop. I can't help but wonder if this may end up being a Frasor/Downs + young starter to the Cubs for Vitters. We could hope for Castro but even Hendry isn't that crazy.
I suppose we'll find out soon enough.
In AA I trust...I think...maybe.

mike in boston said...

after watching the Red sox's struggles with their 7th and 8th inning guys i'm convinced Downs would be an excellent late inning lefty specialist on a contending team. his talent is wasted on the Jays.

he's well worth a mid level prospect but i think if he doesn't get traded immediately then it won't be until the deadline. once spring training starts teams will hope that one of their existing guys emerges. that will create a huge logjam in the Jays' BP (which will result in Cito running Carlson out there 3 out of every 4 days ...)

Hilleraj said...

I'm a little surprised at the negative reactions over this signing, when people throw names like Camp, Valdez, and Richmond out there as guys that Gregg could potentially replace. Seriously, Shawn Camp? The dude is 35! It's not like he's going to factor into this team long-term, and his career peripherals (because I'm too lazy to look into advanced metrics) are definitely worse than Gregg's. Merkin put up a 16 IP stretch of good baseball (in 2008), to go along with 51 shit-tacular major league "innings" for a career stat line that makes Camp look like a godsend. Oh yeah, he's gonna be 29 this year, so chances are he's not going to get a whole lot better an time soon. And is anyone gonna lose any sleep over Scott Richmond getting shuffled out of the BP? I mean, good for the overlooked Canadian boy to persevere make it this far, but the dude can't pitch to lefties (except that one awesome game against the Phillies last year), and he's only one year younger than Gregg. Casey Janssen is a HUGE question mark coming into spring training, as his bed-shitting performance last year has quelled any of the hype surrounding his amazing 2007 campaign. Dirk Hayhurst is about the only player mentioned who I'd be dubious about giving Gregg a shot over... but that's based on an extremely small sample size of work on Dirk's part, and I would probably change my tune pretty quickly if Gregg started a hilarious blog of his own.

It's easy to look at the top few names in the Jays BP - along with the success we've had over the past few years - and assume that we're set. But really, Gregg is an improvement over at least 1/3 of the options we currently have (I'd be willing to say half)... and who knows what AA has up his sleeves?

Ian H. said...

Ack, I'm with you on this one - if he's such a great reliever, how come no other team has signed him yet? Given that his price will come down now, but it's still too much to pay when the Blue Jays already have a fully capable bullpen in place.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Mike in Boston - I see a deal for a SS that includes a reliever and Overbay. Of course if that's the direction they're headed it just makes the Johnny Mac contract all the more maddening.

Chris said...

I don't know the intricacies of how compensation picks work, but if there is an option on the contract and the Jays declined that option, then would they even then be eligible for compensation?

Aaaron Hill said...

hilleraj has a great point, especially considering the fac that dirk hayhurst is having surgery this weeknd will not be an option. we may have a really nice looking pen with

downs/frasor/gregg/accardo/carlson/tallet/camp

didn't anyone hear handsome tony? he never lies, and is never wrong. i feel fine, and re-assured.

Dustin McGowan's Sideburns said...

Boy... poor Hayhurst... just cant catch a break...

Mylegacy said...

A reliever and Overbay for a SS? Whatever your smokin' please ship me several boxes full - thank you.

AA is looking to get a - good - young - SS - no freakin' way you get that without some serious talent going the other way.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking a reliever and Overbay as part of the deal but not the complete deal. Depending on the caliber of SS it could include relievers (plural) being sent (maybe as part of a three-way deal) or possibly include a draft pick.

mike in boston said...

Depending on the caliber of SS it could include relievers (plural) being sent (maybe as part of a three-way deal) or possibly include a draft pick.

hmmm .... not sure how i feel about dealing away draft picks as a rebuilding team. i mean, think back to how many draft picks Riccardi gave away in trades, and for what? Would you do those deals over again? i sure wouldn't . no sir. trading draft picks in baseball is risky business. that's why you almost never see it happen.

why don't you call WIlner and see what he thinks about it?

Whitman, Price, and Haddad said...

Typically, in baseball, when you trade a draft pick to a team, the pick is traded back as part of the same deal. This results in no draft picks being traded. I mean, I think that's usually what happens. Yea.

dave57 said...

Guys give the kid a break you can trade picks in any other sport maybe he's just a newbie to the baseball scene. And who knows when they re-vamp the system maybe they will allow you to trade draft picks.
I could see this being a precursor to a young arm, reliever plus overbay or some other spare part for a mid-range SS prospect or a better 3B or cf prospect. I guess time will tell but I do expect the other shoe to drop

Anonymous said...

no dave, those were excellent comments. uber wit. no one should be spared from uber wit.

tobey said...

Dudes.....you cant trade picks in baseball. Not allowed.

Dustin McGowan's Sideburns said...

Hey, Overbay isn't the greatest, but his WAR is decent. Granted, he wont be here next season, but i doubt teams will give up much in a deal that included him for $8m...

Dustin McGowan's Sideburns said...

I am about to the point where I wouldn't put anything passed AA... but its kind of exciting. which is nice for a change...

Blue Jays Daze - Mat Germain said...

Nice post! I definitely believe that Alex is playing his cards to deal Jason and Scott during spring training, when teams start realizing their pens are horrible. Also wanted to add that Hayhurst is out for a long time, so it's really 12 guys up for the pen, which plays into Alex's
competitive format which says - nobody gets a free spot, they have to earn it, which I absolutely love.

Anonymous said...

anyone remember Dennis Lamp? At the time, Lamp signed for a lot of money relatively, and hope was that he could step in and be a saviour for the ninth innning. He was coming off of what, a 9-1 year as a middle reliever, had a good sinker.

Bill Caudill, the inspector, nuff said. We traded griff and collins for this superior stiff, whom we held even higher hopes for than lamp.

So lets put this in perspective now. 2.75 million, and any premium represented is because of the fact he has proven he can step into the ninth and close 23 out of 30 save opportunities. There is no pressure on him, there is no pressure on the jays this season, he's bullpen depth, thats all.

Anonymous said...

This massive competition for bullpen jobs does not excite me, or make me inclined to believe it will lead to amazing results. Remember a couple years ago when so many pitchers were competing for starting spots (zambrano et al), and they still emerged no better than before. Survival of the fittest only sorts out the best few guys... In this case from a big ol' pool of mediocrity. It doesnt create talent.

thejulius said...

I'm just not sure what kind of deal we can package together. I mean, with guys out there like Jermaine Dye, Carlos Delgado and Russ Branyan, you'd have to think those 3 guys would have to sign before another team looking for a first baseman would even knock on AA's door looking to deal for Overbay. I'd love to see trades happen that would move guys like Overbay, Encarnacion, Bautista, and Downs out for younger guys, but I think it might have to wait until Spring Training when teams get a better idea of what they have. Until then, we'll have to try to accomodate 31 or so pitchers.

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