The Orioles Sign Kevin Gregg To Bolster Bullpen

The new blog is only a few weeks, but I can already refer back to a previous statement:

“Giving Kevin Gregg $10 M is really not a particularly smart idea.”

Andy MacPhail has gotten around doing other dumb things (LaRoche, Bartlett), but he finally was able to enact his plan A at a postion, locking up reliever Kein Gregg for two years and $10 M (with incentives and a vesting option for a third, which could take the deal up to $20 M – that’s just crazy). At the going rate of $5 M per win, that means the team is looking for Gregg to produce about one win a year over the course of the contract. Number of times in his career that Gregg has posted an fWAR over 1? One. What about brWAR? Two. Over his eight years in the big leagues, Gregg has averaged right around 0.6 WAR (either version) per season (65 IP). The chances of the O’s even breaking even on the deal are pretty slim (and I don’t think it’s worth considering any potential free agent compensation after Gregg leaves, since (1) the CBA might be changed to address that issue and (2) it probably won’t be worth offering him arbitration).

That’s not to say Gregg is terrible; he’s a perfectly serviceable bullpen arm. His stuff isn’t all that impressive, but he’ll miss some bats (8.3 K/9 career). His control is spotty though (3.8 BB/9 career, but 4.3 BB/9 or above in three of the past four seasons), and he’s a flyball pitcher who might have some home run issues at Camden Yards. Even if you want to give him full credit for longball suppression (xFIP of 4.30), his career ERA (4.03) lines up with his FIP (3.95) – and I think both tell the story of the kind of pitcher he is. Solid, but not a relief ace by any stretch of the imagination (though, to be fair, his ERA was around 3.50 three of the past four years). He’s the kind of guy that you’re happy to throw in the pen as a scarp-heap pick-up (or even a little more) or someone from your minor league system – not someone to hold on to once he starts getting really expensive. The signing improves the bullpen’s ERA – even assuming Gregg pitches better than his career rates – by something like a tenth of a run. That will obviously propel the club from 5th to 3rd place! I think Gregg is likely to be the “closer”, since he was signed for more money than Koji and he likely signed with the understanding that he’d be first in line for saves. That’s actually not a bad thing, since it allows Buck to use the better pitcher (Uehara) in earlier high leverage situations while leaving the ninth for Gregg.

I don’t know how long it’ll be before the O’s stop handing multi-year, big money (for a guy throwing 60 innings) contracts to mediocre pitchers, but that point can’t come too soon. When the team is looking at a 90 win season and have an obvious hole in the bullpen, then you can make an exception. Maybe.

Tangentially related, but this deal also makes the Mark Reynolds trade look much worse. If you assume that holding on to David Hernandez (who is actually a similar enough player to Gregg) and Kam Mickolio would have prevented the O’s from making this move (though it’s fair to suggest that Alfredo Simon’s “problems” also contributed), then the trade looks like:

Mark Reynolds
Kevin Gregg

for

David Hernandez
Kam Mickolio
$10 M

That seems pretty bad to me. Gregg and Hernandez are relatively close to a wash – current talent-wise – in my opinion, with the latter having higher upside (and probably more variance). If you equalize the salaries for those two, you’re left with:

Mark Reynolds

for

Kam Mickolio
$9 M

If Reynolds was making $22 M over the next two years instead of $13 M, would the O’s have been willing to trade a hard-throwing reliever for him? Maybe, but it’s not that enticing. His salary would almost exactly balance out his production, assuming 2.5 and 2.0 WAR the next two seasons. At that rate you might as well sign a free agent and keep your younger players (and that’s not counting the extra years of team control of Hernandez that they’d be giving up).

So not only does this deal make me sad on it’s own, but it also makes me less happy about one of the team’s other major moves (which I was less than sanguine about to begin with).


Stats: ERA, FIP, xFIP, K/9, BB/9, WAR