The Orioles have, at long last, agreed to a two year deal with free agent reliever Kevin Gregg worth $8 – $10 million. Baltimore will be Gregg’s 5th team since he broke into the league in 2003 with the Angels. This move has been pending for weeks as the Orioles made the same offer (or one very similar) to kick off the Winter Meetings. Gregg, apparently waiting for a better offer (or an offer from a better team) eventually came back to the table and signed with the Orioles. Much like Derrick Lee, Gregg likely isn’t thrilled to be taking his talents to the cellar-dweller of the AL East, but this is a marriage where both parties needed one another, particularly after the arrest of Alfredo Simon.
The right hander has been the epitome of average throughout his career, though last season he managed to pitch to the tune of a 3.51 ERA against the AL East while serving as the Blue Jays closer. It was this closing experience that made Gregg cautious about signing with Baltimore, as he was hoping to join a team that would give him the edge to win the closer spot out of Spring Training, if not earlier. Over the past four seasons, Gregg has accumulated 121 saves to just 26 blown saves, an 82% save rate. Not eye-popping by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly valuable on a team that has the potential to have a solid bullpen.
Most impressive perhaps is that Gregg had one of his best seasons last year with the Blue Jays after toiling in the National League from 2007-2009. His familiarity with the division should be an early bonus, as should his closing experience should Koji Uehara, who I expect to be named the closer, go down with yet another injury. Last season the Orioles had no fallback option when Gonzalez went down- they will have their set of choices next year.
On the other hand, we are not sure how Gregg will react emotionally should he not win the closing job. Given his hesitancy to take the Orioles deal, motivation could be an early factor.
Moreover, he is yet another reliever with problems with control, the polar opposite to the stingy Uehara. Gregg walked 30 batters in 63 innings in 2009 alongside 58 strikeouts. His WHIP is an unhealthy 1.39, but the Orioles could do much worse in their signing of another reliever. With Gregg in the fold, Baltimore has experienced closers in Gonzalez, Uehara, and Gregg, with Jim Johnson solid in the set-up role. The flexibility to have closers sprinkled throughout the bullpen, and they may add more yet.
Another solid, low-key signing, but one that will enable the Orioles to avoid blowing another lead in the 6th-8th innings. I for one will take it.