Tuesday, January 4, 2011

O's ink Kevin Gregg

Will Kevin Gregg be fist-pumping as the Orioles closer?

The Orioles signed relief pitcher/closer Kevin Gregg this afternoon, ending what had been a month long song and dance between the team and the pitcher. Gregg reportedly signed for a 2 year, $11 million contract, which is eerily similar to the one the Orioles gave Mike Gonzalez last offseason.

And like Gonzalez, Gregg is a wild card with an emphasis on wild. His walk rate is higher than you'd like to see in a potential closer at 3.7 per 9 innings. Last year it was the highest it's been in his career, at 4.6 BB/9. His K/IP rate is solid, at 8.3 for his career, and he's known to get up into the 9's. Unfortunately, his ERA hasn't been below 3.50 since his rookie year in 2003. And at 33, Gregg is headed toward the downward curve of his career, which means that his already worrisome numbers could get worse.

But he does have some gaudy save numbers -- 37, 23, 29 and 32 -- in the last four years which is probably what the O's decided to pay for. Which means the Orioles have not learned much from the rash of bad bullpen signings they've made in the past, which explains the multi-year signings of Gonzalez last year and Gregg today.

Gregg is basically a right handed version of Mike Gonzalez (thanks Ben) and the Orioles are paying both pitchers closer money in 2011. Meanwhile, Koji Uehara is the team's best closer. So while the Orioles continue to be a frugal ball club when it comes to signing bigger name free agents to more expensive contracts, they don't hesitate to burn millions on risky bullpen arms like Gonzalez and Gregg and reclamation projects that were doomed to fail from the start (Garrett Atkins).

I've always believed bullpens should be made up of talented young arms who for whatever reason couldn't crack a starting rotation. And the Orioles have seen guys like Jim Johnson and Jason Berken become solid bullpen arms after their MiL careers as starting pitchers flamed out. But the Orioles obviously like Gregg for some reason despite his troubling walk rate in 2010.

We'll just have to wait and see what that was -- if there was ever anything to like at all.

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