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December 10, 2010

Could Gregg unseat Koji as O’s closer?

The Orioles made a two-year offer worth between $8 to $10 million to free agent Kevin Gregg at this week’s winter meetings. As far as I know, the two sides remain in negotiations and the Orioles still think they have a shot at Gregg, the 32-year-old right-hander who saved 37 games for the Toronto Blue Jays last season.

But they may have to promise him the closer role in order to get him.

Gregg wants to close, and that could be one of the deciding factors in him picking his team for 2011. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported the other day that the Pittsburgh Pirates, Seattle Mariners, Washington Nationals and Boston Red Sox are all in on Gregg.

Gregg has 121 saves over the past four seasons and he’s blown 26 saves during that span, including six last year. Would you rather have him as your closer than Uehara?

Uehara converted 13 of 15 save opportunities last year and while he has the tendency to give up the long ball, he also throws a ton of strikes and doesn’t walk people, a great quality to have for a closer.

In confirming yesterday that the Orioles had agreed to terms with Uehara on a one-year, $3 million deal with a vesting option for 2012, president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail wouldn’t commit to Uehara as the Orioles’ closer, saying that is manager Buck Showalter’s decision.

It’s also interesting to point out that Uehara’s vesting option is based on both games finished and games pitched in, the latter one covering the Japanese right-hander if he’s not the closer.

Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 10:15 AM | | Comments (53)



Regarding 1B, is it possible that John Russell would be in contact with Adam LaRoche to try and persuade him to sign in Baltimore? Russell was his manager in Pittsburgh.

Under MacPhail, the Orioles don't really do the "recruiting" thing, but if asked, I am sure Russell would call him

I've never liked Gregg. Agreed Jeff, he throws strikes and doesn't walk people. If healthy I love a 7th, 8th, 9th of Johnson, Gonzo, and Koji. If we can get consistent starts in the 6 inning range from our staff I see a much improved team.

I think the signings of the Skankies and Sux the past 2 seasons may actually be good for the O's. They have tied up alot of resources on contracts that look good now but won't be so good on the back end. I see the O's making a move toward .500 this year and really looking to compete in the next 2-3 years. I'm not sure Tex, CC, Jeter, and A-Roid and others will be nearly as productive. When the O's are really ready to contend.

It's hard to be confident in extrapolating Koji's statistics, but going on his 13 saves out of 15 opportunities, that would put him right about where Gregg was last season - 39 saves out of 45 opportunities. I haven't seen Gregg pitch that much, so I can't really compare. But, like you point out in your post, Koji has a wicked ability to punch guys out and I think the Orioles were doing a good job of grooming him for the closing spot. Koji's problem, of course, is that he will occasionally give up the long ball (I still remember a big heart-breaker against the Yanks last season), but that could be improved. I'm going to go Koji for closer.

I read this patricular blog and decided it would be wise to ponder the information in this article while decorating the Office for Christmas. As a side note, I suggested that maybe, they could put a "Squirrel" on top of the Christmas tree. No one in the office was thrilled with the idea.... oh well. Maybe, Peter Angelos could put one on his! =P

The Orioles made a two-year offer worth between $8 to $10 million to free agent Kevin Gregg.

Quick Hits from this outake.
1.) He worked with Rick Kranitz in 2007
So I would say no to Gregg
2.) He pitched for the Cubs in 2009
So I would say no to Gregg
3.) While he's had some success through the years, he appears to be inconsistent, just by looking sat his stats and reading blurbs about him on other sites. Inconsistency is vexing to Baseball fans! So I would say no to Gregg.

Based on what I have I have just typed and pondered on it for 1/2 hr
I would have to say "NO!" to Gregg.

My other takes on this. Don't the Orioles have a young "Buckaroo" somewhere in the system that they drafted? Also, he'd be a lot cheaper then 8 to 10 million over two year period.
That money they save could be better spent on Zack Greinke! for only a few million more. Getting Zack Greinke would make for a Merry Christmas in Birdland. A Merry Christmas indeed!

Kevin Gregg = bleh

Koji needs to stay the closer. You need a closer who throws strikes. I followed Gregg closely last year because he was on my fantasy team and he was very unreliable. Gregg is a pitcher who got labeled a "closer" early on. That doesnt mean he is a good pitcher. But he has a rep as a "closer." Koji is a much better pitcher and should be allowed to continue to close games.

Look, it's not like the Red Sox can guarantee him the closer's role either.

Pretty sure we signed a closer to a 2 year, $12 million deal last year, didn't we?

good point

No, I would not promise Gregg the closer role right off the bat. Buck doesn't get hung up on titles, and only wants to put what he thinks is the best product on the field. The player doesn't dictate to Buck. He wants a TEAM, not a collection of egos, that's dedicated to winning as a team. he could care less how many saves the guy gets, but rather how many W's the Team gets. If Gregg wants to contribute to the betterment of the team, cool. if not go to Pittsburgh and save a ton of games for them. it'll look great on his resume for a last place team that's not going anywhere.

Sign him as a closer. You can't have too many good arms in the bullpen.

Yes Koji did pretty well as the closer and yes he throws a ton of strikes. But good ball players who face him often also know this. For example, A Rod's game wining (or was it game tying, can't remember) homer at Camden Yards late in the season. A Rod knew that Koji is going to throw something in the upper 80's for a strike across the plate about 85% of the time. What does he do, anticipates the pitch and hits a homer. Koji is effective, but when the game is on the line I think I would like someone with some more junk that throws harder and isn't as easy to predict. I think this is what made Sherill a good option and it has obviously worked for Rivera.

So sign Gregg. Have Johnson pitch the 7th, Koji the 8th and Gregg the 9th. The variation in pitchign style between these three could really throw off the hitters timing late in the game. Johnson throws hard, Koji throws strikes, and Gregg closes out. I think that is a good balance that would keep hitters guessing and win ball games.

This is a moot point. With that many other teams interested, the O's will be outbid for Gregg anyhow.

rather have uehara and kerry wood

I don't really care who the closer is, as long as he is effective. I would tell Gregg he can close. But, if he blows four in a row, I'd have Koji do it for a week or so while Gregg gets his feet back under him.

As I've already said several times, if Andy does this, he's a fool. This is right online with his Atkins signing last year.

Gregg is a mediocre reliever at best. He's lost his closing jobs with both the Jays and Marlins, and he's the last person you want on the mound in the 9th with the game on the line.

If Andy signs him as closer, he should be fired on the spot. If Andy gives him $10mil to be a setup guy (after not wanting to "overspend" for the likes of Dunn, Konerko, etc.) he should be fired on the spot.

He's no longer coming across as careful and calculating. He's coming across as a GM who has no clue what he's doing.

Sounds like Eric Gagne syndrome.

Throwing strikes is nice, but having a few more walks is a lot better than seeing more homeruns.

Jeff-- A couple points. I watch a lot of baseball and I've seen Gregg with multiple teams struggle with pressure, closing situations. He is more prone to giving up the long ball than Koji.

I think Gregg would be a wise acquisition as a guy who could do setup and closer if needed. But I would not promise him that he's going to be the closer. You reneg on that and you get a disgruntled ball player.

I'm sure Boston is not promising him that he will be their closer. But, there is a lot more to like about the Boston situation--i.e., favorites to win the AL East--than Baltimore's.

I would love to have Grant Balfour join the Orioles.

Orioles would too, but that Type A distinction doesn't help Balfour's case.

Seems silly to me to handcuff Buck, not to mention essentially placing blind faith in a guy that has an 80% success rate. Additionally, Gregg historically pitches better when not assured a closer seat. Let him move on. Free Agent Reliever supply exceeds demand.

Rather have Gregg as closer. Koji only throws 85 mph and will get lit up as teams face him multiple times.
Cant they do like in other sports...fight it out at spring training and the best man wins

Jeff -- I'd prefer Koji as closer, as long as he quits going so much with the high fastball. Yes, it can be effective, but not when hitters see it over and over.

I think when A-Rod and Swisher hit their jacks against him they had each seen about four or five consecutive heaters. This reflects badly on Wieters, too, but he's still learning. Koji's been around long enough to know that varying the plane of the ball can make a big difference, and if he mixes in that devasting sinker more often he can be extremely hard to hit.

This is something he proved very dramatically when he faced the Yankees in the series that followed the one where he got lit up. Instead of sticking with the fastball, he went mainly to the sinker and dominated them.

I think Showalter has demonstrated a adept handling of the bullpen that instantly felt different from what we had seen the last several years. Part of his philosophy seems to be in ignoring such things like who the designated "closer" is. He seems to go with who ever is the "right" guy in the right situation. Sometimes it happens to be the same guy in the 9th, but not always.

Getting Gregg would give the Orioles a formidable back end of the bullpen. Couple that with improved starting pitching from the kids, and you have a chance to be in every game, or almost every game.

If we will sign Gregg for 2 years at $10M, why not sign Soriano for 4 years at $20M?

Koji and Gonzo become setup.

Glad to see Koji back he will be a great asset for the birds. He is also a class act Koji always interacted with the fans on sunday home games even gave my 6 yr old son his warm up ball once. I pray he can stay healthy for a full season

Noooooooo. Gregg sucks eggs. He stinks, was one of the very worst closers in baseball last year. No good under pressure.

Please don't waste what little money the Orioles do deecide to spend on this guy.


Koji is the better pitcher, no doubt in my mind. Koji is also injured a lot, as every Orioles fan knows. I would love to see some healthy competition for that spot.

I would rather let Kevin go to Pittsburgh than guarantee him a closer spot here. I am much more comfortable with Koji in that role. But he is so injury prone, it would be great to have a quality option. We all remember the first three months of last year, with Koji and Gonzales both on the DL (or even worse, before Gonzales went there and was trying to close with an injury-aided 83-MPH fastball!!!)

Hey Jeff.

Could you see this happening. 7th Jim Johnson 8th Koji Uehara 9th Kevin Gregg

it is possible

Nobody, but nobody is going to tell Buck who to use as closer. He is a manager and he is in charge.

Believe me. The signing of Buck Showalter was the BEST signing of 2010.

Jeff, any idea how long this will take to be resolved and are we getting close to knowing who the first baseeman will be for next year? The Orioles had a good week so far- lets see if they can keep it up.

dont have a timeline

The orioles don't even have him yet. I think it was a solid if not above average score for Orioles this winter. They got much much better; with the addition of Adam and Gregg, maybe one solid starter, I think they can really compete. The redsox didn't really gain anything. THey lost just as much as they gained, the yanks are always adding something but they never really dominate as they should. If the Orioles can poerform at or near their career numbers, then I think the division could be up for grabs. They do need to add one solid pitcher plus some .500 guy.

I don't like Prince, he is not a long term investment. I would do what the giants did. pay for the pitching and add bunch of one year rentals and keep doign that. This year, it couls be vlad, Lee, etc.

Is there any chance that the orioles would at least be willing to talk to the rangers about Michael Young?

Guys, Koji could sprain his t'aint getting out of bed in the spring. We need bullpen arms. Sign the guy and it will sort itself out.

I think they should try to sign Gregg and have a closer by committee. I never did like a designated closer as everyone is not sharp everyday. That's old school baseball and nothing is wrong with going back to that. Uehara, Gregg, and Gonzalez would be a strong bullpen and we still have Johnson and Berken to throw in. I think they could convince Gregg to sign if he gets a chance to close some of the time. Buck used this formula for some time after he took over last year with some success.Sign Gregg, and LaRouche and I like our chances to compete, even in the East.

Greg: the "LaRoach" you refer to as playing in Pittsburgh under Russell is NOT the one we are after. That is his brother.
Jeff, with the possibility of still signing Itsuris & the trade with the Twins that just brought us another bench player...what becomes of Robert Andino...who I think is one pretty darn good player? Thanks.

Showalter likes Andino, but he is out of options and can elect free agency if he is taken off the 40-man and clears waivers. He'll likely go to camp with the Orioles but will have to win a job. As for LaRoche, you and Greg are both right. Adam, the one the Orioles want, played under Russell in Pittsburgh in 2008 and part of 2009. Andy played under Russell in parts of the past three seasons in Pittsburgh.

Correct me if I am wrong but hasn't Gregg lost the closing duties, at least for a portion of the season, at 2 or 3 different teams in a row? Downs and Frasor took over a lot of closing over the last two years in Toronto as he struggled and he lost the job to Marmol in Chicago maybe?

We signed a closer to a descent size contract last who couldn't hold on to his closer job with his last team.....that worked out really well didn't it.

Just wanted to add one more "Nut" to the discussion. Think of "The Fun" we would have at "The Yard" if we signed Grant Balfour. Fans are clamoring for him. I am clamoring for him! The clamoring is growing for Grant Balfour!
So what if we lose a draft choice for him.
Think of the Fun!

"Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi" Night
Olivia Newton John Night!

Come on Peter and Andy don't just think of "Dollar$ and $en$e"

"The Fun!"

Forget that, the days of giving people jobs b/c they demand them should be over. This guy isnt that great anyway, his career ERA is over 4

Sign Jon Rauch for 5 mill less per year, he's youger & just as good if not better....wake up Birds

Im sure the Gregg offer stood while waiting for Koji to make a decision. I doubt that the O's would be adding 8-10 million into a bloated bullpen anyways. No I dont see Gregg getting that offer from the O's right now. There are other relievers available for cheaper.

bullpen is critical, but Gregg isn't the answer.

Personally I prefer Bobby Jenks.

The Sox and M's have closers. The Nats and Pirates would be the only teams to give him the closer role. I like Gregg, but I don't think anyone should be anointed the closer in December so if he wants to come here and compete, fine, but if not so be it.

Balfour would cost the O's a pick at the bottom of the 2nd round? I would do it. I don't like giving away picks, but he is a damn good player in my book.

Isn't Dan Wheeler a FA? There's a guy who would be very good in the 7th or 8th.

Is this what O's fans have been reduced to...? Discussing options with free agents that haven't even signed with us yet.

Between Uehara and Gonzo, they don't need Gregg to close. But they could use him in the pen, for sure.

Any idea if they O's have looked into getting Napoli form the Angels. They supposedly tried during the season unsuccessfully. A good replacement for Tatum and/or Fox

Your third paragraph states the Gregg wants to close, and later states that the Red Sox are all in on Gregg. But the Red Sox already have Papelbon as their closer. Therefore your article contains an oxymoron.

Jeff Z's reply: He does want to close but he may be willing to take a lot of money to serve as a setup man on a team with World series aspirations.

No no don't get Gregg - he had a 1.57 WHIP last year vs lefties. Instead, get Crain and let Koji close. Don't make the same Gonzalez mistake 2 years in a row - yikes. Sign Crain for middle relief - he had only a 1.14 WHIP vs lefties which was even better than his 1.20 WHIP vs righty hitters. Sign Jesse Crain to solidify the bullpen, not Gregg.

Jeff Z's reply: He does want to close but he may be willing to take a lot of money to serve as a setup man on a team with World series aspirations.

Speaking of Aspirations:
What exactly are the Orioles aspirations for 2011? Pushing the Blue Jays into last place (5th) and we replace them for (4th). Oh how exciting! Unlike the "Rent" in New York City, those aspirations aren't very "High".

It really doesn't matter who the closer is, Buck hasn't named one since he took over the managerial duties. (wink-wink)

If you're Mariano Rivera, you can demand to be a closer. If you're Kevin Gregg (who?), you should consider yourself lucky to be considered for a major league roster spot.

The trouble with relievers is their stats may be skewed by partial innings and ERAs that mask the inherited runners galloping across the plate. Even negative stats are skewed as relievers are often asked to take on the best hitters in tense situations. A careful walk gets somewhat buried when a starter goes 6-1/3, but looks more pronounced if a reliever faced three hitters.

Closers have the added goofy stat -- saves. Whether talking about a raw number (he had x saves) or a ratio (he converted x saves in y opportunities), the premise of a save is fairly broad.

In order to get to the heart of a statistical save, a place to start is to examine how many outs are needed, and how many bases need to be advanced for the opposing team to score the tying run.

For example, if a closer starts the ninth with a lead, he needs three outs. If the closer has a two-run lead, he needs to avoid eight bases being advanced. The ratio for this save opportunity is 8:3.

If there's a runner on third, a one-run lead, and two outs the ratio is 1:1 If a closer enters the eighth with a runners on second and third, two outs and a two-run lead, the ratio is 3:4 because the runner on third needs to advance one base and the runner on second needs to advance two bases. (What happens in the ninth doesn't matter as long as the lead holds up.)

The higher the ratio (8:3 > 1:1 > 3:4), the easier the save opportunity.

From there one can see what ratios that closer was lights out, what ratios that closer was so-so, and what ratios he stank.

Of course, that takes research into each and every reliever in each and every game. On the other hand, the beauty of such a stat is that it can apply to all relievers entering a game with a lead and the save need not be defined. However, that opens the door for relievers who enter a game with a lead, leave the game with a lead, but didn't finish it. Those stats could be discarded with the stats of those entering a game that's tied or with that pitcher's team behind, or be tweaked to be more encompassing.

At the end of the day, I don't think anyone wants to put that much effort into the stats. Like the NFL evaluating teams based on yards, MLB is quite content in evaluating relievers by ERA and closers by the current save rule even though both sports are stat-driven and these stats are clearly flawed.

Gregg's situation ...

If you are being pursued by a number of teams, you may want some sort of assurance from a bad team that your job description has some extra substance to it. That happens in real life and it is clearly understandable Gregg tossed the O's that condition.

Chalk it up as another downside to making tiny improvements when you need sweeping improvements.

When money talks, it can be heard by those not receiving it, too. The Werth deal probably puts WSH ahead of BAL in the all else being equal scenario for Gregg.

Baseball is a marathon and 75% pitching. Innings eaters with good upsides Hernandez and Albers gone. Hendrickson gone. Top minor league arms Hoey, Egan, Mickolio gone. AM's Achilles heal may be a lack of respect for your own (grass always looks greener on the other side?). O's need a starter who is also comfortable in the pen, at least 3 more relievers. Any quality left in AAA/AA?

koji [stinks], gotta have a closer who can throw some heat, those junk pitches only work for so long

While a healthy Koji obviously doesn't stink, he's not a prototype closer. Forget about Gregg - another 7th-8th inning guy - break open the wallet and get Soriano. The O's can't afford to give away the 8 to 10 saves the other guys will blow. A dominant closer could be the difference between 70 and 85 wins.

The article was saying that Uehara throws strikes and doesn't walk people, not Gregg.

I doubt if Wood would sign with the O's. If he does be prepared for blown saves if he is the closer. See many three ball counts and walks. He has an excellent curve but many outings he cant throw it for a strike and hitters sit on his fastball. Seldom is he dominant
due to control issues.Pitched for tribe with limited success and is injury prone.

Seems like the jury says "no" to Gregg, and I have to go along with that. I think this is one case where a guy has closed, developed a rep as one, but hasn't been overly consistent while carrying that reputation. Let him get 30 saves of the Pirates 60 wins this year...Big Deal. We could use Power Arms like Balfour and Crain to mix in with a healthy Berkin, Gonzo, Johnson and Koji and we'll be just fine. Now, just sign LaRoche. Hopefully, what we are experiencing this week is the Lull Before the Storm, which is the LaRoche signing. Come on, AM...Balfour, Crain and LaRoche and we'll be more than competitive and fun to watch this year!!

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.

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