When the Baltimore Orioles signed Kevin Gregg last offseason the move solicited a collective groan from the team’s few remaining fans. Sure, Gregg racked up 37 saves in 2010 for the Toronto Blue Jays and he had that all important American League East experience, but the idea of a second division club spending millions on a free agent closer and losing a draft pick in the process was asinine. When you consider that the closer in question came equipped with the nickname “Captain Chaos” the signing made even less sense.
After watching Gregg over the course of the Summer I can tell you that he likes 3-2 counts more than fat kids like cake and that “Captain Chaos” doesn’t begin to do his ninth inning high wire act justice. “Bozo the Closer” is a much more appropriate nickname. Luckily for Orioles fans Gregg is signed for 2012 and scheduled to make $5 million. Notice I said make, not earn.
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Apparently fed up with Gregg’s act manager Buck Showalter has turned to Jim Johnson as the team’s closer over the past few weeks. Johnson has long been Baltimore’s most effective reliever. Johnson did a fine job in his setup role but moving him to closer serves two purposes for the birds. The move maximizes Johnson’s current talent by moving him to a more prominent role while also improving his trade value in preparation of the Hot Stove League.
Showalter supposedly toyed with the idea of using Johnson as a starter over the season’s final month. He’s clearly thought better of that plan and is now employing Johnson in a way that maximizes his current talent and long term value. I expect to hear Johnson’s name swirl in trade talks this Winter as Baltimore seeks starting pitching and long term options at third base, second base and left field. If the Orioles deal Johnson they can just return Gregg to the closer role for which he’s already set to be paid handsomely in 2012. If there are no takers for Johnson then Buck can either try Johnson as a starter or move him back to the setup role and hold him in reserve for Gregg’s next meltdown.