Such is the state of the excellent and on-point Blue Jays blogosphere that often if you ain't first, you're last. I likely don't have any original "analysis" to add to the discussion, but hey - here you are and so am I, so read on.
Yes, the internets were scratching their collective heads on Tuesday when the word broke that the Jays had signed ex-Marlin and Cub closer Kevin Gregg. On the surface, the move is just that - a head scratcher. Standing alone, it's difficult to find the logic. Is Gregg really an upgrade over Jason Frasor? Scott Downs? Jeremy Accardo? Was there really a need to add another relief arm considering the club also has Shawn Camp, Brian Tallet, Josh Roenicke, Jesse Carlson, Dirk Hayhurst, Casey Janssen, Scott Richmond, Merkin Valdez, and rule-5 dude Zech Zinicola looking to eat some innings?
No, probably not. But there's the rub - it's probably unfair to judge this move on a stand-alone basis. Consider some possible scenarios:
(1) Anthopoulos has a deal in the works to trade one (or more) of the more notable bullpen arms - think Frasor, Downs, Accardo - thus the need for an experienced late-inning reliever to handle the 8th/9th. It's problematic in that it seems to be working backwards, but we've seen the domino-effect already this winter - the Jays/Phils/Mariners/A's deal as a prime example, and the Yankees/Tigers/Diamondbacks trade being another.
Lots of overly-optimistic speculation out there that the signing is a precursor to a deal to bring in the exciting young shortstop the club covets, but I'm not buying it. Young franchise shortstops aren't traded for spare bullpen parts - unless they're packaged with big-time talent. Which could happen, I suppose (lending credence to my oft-stated belief that a young starter is on the way out....), but I'm not holding my breath.
The question then becomes, who/what are the Jays targeting in return if the primary asset on the move is Frasor/Downs?
(2) As a Type-A free agent who wasn't offered arbitration, he comes to the Jays free of draft pick obligations, and the club hopes he holds that value throughout the season, effectively netting picks when he signs elsewhere in 2011. This can't be the primary motivation. Can't be. Way too risky, for a multitude of reasons.
For one, the Jays would have to offer arbitration to qualify for compensation, and the market clearly penalizes relievers designated with Type-A status. Gregg could very easily accept the arb, and the Jays are not only left pick-less, but with a contract (and player) they don't want. For two....do we really think Gregg can maintain that Type-A status? Type-B maybe, but that's a big to-do for a sandwich pick.
(3) The Jays are aware of the arbitration risk, and instead hope Gregg pitches well enough to garner interest at the trade deadline, netting prospects in return. If this is the case, I don't see how Gregg ups his value pitching in the AL East. Best case scenario, he hits the deadline being viewed as potential bullpen help for a contending team - who'd be willing to offer contract relief and not a lot more in return.
(4) Gregg has a nice enough arm, the Jays felt he was undervalued in the market, and it's a $2.75M play for bullpen depth. That can't be it, can it? The Jays have been stockpiling relief all winter, and it's not like Gregg suddenly became available. He's been out there all winter with nary a peep until, uh, now.
Something has to give. I've mentioned thirteen arms above vying for major league innings. Half of those will make the team (yes, 6.5 of them). It's not like the rest can all go straight to Vegas, leaving no room for other prospect arms and rehab stints.
Reviewing the possibilities, it seems there has to be something in the works, no? Forced to choose, I'd say more trades are coming. I just wouldn't get your hopes up on that franchise shortstop we all dream on....yet.