Jays Relievers Open-Minded As Free Agency Nears

Potential free agents sit down with MLBTR.

The numbers Kevin Gregg, Scott Downs and Jason Frasor have posted this year will look pretty good on the backs of their respective baseball cards. Gregg has a career high 35 saves with a 3.38 ERA and 9.3 K/9; Downs has a 2.73 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9; Frasor has a 3.75 ERA with 9.5 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9. But Downs says he looks for something else when evaluating his season.

“Staying healthy,” Downs said. “That’s the main thing. Staying healthy since it’s such a grind. It’s six months out of the year and your body goes through so much, so I think if you just prepare yourself mentally the best you can, if you stay together physically, things will take care of themselves.”

Gregg also evaluates his season primarily based on health.

“Being able to go out there all the time,” Gregg said. “That’s the biggest thing – being available to help out the team. And statistics, they all work out at the end of the year, but being available for the team sometimes is more important than the other stuff.”

The other stuff has worked out fairly well for all three potential free agents, but Frasor thinks he could have pitched better.

“It’s been kind of a roller coaster year actually, and it’s definitely finishing better than it started,” he said. “Looking back, I think I’ve done some of the dumbest things I’ve done, [made] some of the worst pitches. I made some terrible decisions along the way [and] I’ve really gotten burned. But I like my stuff right now and my arm feels good, so it’s been a good year as far as that’s concerned, but it didn’t start out good by any means. It wasn’t pretty.”

Frasor walked nearly a batter per inning in April and posted an 8.38 ERA through the season’s first month, but he recovered from his turbulent start and put together a fine year. With a week remaining in the regular season, he tentatively calls 2010 a success.

“If you had asked me a month ago, no, I’d have said ‘no, it’s not a success,’ but in a lot of ways it is,” Frasor said. “I don’t want to say too much because a lot can happen in this last week, I mean I could give up two grand slams in this last week and then everything’s totally messed up, but as of right now, I’m OK.”

Good health and solid performances aren’t the only things unifying the relievers; all three could become free agents this winter. They are well-acquainted with the rumor mill, so it’s no surprise that the trio takes a laid-back stance to their upcoming free agency. Frasor, who will hit the open market for the first time, says he’s open-minded about his future.

“I’m really not that picky, as long as I’m not back in the New York Penn League or Korea or something,” Frasor said. “I love Toronto, been here for seven years, I have a lot of roots here, so I’m open to coming back.”

Frasor pitched in the New York Penn League when he was a member of the Tigers organization, but that was way back in 1999. Now, he intends to relax once the season ends instead of worrying about his next team. Like Frasor, Downs plans to wait a while before thinking much more about his future.

“Once the World Series is over, I think I’ll sit down with my family, sit down with the people who I need to talk to and hopefully we’ll figure it out from there,” Downs said. 

And the longtime Blue Jay would like to stay in Toronto if the organization wants him back.

“Hopefully there’s a team out there and I would love to come back here,” Downs said. “I’ve been here, like Frasor said, we’ve been together for six years and this is the home away from home for both of us and to say that we wouldn’t want to come back here would be lying. It’s a great city; it’s a great organization.”

Both Frasor and Downs currently project as Type A free agents, so they could see offers of arbitration from the Blue Jays. The team would stand to gain top draft picks if the pitchers turn down arbitration and sign elsewhere, so there’s reason to believe the Blue Jays will think hard about making such offers. 

When GM Alex Anthopoulos held on to Downs, Frasor, Gregg, John Buck and Lyle Overbay at the July 31st trade deadline, he maintained that the team would consider offering arbitration to departing free agents. The players could accept the offers and return to Toronto on one-year deals, but they could just as easily seek multi-year contracts, since they’re playing well and have stayed healthy so far.

Gregg currently projects to be a Type B free agent, but he won’t necessarily hit the open market. The Blue Jays have two options for the right-hander (one for 2011 and one for 2011-12), so his future depends on the Blue Jays’ decision.

“I’m assuming at some point I’ll sit down with Alex [Anthopoulos] and we’ll talk about next year and what is to come,” Gregg said. “But it’s kind of nice because I don’t have to think about it. I’ve just got to wait for him to make his decision, the organization to make their decision before I’ve got to deal with anything.”

Gregg is prepared to hit the open market again and he looks ahead to the possibility without being excited or apprehensive. At this point, he says free agency is just a part of the job.

“It is what it is,” he said. “Been through it already, so I know what to expect, which makes it easier, but it’s a process to go through. You’ve got a lot of conversations to go through and sometimes that gets pretty monotonous, but you deal with it as it comes.”

This offseason, Gregg, Downs and Frasor are likely to see their share of offers. And, fingers crossed, none of the three will end up pitching in the New York Penn League any time soon.

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