Luke Gregerson Rumors

Red Sox Links: Lester, Masterson, Gregerson

Could Jon Lester end up back with the Red Sox after all?  “A well-connected baseball executive who has had conversations on the subject with the Red Sox” predicted to ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes that Lester would indeed re-sign with his old team.  The exec thought the Sox could be willing to relax their policy against signing pitchers in their 30’s to long-term contracts by offering Lester a six-year deal worth at least $20MM per season.  Unless Lester is still willing to give the Sox a bit of a discount, I would think it’ll take a lot more than six years/$120MM to outbid the field for Lester’s services — MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicted Lester would receive, at minimum, a six-year, $147MM contract this winter.  If the Red Sox were willing to give Lester a six/$120MM deal, I would think they would’ve just offered him that deal in extension talks last winter and avoided this entire situation.

Here’s some more from Fenway Park….


Free Agent Profile: Luke Gregerson

Luke Gregerson has been one of baseball’s top setup men since his 2009 rookie season, and he posted a career-best 2.12 ERA this year.  Interest will be strong on the 30-year-old, who will be seeking the first multiyear deal of his career.

Strengths/Pros

Among American League relievers with at least 60 innings, Gregerson’s 2.12 ERA this year ranked 12th.  Among free agents, only Pat Neshek and Andrew Miller did better.  In Gregerson’s six big league seasons, his highest ERA was 3.24 in his rookie campaign.  He’s posted an ERA of 2.75 or lower in each of the past four seasons.  From 2009-14 among relievers with at least 350 innings, Gregerson’s 2.75 ERA ranks fourth in baseball.  He’s been a model of consistent excellence in the late innings, using his slider often to stymie hitters even if they know it’s coming.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Oakland AthleticsIn San Diego, Gregerson paired up with closers Heath Bell and Huston Street for five years, and he’s never received more than 13 save opportunities in a season.  Instead, he racks up holds like no other.  According to MLB.com, a hold is given if “a reliever comes into a game to protect a lead, gets at least one out and leaves without giving up that lead.”  Gregerson led all of baseball from 2009-14 with 154 holds.

Gregerson walked only 5.3% of the batters he faced this year, a career best.  Only 13 relievers showed better control this year, and only Neshek and Koji Uehara are free agents.  Gregerson’s 52.2% groundball rate was also a career-best, and the figure ranked 11th in the AL.  Gregerson has been consistently tough to hit throughout his career, allowing fewer than 7.5 hits per nine innings in every season except 2011.  His career batting average on balls in play of .267 is a big part of his success (more on that later).

Gregerson will not turn 31 until May next year.  Only a handful of Gregerson’s fellow relievers on the free agent market are that young, and none of them have a track record close to his.  One benefit Gregerson should have over free agent reliever David Robertson: he’s not going to receive a qualifying offer.

Gregerson comes with a remarkably clean bill of health, having only hit the DL twice in his career.  He missed 25 games in 2009 for shoulder inflammation and another 25 in 2011 for an oblique strain.  His 419 1/3 relief innings from 2009-14 rank second in baseball, behind only Tyler Clippard.

Weaknesses/Cons

Drafted in the 28th round in 2006 by the Cardinals, velocity has never been Gregerson’s calling card.  He broke in throwing around 91 miles per hour, and now he’s down to 88.4.  Only three relievers threw slower in 2014, and two of them are sidearmers.

Gregerson struck out 7.3 batters per nine innings in 2014, his worst mark aside from his 2011 season, which was marred by an oblique strain.  The average AL reliever this year whiffed 8.3 per nine.  It should also be noted that Gregerson’s success has come in both leagues, but always in pitcher-friendly home parks.  For his career, he has a 2.02 ERA at home and a 3.60 mark on the road.  The key differences are a much higher home run per flyball rate and batting average on balls in play on the road.

Gregerson threw his famed slider about 46% of the time in 2014, a rate topped by only three relievers.  He was the game’s most slider-dependent regular reliever in 2012-13, throwing it 63% of the time.  It’s possible heavy slider usage leads to increased injury risk.  However, Gregerson has a strong track record of health, and noted to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle in March that he turns his wrist less than most pitchers and his elbow has never bothered him.

Personal

Born in Park Ridge, Illinois, Gregerson resides in Chicago in the offseason.  He attended St. Xavier University in Chicago and grew up rooting for the Cubs and White Sox, according to a 2009 interview.  For a look at how the 28th round pick found his way to the Majors, check out Jeff Passan’s article for Yahoo from 2010.

Gregerson is a board member of Struggling Youth Equals Successful Adults, which aids foster kids in transitioning to adulthood.  In September 2012, Gregerson was the Padres’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award for all his volunteer efforts.

Market

As a Chicago guy, Gregerson might welcome a chance to pitch for the White Sox if they make a competitive offer.  Sox GM Rick Hahn made it clear in September that he aims to “acquire multiple options” for his pen this winter.  Other speculative suitors: the Tigers, Dodgers, Astros, Rockies, Rangers, Nationals, Yankees, and Red Sox.  It is certainly possible that Gregerson could be signed to take on a closer role.

Aside from Gregerson, the best names on the free agent relief market are David Robertson, Andrew Miller, Jason Grilli, Sergio Romo, Francisco Rodriguez, Koji Uehara, Casey Janssen, Rafael Soriano, and Pat Neshek.  That’s a lot of competition, and you don’t want to be the reliever left standing in January after the music has stopped.

Expected Contract

From last offseason, three contracts come to mind as comparables for Gregerson: Javier Lopez ($13MM), Joe Smith ($15.75MM), and Boone Logan ($16.5MM).  From the previous offseason, notable deals include Brandon League ($22.5MM), Jeremy Affeldt ($18MM), and Jonathan Broxton ($21MM).  All of those deals were for three years, and that is the expectation for Gregerson.  Five of the six were signed before December, so it would be wise for Gregerson’s agent Tom O’Connell to act early.

You’ll notice that the average annual values from last offseason were about 20% lower than the 2012-13 period, even if we exclude Lopez on account of being older and an extreme lefty specialist.  Some of that may be a function of Broxton and League having 111 and 60 career saves, respectively, but it could be a sign that teams backed off on reliever salaries.  Plus, League isn’t the best example, as that deal was viewed as questionable for the Dodgers before the ink had dried.  On the other hand, Gregerson’s consistent success led to him setting the arbitration market for his ilk, along with Robertson, so it’s possible a team could like him enough to set a new setup man precedent by giving an $8MM AAV or a fourth year.  The four-year deal for setup men seems to have died out with Scott Linebrink and Justin Speier six to seven years ago.

Ultimately, I think Gregerson will sign a three-year, $20MM deal.


A’s Avoid Arbitration With Gregerson, Lowrie

12:01pm: The A's have also avoided arbitration with shortstop/second baseman Jed Lowrie, tweets Sherman. Lowrie will earn a $5.25MM salary in 2014. Lowrie is a client of CAA's Brodie Van Wagenen.

Acquired from the Astros in exchange for Chris Carter, Max Stassi and Brad Peacock prior to the 2013 season, Lowrie is entering his second season with the A's. He's eligible for free agency following this year and had been projected to earn $4.8MM by Swartz.

11:52am: The A's have dodged arbitration with righty Luke Gregerson by agreeing to terms on a one-year deal worth $5.065MM, per the New York Post's Joel Sherman (on Twitter). Gregerson is a client of O'Connell Sports Management.

Gregerson was acquired from the Padres this offseason in a one-for-one swap for Seth Smith. One of the game's premier setup men, he's likely next in line behind Jim Johnson for saves in Oakland. The right-hander was projected to earn $4.9MM, according to MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. Gregerson is eligible for free agency following the 2014 season.



Padres, A’s Swap Luke Gregerson For Seth Smith

The Athletics announced that they have traded outfielder Seth Smith to the Padres in exchange for right-hander Luke Gregerson in a one-for-one swap.

Smith, 31, batted .253/.329/.391 with eight home runs in 410 plate appearances for Oakland this season. Always a better hitter against right-handed pitching, he continued that trend in 2013, posting a .748 OPS against right-handers and just a .621 mark against lefties. For his career, Smith has mashed right-handers to the tune of a .279/.357/.487 batting line. Smith's defense in left field has consistently graded out as a positive (+7.7 UZR/150, +2 Defensive Runs Saved), but he's limited to a corner position and hasn't received great marks in right field.

MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected Smith to earn $4.3MM this offseason in his final round of arbitration. He's eligible for free agency next winter.

Gregerson, 29, is also a free agent following this season and projected to earn a comparable $4.9MM salary, per Swartz. He enjoyed yet another strong season in the Padres' bullpen last year, pitching to a 2.71 ERA with 8.7 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 45.5 percent ground-ball rate. Gregerson is the second high-profile reliever added by the A's in the past 24 hours, as GM Billy Beane also acquired Jim Johnson from the Orioles last night.

The trade was first reported by Oakland-area blogger Chris Kusiolek (on Twitter).


Padres To Keep Gregerson

The latest on the Padres, who host the Reds today 20 minutes prior to the trade deadline…

Earlier Updates


Relief Rumors: Lopez, Gregerson, Thatcher, Red Sox

Less than one day remains until the trade deadline, and relievers have been the most moved commodity in recent days, with Scott Downs, Jose Veras, Jesse Crain and Marc Rzepczynski all changing teams. Here's more on the relief market…

  • The Tigers remain open to adding relief help and have expressed interest in Javier Lopez, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter). It seems that Detroit isn't necessarily set in the bullpen department after adding Veras yesterday.
  • Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets that the Indians called the Giants about Lopez but the talks ended quickly when San Francisco asked for top prospect Danny Salazar in return.
  • The Padres are listening on both Luke Gregerson and Joe Thatcher, but they'd need to be "inspired" to move either pitcher, according to ESPN's Buster Olney (Twitter link).
  • Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reported earlier today the Red Sox still consider bullpen help as a high priority (Twitter link). However, the team acquired Jake Peavy and Brayan Villarreal earlier tonight, so that may no longer be a need. Villarreal could slot into Boston's bullpen, and the Sox could also push Brandon Workman to the bullpen, as Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe noted (on Twitter).

Bullpen Notes: Papelbon, Nathan, Tigers, Padres

Closer Jonathan Papelbon is dissatisfied with the Phillies' current direction, MLB.com's Todd Zalecki reports. In the midst of an eight-game losing streak, Philadelphia has fallen to seven games below .500, and that's not what Papelbon anticipated when he signed with the Phils. "I definitely didn't come here for this," he says. He also doesn't sound optimistic when asked about the Phillies' future. "Oh man," he says. "We could be here all day."

Papelbon is of the opinion that the Phillies need to undergo an overhaul, similar to that of his former team, the Red Sox (whose overhaul, ironically, included losing Papelbon to free agency). He says he does not want to be traded, but adds that he does not want to stay in Philadelphia if his team continues on the same path.


Luke Gregerson Drawing Significant Interest

3:11pm: MLB.com's Corey Brock writes that the Padres are seeking controllable young pitching in trades, and Gregerson is receiving the most interest from other clubs currently. Gregerson tells Brock that he's not paying attention to the rumors swirling around his name and is just "living for today" and enjoying his time with the Padres.

12:50pm: The Padres are receiving a lot of interest in Luke Gregerson, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. He adds that more teams are calling the Padres about Gregerson than they are about closer Huston Street.

That teams are more interested in Gregerson than Street isn't much of a surprise, given Gregerson's stronger numbers and cheaper price tag. While Street is earning $7MM in 2013 and again in 2014 (with a $7MM club option for 2015), Gregerson is earning just $3.2MM this season after his second year of arbitration eligibility. He will be arb-eligible once more this offseason before hitting free agency in the 2014-15 offseason.

Gregerson, 29, has a 2.98 ERA with 7.9 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 and a 46.7 percent ground-ball rate in 42 1/3 innings this season. He drew significant interest from the Tigers during Spring Training, with Detroit reportedly offering Rick Porcello in exchange for Gregerson (though GM Dave Dombrowski refuted that claim). More recent reports suggest that the Tigers are showing "continued interest" in San Diego's setup man.


Stark On Gregerson, Phils, Norris, Santana, Gonzalez

In his latest edition of Rumblings & Grumblings, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com spoke with Skip Schumaker, who wants to see MLB really amp up the penalties for PED use.  "The players are in favor of stricter penalties. No doubt," Schumaker said. "And they're also in favor of voiding contracts. Not that I can speak for everybody. I can't. But let's just say that a few of my good friends are high-profile players, and they're in favor of cleaning up the game."  Here's more from Stark's column..

  • An exec who speaks frequently with the Phillies says they have talked a lot with the Padres about a deal that could send Luke Gregerson and an outfielder to Philadelphia for a package of young players.  However, the Phillies appear to be looking for deals that wouldn't require parting with their most advanced prospects.  Earlier today, we heard that Gregerson is drawing significant interest.
  • Gregerson also appears to be at the top of the list for the Tigers.  However, it's going to take at least one big league-ready young player who projects as an immediate contributor for the Padres, in part because Gregerson is under club control for next season.
  • While the discussion around the Phillies is framed as a black-and-white decision between buying and selling, execs of two clubs say they're mostly trying to position themselves for the future without giving up on 2013.
  • The Braves are more interested in the starting pitcher market than they were before Tim Hudson's injury, but they're no more likely to pay the price for a Jake Peavy, Ervin Santana, Yovani Gallardo or Kyle Lohse.  An official of one team who spoke with the Braves said they'd be open to a modest deal similar to their deal for Paul Maholm last year, but they're "not going to trade Alex Wood for any of the guys on this market."  Earlier today, MLB.com's Mark Bowman offered a different take, reporting that the Braves are looking at front-line hurlers.
  • Three clubs with interest in the Astros' Bud Norris tell Stark that they have a feeling that Houston may just be gauging the hurler's trade value and could be waiting to move him this winter.  Those execs said it reminds them of how the Rays used to gauge interest in pitchers like Matt Garza and James Shields in July so they could focus on those teams' systems before dealing them the following offseason.
  • Clubs that have checked in with the Royals say Santana is only available for a huge payout.  The Royals have openly told the shoppers they've talked to that the only way they'll move Santana is if they "win the deal," and that means they want a second baseman and/or right fielder who can start for them in 2014.  Despite their situation, the Royals are telling everyone their priority is to win as many games as possible this season, not cut payroll.
  • Clubs that are in on Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez seem to think that the Red Sox are the favorite because they like the idea of spending money on a big-league-ready guy more than overpaying in prospects for a strong pitcher on the trade market.  One exec says that he should be in the big leagues by September and be a rotation regular next year.
  • The Pirates might not be as focused on Alex Rios as they've been portrayed.  Rios' contract, which would increase his base salary to $13MM next season if he's traded, doesn't fit into their payroll.  On top of that, other scouts say Bucs scouts have questioned Rios' effort.  Stark says Justin Morneau, who they've inquired on, is a name to file away.  Even though they'd prefer a right-handed bat who could play right field, they could move Garrett Jones back to right if they deal for a first baseman.

Steve Adams contributed to this post.


Padres Notes: Gregerson, Marquis, Trades

There may be almost as many scouts as fans in the stands for the Padres' four-game series in Milwaukee this week.  FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi (Twitter links) reports that scouts from the Tigers, Braves, Phillies, Dodgers and Pirates are all in attendance to watch the two struggling NL clubs, possibly in order to scout both teams' top relievers.  The Brewers moved Francisco Rodriguez today but don't seem eager to deal any other relievers, while the Padres have yet to dip their toe into the trade waters.  Here's the latest out of San Diego…

  • The Tigers "are showing continued interest" in acquiring Luke Gregerson, Morosi reports (via Twitter).  Detroit has arguably the biggest need for bullpen help of any contender and Gregerson's name was linked to the Tigers in trade talks last winter.  The righty has a 2.85 ERA, 7.9 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 41 IP this season.
  • Gregerson has received the most trade interest of any Padres player, Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes.  Center runs through the list of Padres trade candidates in order of outside interest, ending with Edinson Volquez, who has been drawing fewer and fewer scouts to his starts. 
  • Jason Marquis had received virtually no trade interest, Center reports, though it's a moot point now since the veteran right-hander will miss the rest of the season after suffering a complete tear of the UCL in his right elbow.  Despite the severity of the injury, Padres manager Bud Black tells MLB.com's Corey Brock that he thinks Marquis isn't willing to retire.  "I think, as of right now, he plans on pitching again," Black said. "I think he wants to come back and compete."
  • We heard earlier today from Morosi that the Braves were interested in Joe Thatcher.