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Luke Gregerson and the Blue Jays: BBB Staff Free Agent Picks

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He can come as long as he brings his silly little moustache.

Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports.

It's funny how much things can change in a year. For example, the pizza place down the street changed the price of a pepperoni slice from $3.00 to $3.50. Absurd.

Things in the sports world change too! Last year around this time, the biggest issue for the Blue Jays, aside from the perpetual black holes at second base and catcher, appeared to be the rotation. In 2013, Toronto Blue Jays starters were 19th in WAR, 25th in ERA (just ahead of the Mariners), 28th in FIP, 29th in HR/9, etc., etc. In short, they were bad, and it was an area of definite weakness.

In comparison, this past season, in the same categories, Blue Jays starters ranked 7th in WAR, 22nd in ERA, err, 20th in FIP, uh...17th in...HR/9...huh. Anyway they've replaced the likes of Dustin McGowan, Todd Redmond, and oft-injured Brandon Morrow with Marcus Stroman and a seemingly improved J.A. Happ. Hey speaking of Todd Redmond, let's go to the bullpen!

In 2013 the bullpen was good--9th in ERA, 8th in WAR, etc. Good enough to get the job done, anyway. You had guys like Steve Delabar (55 G, 3.22 ERA), Aaron Loup (64 G, 2.47 ERA), and Casey Janssen (56 G, 2.56 ERA) being complimented by guys like Brett Cecil (60 G, 2.82 ERA) and Sergio Santos (29 G, 1.75 ERA). As a whole in 2013 the bullpen had a WPA of 3.59.

In 2014, the WPA from the bullpen fell to 0.91, good for 20th place in baseball. As a contrast, the best bullpen in the majors, that of the Royals, had a WPA of 7.64.

To briefly summarize 2014:

  • Casey Janssen was hurt, and then very good, and then got food poisoning, and then very bad
  • Aaron Loup and Brett Cecil were very good
  • Sergio Santos took an overdose of nerve tonic resulting in gigantism
  • Steve Delabar was too busy rescuing a woman and all her possessions from a house fire
  • Todd Redmond was a very effective long man and then provided a 4.50 ERA in the second half
  • Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris came up towards the end of the year and that was very exciting

Here is how the bullpen shapes up (courtesy of the great @MLBDepthCharts) as of right now, the opening stages of the offseason:

  • Closer: Brett Cecil
  • Setup men: Aaron Sanchez, Aaron Loup
  • Middle relief: Steve Delabar, Marco Estrada, Rob Rasmussen
  • Long man: Todd Redmond
  • Lying about: Chad Jenkins, Kyle Drabek, Liam Hendriks, Daniel Norris, Sean Nolin

Change the order and duties as you will, but the weakness seems to be reliable right-handed options. With Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup you have two very effective lefties, but the combination of Delabar, Estrada, and Redmond does not leave a pleasant feeling.

With that outstanding reasoning, here is where Luke Gregerson fits!

First off, some stats from last year: 72.1 IP, 2.12 ERA, 3.24 FIP, 0.75 HR/9, 82.3% strand rate, 52.2% ground balls, 9.1% HR/FB rate.

In 2014 Gregerson relied predominantly on his slider, throwing it 47% of the time, while supplementing with his sinker (42%), changeup (6%) and four-seam fastball (3%). Does this add to 100% Who knows!?

Here is his slider in action:

It's a nice slider. In 2014 Gregerson threw it 482 times, generating a 21% whiff rate. Here is an event breakdown on his sliders from this past season.

Gregerson spent last year playing for the Oakland A's at the O.co Coliseum, a stadium that boasts a park factor of 1.023. This falls directly ahead of (or, behind, depending on your perspective) Rogers Centre's park factor of 1.042. Both parks tend to favorite the hitter.

In this sense, you would not expect his overall numbers to fall by much when going from the seemingly hitter-friendly O.co Coliseum to the definitely hitter-friendly Rogers Centre. However, the biggest difference between the two parks is the home run factor. In 2014, there were 186 home runs hit at the Rogers Centre, against 139 at O.co.

So the worry is that Gregerson and his fly ball rate of 32.5% would result in more home runs at the Rogers Centre when comparing to the expansive O.co Coliseum. However Gregerson also has a nice K/BB rate of 3.93. The only reliever on the Jays last year with a number that good was Casey Janssen (4.00), but he's gone. Next in line was Chad Jenkins at 3.00.

Essentially the reasoning here is that the Blue Jays need a reliable right-handed reliever and Luke Gregerson is exactly that. MLB Trade Rumors has a prediction of him going to the White Sox but speculates that the Blue Jays will be one of the teams with heavy interest.

Gregerson could command a contract similar to Joe Smith's deal with the Angels last year at $15.75M over three years, or Jeremy Affeldt's re-up with the Giants from 2012 at $18M over three years, or even Zach Duke's three years $15M. I would place Gregerson somewhere in between those deals, and estimate three years and $16.5M.