How Baseball Works

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Fan memories are a bit strange.  The news came in today that the Cubs signed Kevin Gregg to a minor-league deal.  That usually wouldn’t mean much except for the part where 1. Kevin Gregg used to be a Cub, and a particularly unliked one due to his string of blown saves and 2. Kevin Gregg has not been all that good since.  Gregg did have a fairly decent 2010 season in Toronto, but as with most relief pitchers not named Mariano Rivera, reliever production is very volatile and subject to freakish fluctuations.

The other interesting thing that I thought about was the guy who replaced Gregg as the closer in 2009, one Carlos Marmol.  Every Cubs fan was ecstatic that Marmol was the closer then, and these days…well, I don’t have to tell you about that.  But this story isn’t about Marmol.

You see, Kevin Gregg was only signed to a minor-league deal.  In his career, Kevin Gregg has banked about $20MM (before taxes and shopping sprees) so I think he’s doing okay for himself.  The minor league thing suggests that he’s going to just get worked out in Arizona for a bit before he heads to Iowa to join the I-Cubs and try to resurrect his career.  Gregg is 35 this year and he doesn’t have a lot of time.  Then again, Shawn Camp is about 90 years old and is part of the new Cubs closer-by-committee, so who knows.

The point is that there are only 25 spots available on the major league active roster (26 for select doubleheaders) and Kevin Gregg won’t be guaranteed any one of those 25 spots with his new deal.  In the minors, you always need depth because games still need to be played even if they technically don’t count in the grand scheme of things.  Developing players have to play against decent competition to get ready for their first cups of coffee, and teams need a way to evaluate rebound players to see whether they can snag value where they can.  Each MLB club has several layers of minor league depth, and each layer uses up about 25 spots, so that’s a lot of depth to cover, and the club has to fill those spots affordably.

So how much are the Cubs paying to give Kevin Gregg a spot on their I-Cubs squad without guaranteeing that we’ll see him blow a save at Wrigley Field? Well, we can look at certain reports and realize…hey, it’s really not that much.  Sure, nobody likes Kevin Gregg, but the fact is that over a ten-year major league career, Gregg was an above-average reliever who struck out a lot of guys and had a fairly good (not spectacular) ERA.  Maybe the Cubs get lucky and good Gregg shows up.  Maybe Gregg just sucks and his career is over or he moves on to another organization.  Either way, the Cubs basically spent less than $50K (probably) to see what they still had in this guy.  And when you take into account how much baseball players make (league minimum being $500K or so), it’s really not that much for a shot in the dark.

I’m sure we’ll live.

By the way, regarding a guy who is ACTUALLY going to be in the bullpen because Cubs keep hurting themselves


 Loe isn’t a horrible guy to have, and the last guy the Cubs claimed off the Mariners actually was…Shawn Camp. He turned out okay. A little faith never hurts, especially when it comes cheap.

About Rice Cube

Rice Cube is the executive vice president of snark at World Series Dreaming. He loves all things Cubs, with notable exceptions (specifically, the part of Cubs fandom that pisses him off). Follow on Twitter at cubicsnarkonia

One Reply to “How Baseball Works”

  1. I should have done this in the preseason, but I’ll say it now: Despite our flaws and TERRIBLE fundamentals, this team fights and makes games close more often than not. I predict them to lose the one-run games in the league. Heart-breaking, but getting there.

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