Luke Gregerson was solid in his first year as a full-time closer, saving 31 games in 36 chances with a 3.10 ERA and a 59/10 K/BB ratio in 61 innings for the Astros last season. But this offseason, the Astros acquired the hard-throwing Ken Giles from the Phillies and Gregerson showed up to camp with a sore left oblique, as Evan Drellich reported for the Houston Chronicle. Still, Gregerson doesn’t see any reason why his grip on the closer’s role should be any weaker, per MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart:
“I don’t see any reason why I should lose my job because of it,” he said. “I was pretty happy with how things went last year. I think it could have went even better, just a few outings here and there [were rough]. We’ll just move forward and see where it takes us.”
The Astros haven’t officially named a closer yet. The expectation is that Giles will be named a closer, but there is some incentive for the Astros to keep Giles in the eighth inning. The club is already locked into paying Gregerson $6.25 million this season as well as next season. Giles can become eligible for arbitration after the 2017 season. If he spends the next two seasons succeeding in the closer’s role and racking up saves, he’ll become quite expensive for the Astros. He’ll be much less expensive if he sets up for Gregerson in 2016 and/or ’17 because a lot of arbitration arguments, for better or for worse, hinge on save totals.
Perhaps this argument is something that can be quelled with the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. Teams have an incentive to keep the best guy out of the spotlight, and that’s bad for the game.