TORONTO - The Toronto Blue Jays parted ways with closer Kevin Gregg on Thursday night before acquiring catcher Miguel Olivo from the Colorado Rockies, only to cut him loose too in the hopes of getting a compensatory draft pick.
Both players are now free agents and the moves, combined with the looming departures of free agents Scott Downs, Jason Frasor and John Buck, put the Blue Jays in position to add seven draft picks within the top 45-50 selections if all five players sign elsewhere.
Early draft picks are a priority for general manager Alex Anthopoulos since they offer the best opportunities to obtain elite players, and his decisions to pay Gregg a US$750,000 buyout and Olivo a $500,000 buyout demonstrates the value he places on getting them.
The Olivo move also costs the Blue Jays a player to be named later or cash that they must send to the Rockies to complete the transaction. Anthopoulos wasn't available for comment Thursday night, and was scheduled to hold a conference call Friday morning.
Olivo, 32, had $2.5 million option for 2011 after batting .269 with 14 homers and 58 RBIs in 112 games, and is a Type B free agent, compensated by a draft pick between the first and second rounds.
That's the same return Gregg may fetch after both his $5.25-million option for 2011 and a two-year option worth US$9.5 million for the next two seasons were declined.
The six-foot-six right-hander recorded a career-high 37 saves last season in 43 chances, many of them an adventure. Overall he was 2-6 with a 3.51 earned-run average, although a point of concern was that the 32-year-old had an ERA of 7.90 with 16 walks in 13 2/3 innings when pitching on the second day of consecutive games.
But his departure leaves the Blue Jays with no clear successor for the role and now three of the team's most reliable relievers from 2010 — Gregg, Downs and Frasor — are all on the open market. Downs and Frasor are both Type A free agents, returning a first-round selection plus another between the first and second rounds should they sign with another club.
The arbitration-eligible Shawn Camp is the most tenured reliever due back in 2011, with Casey Janssen and David Purcey also holding some solid big-league experience.
Still, the Blue Jays clearly need help for a bullpen that ranked 10th in relief ERA in the American League last year.
Their catching situation also remains up in the air, with only Jose Molina and prospect J.P. Arencibia in the fold. Buck heads into free agency after an all-star season while Olivo has posted back-to-back solid years.
The Blue Jays must extend offers of arbitration to all their free agents in order to receive the draft-pick compensation. All are expected to decline.