Another deal nobody saw coming, or at least not in this form.
The Cubs featured two of the best relievers in the league last season with Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood. Kevin Gregg is not quite at that level, in fact where as Marmol and Wood recorded over 40 leveraged runs saved, Gregg saved 20. That's a slight upgrade over Bobby Howry, who pitched more innings than Gregg, but finished with only 10 LRS, but then again, you have to consider Gregg's average leverage index was higher, after all he was the 9th inning guy in Florida. Gregg is apparently going to replace Wood at closer, which is a huge downgrade, probably worth two wins.
I have some questions about Gregg's 2009 performance as well. He has an impressive streak of four straight sub-4 FIP seasons under his belt, but I am concerned about his batted ball tendencies. Last year was the first time since 2005 that Gregg recorded more groundball outs than flyball outs. For his sake I hope he realizes how much more important this becomes as he moves from Dolphin Stadium (0.844 park factor for homeruns allowed) to Wrigley Field (1.163 park factor for homeruns allowed.) For a guy who saw a career low 4.4% of his flyballs become homeruns, I would get used to seeing quite a few more flying out of the ballpark.
Unfortunately for Gregg, keeping pitches low is one of the few factors he can control next season. Gregg has significantly outperformed his expected batting average on balls in play each of the last two seasons. Chicago had a defensive efficiency of .705 last season, second in the majors, which is an improvement of about .012 points over Florida's defense. The Cubs defense should pad a complete hits relapse, but it won't shelter him.
Jose Ceda is a soon-to-be 22 year old who split last season as a starter and reliever in Double-A Tennessee and Single-A Dayton. At Tennessee, Ceda posted a 2.76 tRA in 30 innings. Kevin Goldstein has him sitting anywhere from 94-98 with his fastball and good, if not consistent, slider. Odds are, Ceda will be in the majors as a reliever before 2009, and he very well could out pitch Gregg as soon as next August.
So what we're left with is the Cubs trading for a reliever unlikely to perform quite as well as he did in the past, trying to replace a significantly better reliever, and on top of it all trading someone who could be an equal within a single season. The best case scenario for Chicago would include Kerry Wood, but it seems the next best case is going to be Gregg posting a 4-ish FIP while not imploding enough to get ran out of town.
Oh, and the worst part is this is apparently all over saving a few million. I guess signing Jason Marquis and Kosuke Fukudome instead of using in-house replacements has some unwanted consequences.
Edit: Here's what I said a month ago about Gregg:
Kevin Gregg (ranks 81st in tRA for relievers)
Despite the nudge in walks and decrease in strikeouts Gregg has found a way to lower his homerun rates and maintains a solid FIP. He's not a bullpen ace, which is ironic because the Marlins knew as much when they made him into a closer, but he's not a bad pitcher either. Teams can do far, far worse in set-up roles than Gregg.
Does anyone think this is worth Ceda?