The Marlins further lightened their wallet by trading Kevin Gregg to the Chicago Cubs. But they added ballast to their roster by obtaining 275-pound minor-league reliever Jose Ceda in return.
Continuing their flurry of offseason trades, the cost-driven Marlins saved themselves more millions on Thursday by trading Gregg to the Cubs for Ceda in a swap of relievers, one a veteran who stands to make more than $4 million next season and the other a prospect who is trying to work his way up to the majors.
"Jose is a big, strong kid with a real live arm,” Larry Beinfest, the Marlins' president of baseball operations, said in a press release. “We think he can help us in the back end of our bullpen in the very near future, if not right away. We also want to thank Kevin for his two seasons with us. He did a great job for us and we wish him the best.”
Ceda, 21, was ranked by Baseball America as the fourth top prospect in the Cubs' organization in 2008. Last season, he went 2-2 with a 4.80 ERA at Single A Daytona and 2-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 22 relief appearances for Double A Tennessee.
The Marlins have been actively shopping Gregg, who stands to receive more than $4 million next season through salary arbitration. Matt Lindstrom is the current frontrunner to take over the closer's role next season.
Gregg, who has been the Marlins' closer the past two seasons, totaled 61 saves for the Marlins in 2007 and '08. But his nine blown saves last season was tied for most in the majors, and Gregg lost his ninth-inning role in September after missing time with patella tendinitis in his left knee.
He had surgery on the knee nearly three weeks ago and is expected to be ready for spring training.
"They went in and had to remove part of the patella tendon that was damaged during the season because I had actually torn part of it," Gregg said. "(The doctor said) it was something that had to be done and was surprised I played on it. I didn't hobble around for no reason. My knee already feels better now than it did the whole year."
Gregg was not surprised by the trade, and said he was happy to be going to the Cubs. He said he had not yet been told what his role would be with the reigning NL East champions. Gregg was the fourth arbitration-eligible player the Marlins have traded since the end of the season. First baseman Mike Jacobs was dealt to the Kansas City Royals at the end of October while outfielder Josh Willingham and pitcher Scott Olsen were packaged to the Washington Nationals earlier this week.
"I think I got the better draw on the whole thing," joked Gregg when comparing his new club to the Royals and Nationals, perennial losers.
The Cubs had reason to be interested in Gregg. He owns four saves in four career relief appearances at Wrigley Field and has six saves in eight total relief appearances against the Cubs in his career.
"I've had a couple of good experiences there," Gregg said. "I've always enjoyed the Cubs as an organization. But I'm always excited to be able to put the uniform on, no matter what city it’s in."
Ceda was considered to have one of the best arms in the Cubs organization. Scouting reports say that while his change-up needs work, he throws a hard slider and a fastball that approaches 100 miles per hour. He has averaged more than 11 strikeouts per nine innings during his three seasons in the minors.
But his size -- he is 6-4 and weighs 275 pounds -- has raised eyebrows. His minor-league teammates fined him $10 in a kangaroo court for asking a young boy at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter to buy him ice cream when Daytona played there last summer.
Ceda, from the Dominican Republic, was originally signed by the San Diego Padres but was traded in 2006 to the Cubs for Todd Walker.
NON-TRADE MARLINS NEWS: Hanley Ramirez won the Silver Slugger Award as the National League's top hitting shortstop. The awards were announced today. Ramirez becomes the fourth Marlin to win a Silver Slugger, joining Gary Sheffield (1993 and '96), Mike Lowell (2003) and Miguel Cabrera (2005 and '06).