News and Notes

By: Big Rygg

There are two newsbites that I want to make sure I touch on.
First, Corey Hart agreed to a one-year contract for $3.25 million that avoided what was looking like the first arbitration hearing in the Doug Melvin era as general manager.
This is a good thing for a couple of reasons. The dollar amount is less than Hart could have been awarded had the deal gone to arbitration (not that I think he would’ve won that case), and it lets Hart just play baseball this year.
Also, Hart avoids the dreaded arbitration hearing where it is the team’s task, nay responsibility, to tear the player down and point out every shortcoming in an effort to have the arbiters choose the team’s submitted dollar figure over that of the player.
Hart seemed to struggle enough mentally during the second half of last year. Many times after waving over a pitch low and away it looked like he had resigned himself to always swinging and missing at that pitch. A multi-hour tear down session reminding him of that horrible stretch of games not to mention bringing things up that he had probably already forgotten about from other times in the season…..well, that wouldn’t be very productive for your 20/20 guy, would it?
The other newsworthy item that I want to talk about today is the team’s surprise move to resign relief pitcher Eric Gagné to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training.
After being courted this offseason, most notably by the Minnesota Twins who had a deal in place which Gagné had agreed to only to then pull it off the table before there was a chance for him to sign it, Gagné returns to the team that he feels he let down in 2008.
It is a no-risk signing for the Brewers. Either Gagné pitches well enough in Spring Training to earn his way into the bullpen by March 25th or he has the option of becoming a free agent again. It’s a similar deal to the one that Jeff Weaver signed last season. The major difference is that while Weaver pitched with AAA Nashville during his Minor League contract, Melvin does not expect Gagné to do the same. He feels that Gagné will exercise the right to become a free agent on March 25th if he hasn’t made the bullpen for certain by then.
If Gagné makes the 25-man roster, he’ll earn a base salary of $1.5 million with the opportunity to earn up to $3 million more in incentives. For the record, $2 million of that is tied to the number of games in which he appears and the other $1 million is tied to the number of games he finishes.
It’s a far cry from the $10 million that he didn’t quite earn (by most people’s definition including Gagné’s own admission) and if you couple all these factors together, we might just be singing Doug Melvin’s praises again when the year is done.
  • The Mitchell Report isn’t hanging over Gagné with the same crushing weight this season
  • Gagné doesn’t haven’t the expectations of fulfilling a $10 million contract nor the expectations of being “the guy” in the bullpen
  • Gagné actually pitched acceptably in the second half of last season in a set up role, a role that was previously blamed for his mighty struggles with Boston in 2007
He may never pitch again in a regular season game for the Brewers, that’s true. But the fact that the Brewers are paying him next to nothing in return for letting him prove himself to both Milwaukee and the 29 other teams around the league in live action is the real value here.
Some people blasted Melvin for handing $10 million to a guy that was more likely to be dominated than dominate. Well, consider this signing as a way to make amends. After all, a two-year $13.5 million contract sound a lot better anyway. And the fact that it was ostensibly front-loaded? Mere semantics at this point. If anything, it would allow the Brewers to have the extra money this season that they needed for all of their arbitration-eligible players…like Corey Hart.



    Hey there Brewer Nation. Thanks for doing such a great job on this blog. I am a die-hard baseball fan and especially a Brewer fan from way back and appreciate your insight and reporting. Just a thought now, but how is it that Gagne can perform to a level less than expectations and draw his full salary? How is it that A-Rod can do what he has done to tarnish the game of baseball and draw HIS full salary, plus be allowed to play AGAIN ? Why isn’t there a NO tolerance rule? It seems that it has just become second nature to all fans and team management alike. It’s almost as though we just expect it to happen and just wonder about which kids’ hero is next. Yet players, playing a game for entertainment are paid extrordinary, ridiculous sums of money to play this game. Now I don’t mean to be political, but when the President of the United States and leader of the free world earns $400,000 a year for the work he does and firefighters, police, nurses and doctors (to name a few life and death occupations) are paid salaries in the tens of thousands of dollars on average and ball players earn millions……… is that justified? Where are our priorities? And yet we continue to pay outrageous ticket and food prices to support this. Seems our intelligence compass is spinning around in a circle.

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