Whilst at the Winter Meetings, the Milwaukee Brewers didn’t actually acquire a single player. They lost one in the Rule V Draft Thursday morning but that was the extent of player transactions which were completed completely within the four-day span in Nashville.
The Brewers signed one player to a MiLB contract but according to Gord Ash, that was actually accomplished “this past weekend” prior to the Winter Meetings. It came together both because the Brewers provide a lot of opportunity with its currently thin bullpen and because the player lives in Nashville and decided that if it was necessary for him to pitch in Triple-A in 2013, it may as well be at home with the Brewers affiliate Nashville Sounds.
As for the official four day conference, the Brewers made no moves. But no one should take that to mean that they got nothing accomplished.
Described as “busy” but just with nothing done yet, the Doug Melvin’s contingent made and received calls, met with agents, reviewed players, discussed terms for potential contract offers, and generally conducted a fair about of business.
Going home empty-handed when several players the Brewers reportedly targeted and/or were a fit for what the Brewers need went off the board has left some fans with a bad taste in their mouths. Before resigning yourself to believing that, as one fan put it to me, the Brewers “won’t get anyone worth a damn this winter”, I implore you to think about what was done over the last week.
Yes, the Brewers want a left-handed reliever. Ron Roenicke has said he doesn’t need a lefty just to have a lefty, but more than one person fashioned their desire as a “focus”. Would you really have wanted Melvin to commit three years to any reliever (how’d David Riske work out for us again?) or pay a glorified LOOGy an average salary around $5 million? As I said yesterday, discretion has proven the better part of valor on more than one occasion throughout history.
Another example of the best laid plans not always working out: The Brewers were tied to Jason Grilli early on in the week with Doug Melvin telling reporters that he had talked to Grilli’s agent about the free agent right-handed relief pitcher. I reported that the Brewers were discussing terms of an offer to present. Ron Roenicke stated that the team is definitely interested in him. Then Grilli narrows his options down to a handful of teams, excluding the Brewers, and Melvin turned on his heel and said that they hadn’t talked to Grilli’s agent all week. Some fans take that at face value and think that the Brewers didn’t do anything regarding Grilli, but that simply isn’t the case. What they did do just didn’t work out. (I plan on analyzing this situation further depending on how busy the news wire is over the next few days, so keep an eye out for that.)
Bottom line about the Winter Meetings though is that while not much may have gotten done as the market awaits the outcomes of several situations (Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton, the rumored multi-team deal involving Justin Upton, Asdrubal Cabrera, et al) plenty still went on.
Speaking of Hamilton, I’d be remiss if I didn’t pass along a tweet from ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick. It was posted right around the time when people began talking about the rumored contract discussions surrounding Hamilton being about 3-4 years and averaging somewhere between $20-$25 million annually. Here’s the tweet:
One exec thinks #brewers are still “laying in the weeds” on Josh Hamilton — if Doug Melvin can find a way to move some $$
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 6, 2012
So yes, the rumor that refuses to go away is still very much around. With this, coupled with the talk about the Brewers being willing to “listen” on Corey Hart to free up money if necessary, and grouped with Gord Ash’s comments from early in the week about how the only problem with bringing Hamilton to Milwaukee is money…
Yeah, well, ’tis the season for speculation, reasoned or otherwise.
Final piece of news to pass along is that the Brewers’ projected starting shortstop at Double-A Huntsville, Hector Gomez, was injured seriously enough in a winter league game that he could miss significant time in 2013.
#Brewers AA shortstop Hector Gomez suffered serious groin injury in winter ball and faces surgery that could knock him out for much of 2013.
— Tom (@Haudricourt) December 6, 2012
This could lead to the Brewers ramping up a search for a minor league shortstop. They’re already looking for an upgrade at backup shortstop with the parent club.
So again, there’s plenty for Melvin and the Brewers to accomplish between now and February 12th but there’s also plenty of time right now for it all to happen.
Enjoy the holiday season and stay tuned as we’ll bring you all the news that breaks surrounding the team.
Read all about the Winter Meetings here!
The Winter Meetings aren’t officially underway just yet as I sit down to give my keyboard a workout this evening, but the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee is set and baseball executives from across North America have checked into their rooms and have no doubt begun to follow up on things begun prior to departing for Music City.
Doug Melvin is there (along with his entourage) and has had plenty to say about what he expects out of the 2012 Winter Meetings. With appreciation to the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel for the quotes themselves, I’ll be laying out some things Melvin said and analyzing what I think they mean for the Brewers heading through the rest of the off-season.
Before I do that, let’s recap the basics about what educated fans know already about the Brewers and their needs.
The bullpen was bad in 2012. In fact, it underperformed so incredibly that it alone could be labeled as a singular reason that the team failed to reach the postseason. Just a handful of losses flipped to wins and the Brewers would have had that opportunity to face the Braves in the first-ever National League Wild Card Game.
As a result of their collective struggles, the bullpen has been basically gutted. Gone are multi-year Brewers like Kameron Loe, Francisco Rodriguez, Tim Dillard, Mike McClendon, and Manny Parra. Along with them, first-year tryouts for Jose Veras and Livan Hernandez ended in free agency. Even short-term fixes like Vinnie Chulk came and went. The only guys left who pitched in the big league bullpen to end the regular season and are still a part of this organization are likely closer John Axford, likely setup man Jim Henderson, and the finally healthy Brandon Kintzler.
As we all know, the Brewers did announce a trade acquisition on Saturday when they dealt a minor-league outfielder for established relief pitcher Burke Badenhop. That addition still leaves three jobs to be filled. FoxSports.com’s Jon Morosi already tweeted earlier this evening about one of those open roles:
#Brewers are prioritizing a lefty reliever. Among the available free agents: Burnett, Choate, M. Gonzalez, Howell, Gorzelanny.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 2, 2012
Just some names to know.
A return of all five starting pitchers from the 2011 NLCS team was seen as a rarity, not to mention that the Brewers only used six starting pitchers all that season. Now? Randy Wolf was released, Shaun Marcum is a free agent, Zack Greinke was traded, and Chris Narveson is coming off of shoulder surgery.
That’s the stuff of how question marks are made.
Yovani Gallardo is set to return atop the rotation but after that hasn’t yet been decided. As it stands right now, the Brewers have probably six arms vying for the open four spots in the rotation. Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada, Chris Narveson, Wily Peralta, Mark Rogers and, to a lesser extent in my opinion, Tyler Thornburg.
Doug Melvin has mentioned a couple of free agent starters by name this off-season already (Edwin Jackson and Ryan Dempster, for the record) but had some commentary on that front as well.
Will Jean Segura begin the season as the starting everyday shortstop in Milwaukee or in the aforementioned city of Nashville as he gets a bit more seasoning in Triple-A? Who will take over as the backup infielders after the Brewers burned through a number of MLB veterans during 2012? Travis Ishikawa is gone, Alex Gonzalez is a free agent after being hurt most of the season, Mat Gamel should be healthy but missed a ton of at-bats and doesn’t really have a job at this point…and that’s just the infield.
In the outfield, Nyjer Morgan was released and Logan Schafer seems incredibly obvious to become the fourth outfielder with Milwaukee. After that, though, will they carry a fifth outfielder? If so, who will it be?
About the only spot on the field where there isn’t a question is behind the plate. Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado are healthy and coming off of strong seasons.
Excuse whilst I knock on some wood.
Okay. With that, let’s get to those quotes from Melvin.
The big quote is one about payroll. After setting a franchise record in 2012 with a payroll north of $100 million, the Brewers finished in the red, meaning that they actually lost money this year. (Part of that is because the fans didn’t show up quite as well as they had budgeted for, but wins bring attendance.)
Melvin said, “(The payroll is) coming down. We’ll probably look at (an opening payroll) of $80 million or thereabouts. We want to keep flexibility in case players become available.”
In other words, despite a large chunk of money coming off the books there should be no expectation of a dollar-for-dollar reassignment. That could limit how much the Brewers can do in free agency but it will almost certainly limit the magnitude of what the Brewers can do.
That assumes that Melvin sticks to his initial words, but more on that in a bit.
Melvin was clear in that the Brewers don’t plan to get involved on high-end (in terms of years or dollars) relief pitchers.
“We’re not looking at those kinds of guys. We’d probably be reluctant to go three years with anybody. We might have to do two. David Riske was our last three-year deal for a reliever. That didn’t work out,” said Melvin.
Would left-handed reliever Sean Burnett be a pipe-dream then? Burnett had to debunk a rumor that he was seeking a four-year deal but that doesn’t mean he isn’t looking for three.
The starting rotation was mentioned earlier and was brought up to Melvin as well. He stated that with how the contracts worked out with Jeff Suppan and Randy Wolf that the Brewers “wouldn’t go three years with a starter. You look at those contracts and they don’t usually work out. Look at all the free-agent players who have been traded the last few years. Free agency gets people excited, but it’s not as effective as people would like to think.”
Does that mean that following a report which I linked to on Twitter the other day that the Brewers are taking themselves out of the market for the aforementioned Jackson and Dempster, both of whom are believed to be seeking deals of a minimum three years? Perhaps.
Melvin stated that the Brewers will probably go with some of their younger players in the rotation but that he understands the dangers of trusting a small sample size.
As for the offense, Melvin admitted (as reported in this space) that contact was made between him and Josh Hamilton’s agent Michael Moye, but Melvin also said that, “I don’t see (a big-ticket signing) happening. If it does, we’d have to be creative with something.”
Melvin added, “You never know how those things work out. I never thought we’d be able to get Aramis Ramirez last year (for what they signed him for). Things change. If major things happen, you have to be prepared to act quickly.”
In other words, Melvin is reminding everyone that you simply can’t use definitives when discussing transactions in Major Leage Baseball. Or, to go the cliched route…Never say never.
Finally, for the bench, Melvin said that they’re in the market “mostly for depth.” He stated that they “may have to go with some of our younger guys” but that “it’s always nice to have an experienced bat on the bench.”
And since a lot of you have reached out via social media as to why I haven’t pass along many rumors in the last few days, Melvin confirmed that he has made no offers to any free agents yet and, as of the time he said so out loud, he didn’t have any serious trade talks going either.
Then again, he’s in Nashville now at the Winter Meetings. It’s made for just those kinds of things.
Stay tuned all week for reaction and analysis to anything and everything that I hear or read related to the Brewers. I’ll pass it along just as soon as I can.
My suggestion? If you aren’t on Twitter or you are and don’t follow me @BrewerNation…now’s one of the best times of the year to take the plunge. I can’t always blog right away but tweeting is much easier to do on the fly.
Wondering who wore a certain uniform number all-time for the Milwaukee Brewers?
The Brewer Nation has got you covered. If you found this list on its own, head back here for the full repository after checking out this one.
Gary Sheffield (’88)
Jose Valentin (’92-’93)
Hector Ramirez (’99-’00)
David Riske (’08-’10)
Sean Green (’11)
Vinnie Chulk (’12)
Josh Stinson (’12)
Michael Blazek (’13, ’15-Current)
By: Big Rygg
Relief pitcher David Riske signed a free agent contract with the Milwaukee Brewers in December of 2007. It was a three-year deal worth at least $13 million with incentives that could push the three-year value of the contract to $20 million. Also included in the contract was an option for a fourth year valued at $4.75 million.
Let’s just say that to see that particular $4.75 million will take much more than a wink and a smile.
After an average 2008 season, one which saw Riske’s number inflate after a rough finish to the season (his ERA ballooned from 3.98 after pitching a perfect inning on Aug. 26th to 5.31 in four more outings before shutting it down for the year), Riske knew something was wrong with his throwing arm. He rested after the season and began his usual off-season program with discomfort still present.
Spring Training 2009 came and went and Riske began the season where he left off at the end of the previous one, in the Brewers bullpen. One appearance into the 2009 season, however, and Riske was headed directly to the disabled list.
Riske would remain there throughout the 2009 season and stands a good chance of beginning 2010 there as well. At the very least, a stint in extended spring training in Arizona seems likely so that Riske can build up arm strength and stamina.
Let’s speak optimistically for a minute though. Say that over the six weeks or so of spring training that Riske proves he’s ready to pitch on Opening Day. As you may recall from a previous article of mine, I believe there to be one spot available in the bullpen right now. If Riske is healthy and performs well enough, that spot is his by virtue of his contract if for no other reason.
If this was last season, David Riske might be slotted at the back end of the bullpen, setting up Trevor Hoffman. It’s 2010 though. LaTroy Hawkins and Todd Coffey have that job handled. Should Riske regain a place in the bullpen, the open job is the one that was filled last season by the likes of Chris Smith and Seth McClung.
Riske would fill the gap between starter and setup man, occasionally throwing multiple innings, and basically just trying to keep the game where it is when he inherits it. You know, a middle reliever.
The bottom line for Riske is that this is something of a contract year for him. Pitch well, stay healthy and the Brewers will consider picking up the option. Pitch poorly, miss games, or prove unworthy of making nearly $5 million in the bullpen and the option could be passed on very quickly.
Ultimately, Riske will make over $4 million in 2010 whether he throws a big league pitch or not. The competitor in him no doubt wants to get back on the bump but will his arm hold up?
My prediction for Riske is as follows. He will pitch this spring a handful of time or more and prove that his arm is close. I believe he will start the year on the disabled list and continue to rehab. He will spend some time in extended spring training and a decision will be made by the end of April as to whether or not he’s ready to contribute.
Hopefully that leads to positive results in Milwaukee both for his and the team’s sake. If he’s pitching well, then Milwaukee reaps the immediate benefits and Riske positions himself well for 2011 and (hopefully for Riske) beyond.