Tagged: Gregg Zaun

Milwaukee Brewers Uniform Number History: #9

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.

#9

Rich Rollins (’70)
Dick Schofield (’71)
Billy Conigliaro (’72)
Pedro Garcia (’73-’76)
Gary Sutherland (’76)
Tim Johnson (’77)
Larry Hisle (’78-’82)
Rene Lachemann (’84)
Jim Adduci (’86)
Greg Brock (’87-’91)
Bill Spiers (’92-’94)
Joe Oliver (’95)
Tim Unroe (’95-’97)
Marquis Grissom (’98-’00)
Robert Perez (’01)
Elvis Pena (’01)
Paul Bako (’02)
Enrique Cruz (’03)
Jeff Liefer (’04)
Tony Graffanino (’06-’07)
Hernan Iribarren (’09)
Gregg Zaun (’10)
Josh Wilson (’11)
George Kottaras (’12)
Jean Segura (’12-’15)
Aaron Hill (’16)
Manny Piña (’16-Current)

Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers Agree to Multi-Year Contract Extension

It was announced today that the Milwaukee Brewers have signed starting catcher Jonathan Lucroy to a multi-year contract extension.

Lucroy agreed to a five-year deal (with a club option for 2017) which buys out all of what are probably four years of arbitration eligibility. The arbitration system normally only gives you three years of mediated contract decisions (if necessary), but a status called “Super 2” most likely would have applied to Lucroy after this year which gives an additional year of arbitration.

The contract value is actually variable on whether Lucroy reaches that Super 2 status but reports say that the least amount Lucroy will earn over it is $11 million total.

***UPDATE***
The versions of Lucroy’s contract structuring are as follows:

Non Super 2: $500,000 signing bonus, $500,000 salary in 2012, $750,000 in ’13, $2 million in ’14, $3 million in ’15, $4 million in ’16 and a $5.25 million club option for 2017 with a $250,l000 buyout.

Super 2: $500,000 signing bonus, $500,000 salary in 2012, $1.9 million in ’13, $2.3 million in ’14, $3.3 million in ’15, $4.25 million in ’16 and a $5.25 million club option with a $250,000 buyout.

***End of update ***

It is rare to leapfrog any steps in the developmental ladder that is the minor leagues, but especially so when you’re a catcher. Lucroy did exactly that, however, in 2010 when the team needed another catcher following a season-ending injury to veteran Gregg Zaun. Lucroy joined the team from Double-A Huntsville initially as a backup to George Kottaras who now currently backs up Lucroy.

The Brewers starter hasn’t looked back since.

This is a move that makes sense on both sides of the ledger. Lucroy, 25, gets that increasingly important guaranteed money. The Brewers gain some cost certainty with an eye on the future budgetary concerns of the ball club.

Lucroy’s ability to handle the pitching staff, keep a running game relatively in check, and contribute at the plate enough are all lauded aspects of his game. Numerous pitchers were quoted last year as saying something to the effect of that Lucroy is still learning but he’s getting very good at his job behind the dish. Public praise from veteran pitchers to a young catcher isn’t exactly easy to come by.

This projects to be Lucroy’s first season as the Brewers catcher on Opening Day. Lucroy was listed atop the depth chart in 2011 as well but missed Opening Day (and a few more days following) due to a broken pinkie suffered during Spring Training.

Back in the saddle this spring, however, gives the starting pitchers a sense of security in the knowledge of who they’ll be throwing to the for the majority of their starts.

With this extension in place now, those good feelings will continue…on both sides.

Jonathan Lucroy is represented by Sports One Athlete Management.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #12 Martin Maldonado

Welcome back to the countdown!

We’re a dozen days away from the sights, sounds, and smells of baseball overtaking the sprawling Miller Park grounds.

What a day it shall be!

Unfortunately for today’s profile, Miller Park will likely not include him in its Opening Day festivities and therefore this preview won’t be as long as it otherwise would.

Despite being a member of the 40-man roster, he is currently listed as third on the catching depth chart and is therefore slated for a minor-league optioning to be the starting catcher with the Triple-A Nashville Sounds.

I’m talking about:

Martin Maldonado.

A champion this winter in the Puerto Rican League as a part of Los Indios de Mayaguez, Martin Maldonado is a 6’1″, 225 pound backstop who hails from Naguabo, Puerto Rico.

Every player (well, in the National League at least) plays both offense and defense in a baseball game. For a catcher, however, defense becomes much more intense of a discipline.

You’re involved in almost every single play and aware of everything happening on the field. The catcher is the only player in the game who sees everything happening on the field in front of him.

Some catchers are offensive-minded and only catch a game well-enough to get by. Some catchers are phenomenal receivers, and have a great “catch and throw” but can’t hit their way out of a paper bag.

Then every so often you get a catcher that seems like he’s going to be able to do both. Maldonado profiles as such a catcher.

Already deemed ready defensively by scouts and those who follow prospects much more closely than I do, Maldonado had a bit of an offensive breakthrough in 2011 in the minor leagues while catching for Nashville following a promotion from Double-A Huntsville.

The combined numbers for 2011 for Maldonado look like:

103 games, 342 at-bats, 47 runs, 98 hits, 18 doubles, 11 home runs, 59 RBI, 35 walks, 77 strikeouts resulting in a slash-line of .287/.373/.436 as a minor leaguer.

He was rewarded with a promotion to the Major Leagues as a September call-up.

His final season line was all buoyed by his Nashville-only numbers which saw him finish with a .321/.410/.537 slash line. His Spring Training this year hasn’t been tremendous, but it’s only 23 at-bats worth so I’m not worried in slightest.

The writing has been on the wall for Maldonado’s ticket for the minors this year since incumbent backup George Kottaras agreed to a one-year deal back in early December. Kottaras was a non-tender candidate (much like Casey McGehee who ended up getting traded when a one-year deal wasn’t reached) in large part because the front office knew that they had another catcher waiting in the wings who they were comfortable going with if Kottaras wouldn’t agree.

With another year of seasoning down on the farm for Maldonado on deck, it would not be a surprise at all if Kottaras was sent on his way before the next non-tender deadline this coming December.

Normally you don’t like to simply give up a commodity like catching without getting something in return, but Brewer Nation can rest easy if Maldonado is the reason that it happens in this case.

Remember those types of catchers we talked about before? Jonathan Lucroy leaned offense in the minors and has done an admirable job on his defensive skills since his unlikely promotion from Double-A to the majors after Gregg Zaun was lost for the season a couple of years back.

Kottaras is most definitely an offensive asset but is also a defensive liability. Yes he pairs up nicely with Randy Wolf, but that’s not enough of a reason to keep someone around when his replacement would do it even better.

Martin Maldonado is enough of an asset on both sides of the game that he might force his way into the lineup sooner rather than later.

Then again, this is Randy Wolf’s last guaranteed season in Milwaukee anyway, isn’t it.

You can follow Martin Maldonado on Twitter: @Machete1224

Quick Hops: Non-Tenders, Counsell, Rumors

By: Big Rygg

Plenty to talk about as I roll out a new title here. When I have several things to discuss and I choose to put them in one post instead of several, it’ll be called “Quick Hops” as I hop from topic to topic. Oh, and if you don’t know, hops are an ingredient in beer…and the team is the Brewers…I hope you’re following me.

Anyway, let’s get to it!

Non-Tender Choices Add Intrigue to Spring Training

The Milwaukee Brewers chose not to tender contracts to injured relief pitcher Mark DiFelice, pitcher Seth McClung and catcher Mike Rivera. This makes the three men free agents, able to sign a contract with any team. Feel free to skip the next two paragraphs if you understand the arbitration system and what the meaning of the non-tender is.

The system that is in place in Major League Baseball allows for a team to “control” a player for six seasons of service time (in the majority of cases). During the first three years of team control (again, in most cases) the team has 100% control over what they pay a player provided that the salary is at least as much as the league-mandated minimum. Typically teams negotiate salaries with players on a year-to-year basis anyway in an effort to involve the player in their money-dealings, but the team has the final say if they and the player cannot reach an accord. If that happens, then the team “renews” the player’s contract at whatever number they deem fair. This can upset players greatly if they feel they outperformed a certain level of pay with their level of play. Prince Fielder is the Brewers’ most recent example of that situation when, after becoming the youngest player in the history of the league to slug 50 home runs in a single season, he felt he was deserving of much more than the contract that he was offered. The two sides couldn’t reach an agreement, so the team renewed Fielder’s contract at a rate that was in line with their team’s pay scale for non-arbitration eligible players.

Being eligible for arbitration is what leads to the non-tendering of contracts if it’s going to happen. When a player becomes eligible for arbitration, salary is no longer completely up to the team. There are a lot of details that I could bore you with, but the basics are that the team and player negotiate to reach a salary for the upcoming year. If the two sides cannot agree on a number by a certain, pre-determined date then they exchange figures. These figures are those that they will submit to a salary arbiter before the season begins. Arbitration hearings are scheduled over a few days in the spring. The team and player can continue to negotiate up to the beginning of the hearing to reach an agreement. If they do, great. The player signs the contract and plays under its terms. If they don’t, a three-member arbitration panel hears the case and chooses one of the figures the sides submitted several weeks prior. (To note: During Doug Melvin’s tenure as General Manager of the Brewers, no player has gone to a hearing.)

Now, the reason that arbitration eligibility can lead to a non-tender is because the contracts a player gets go up in value significantly during arbitration. The jump in salary in the first year of eligibility is often a multi-million dollar one. What’s more, is that arbitration salaries are often influenced simply by service time itself more so than performance. For example, former Brewer J.J. Hardy made around $4MM in 2009. His 2009 season was terrible. It was terrible statistically and it was terrible peripherally. Hardy is not worthy of even the same salary let alone an increase in salary. However, with the system that’s in place, it is an unbelievable rarity that a player’s salary goes lower.

To summarize this entire Hop, allow me to say this: While Mark DiFelice was non-tendered under the rare case where he wasn’t arbitration eligible (he had shoulder surgery which will most likely cost him his entire 2010 season), the increases in salary that McClung and Rivera (who is eligible for arbitration for the first time) stand to receive are more than the Brewers want to pay for those positions for next year. McClung might have been a combination of high-salary/low-performance with the adding of LaTroy Hawkins and needed a spot on the 40-man roster for him, but most likely they could’ve kept McClung anyway with the injury to DiFelice. As for Mike Rivera, the Brewers are finally able to move on from the career backup. Rivera has been a servicable backup backstop during his time with this franchise however he has never been the future at the catcher position. The Brewers knew this when Damian Miller retired and they brought in Jason Kendall for the last two years with Rivera backing him up. Finally, however, the Brewers feel that they have talent at the position in the minor leagues such that they can promote from within and, with a season or two of tutelage at the Major League level, have a home-grown starting catcher for the first time since Mike Matheny.

This should make for a fun battle to watch during Spring Training. The Brewers have two catchers that might be ready to make the jump. Angel Salome has been the most talked about catching prospect in the system for a couple of years now, especially when he put up such gaudy offensive numbers as part of that stacked AA Huntsville club from two seasons ago that included Alcides Escobar, Mat Gamel, Matt LaPorta and others. He was the starting catcher for AAA Nashville last year. The catching prospect that has gotten the most talk lately, howevere, has been Jonathan Lucroy who was the starting catcher for Huntsville in 2009. The consensus seems to be that Lucroy might be more ready for the big leagues now with his better plate discipline and what not, but that Salome’s ceiling might still be higher. The Brewers did also claim George Kottaras on waivers early in the off-season as well, so if both youngsters are unable to show anything in spring training that wins them the job, Kottaras might end up being the defacto big league backup while the kids get some more seasoning down on the farm.

Any way it ends up, it ought to be a fun ride. Stay tuned.

The Craigger Set to Stay Put, Announcement to Come Monday?

Monday is shaping up to be a big day for Doug Melvin’s staff. The reports from Indianapolis at the Winter Meetings this past Monday through Thursday were that free-agent pitcher Randy Wolf would be announced to the media as the Brewers’ latest acquisition this coming Monday after passing his required physical examination.

The Brewers, though, just might have two names to announce on Monday. While free-agent signee LaTroy Hawkins was rumored to be announced this coming Tuesday, veteran infielder and team leader Craig Counsell has reportedly agreed to stay in Milwaukee for what might be the balance of his career.

I couldn’t be happier about this move. Even if Counsell doesn’t duplicate his offensive production from 2009, his ability to play three infield positions very well defensively is a huge asset to this team. With inexperienced (at the major league level) starters at SS and 3B in Escobar and Casey McGehee respectively along with Rickie Weeks one bat waggle away from season-ending surgery, having Counsell to spell all three positions is as invaluable for 2010 as having him has proven to be over the past couple of years as well.

Welcome back, Craigger! The Brewer Nation is glad you never left.

Rumor Burner Stays Warm on Hot Stove

Doug Melvin has made no bones about his desire to add two starting pitchers during this off-season. Signing Randy Wolf to a free agent contract gives him one. Where the second one comes from has been a matter of some opinion.

There are still plenty of free agents on the market to be sure. Given the Brewers’ projected payroll, some of them are out of the team’s price range. However, there are several that can be had for a reasonable rate that have great chances to put up better numbers than most members of the Crew’s 2009 starting rotation. In this realm, names like Doug Davis, Jon Garland, Erik Bedard, Justin Duchscherer, Wisconsin-native Jarrod Washburn and the recently non-tendered Chien-Mien Wang to name a few.

Pulling off a trade is another possibility that is open to Melvin et al. The Brewers still have a handful of trade chips that they can deal to interested teams to get a starting pitcher in return. It’s all about making something work for all teams involved. The biggest rumor that has been floating around since the Winter Meetings is a trade involving the New York Mets which would send Corey Hart to the Big Apple in exchange for John Maine. This makes sense for a couple of different reasons for both teams, but the biggest thing for Milwaukee’s point of view is that it gets us another starting pitcher. It also relieves us of Corey Hart and his waning value. He performed poorly last year but has had recent success and could still have plenty of upside. Maine has worked with new Brewer pitching coach Rick Peterson before when Peterson was in the same role with the Mets. The pairing led to Maine’s best season as a pro so it’s reasonable that it could produce positive results should the two be reunited in Milwaukee.

The Brewers are rumored to be preparing for this possible trade by readying offers to a handful of right fielders. They haven’t offered contracts to any of them yet, of course, because Corey Hart is still on the roster and would start in right field is no move is made. However, I have been told that guys such as Austin Kearns, Xavier Nady and recent 2009 Brewer Frank Catalanotto (who has one of the best batter walkup tunes EVER!). It’ll be interesting to see if the Brewers need to make an offer to one of these players or to another outfielder altogether. Even if they keep Hart, they carried five outfielders for the majority of 2009 and they currently only have four on the 25-man roster in Carlos Gomez, Ryan Braun, Jody Gerut and Hart.

Whether a trade or signing is next on the horizon for this team remains to be seen, but the Hot Stove League shouldn’t cool down for Milwaukee for a bit yet.

Just an FYI here to finish things up, the next Brewer Nation podcast with yours truly and Cary Kostka should be recorded at some point this month, schedules permitting. We’ll definitely keep you posted though here at the blog so come back often and thanks for your continued (or brand new) readership!

Milwaukee Brewers Sign Five, Including C Zaun

By: Big Rygg

The Hot Stove season in baseball can be a very exciting time. It’s the first real baseball-heavy stretch of time in the sports media since the end of the World Series and, chance are, the first time you’ve really heard much about your team since the end of the regular season.

The big event during the off-season in baseball are the four days collectively known as the Winter Meetings. The Winter Meetings are a gathering of all of Major League Baseball’s General Managers (amongst other MLB officials). A ton of agents and even usually a handful of players make the trip as well. It is a chance for everybody to meet face to face and, thusly, to get a LOT accomplished in a relatively short amount of time. Groundwork is laid, dialogue is begun, negotiations get underway and, when all the stars align, players get signed to contracts.

In 2008 the Milwaukee Brewers were a part of the big storyline of the Winter Meetings, that of course being the CC Sabathia sweepstakes (congratulations to CC for winning a World Series Championship, by the way). That didn’t work out in Milwaukee’s favor, but it certainly was fun to have all the national media focused on the Brewers for a couple of days.

Last year, Doug Melvin was focused pretty much solely on Sabathia during the Winter Meetings and didn’t really accomplish anything. This year, however, Melvin is casting a much wider net into the free agent waters, specifically into the Sea of Starting Pitching. It has been said that the Brewers are basically looking into every available free agent pitcher. Having signed two arms already (the rehabbing Chris Capuano along with John Halama), the Brewers have gotten started fairly quickly this year. The Winter Meetings don’t even start until this coming Monday, for what it’s worth.

But, two pitchers that are questionable at best if one were to rely on them to start 20 games in 2010 (and for Capuano that games-started number could be one) is not enough for this team. Fortunately, Melvin, assitant GM Gord Ash and the rest of the front office realize this fact.

And, since pitching isn’t the only need for this organization, the Brewers have been active in areas other than pitching too. The Brewers made a trade in acquiring a new center fielder, Carlos Gomez, from the Minnesota Twins for SS J.J. Hardy. They signed a 16-year-old (pending age verification) shortstop, a young OF prospect who had a taste of the big leagues last year in Trent Oeltjen and a new starting (more on that later) catcher in the tastefully-named Gregg Zaun.

Allow me to focus on the new backstop in Milwaukee for a bit. There has been much discussion amongst fans already as to what exactly the Brewers are gaining by signing Zaun as opposed to simply retaining the services of two-year starter Jason Kendall instead.

First and foremost to this off-season’s agenda of acquiring as much starting pitching help as possible, this move saves the Brewers money. Kendall earned $5 million last year. With so many servicable options available on the upcoming market, Melvin made the decision that the team couldn’t afford to pay $5 million for a catcher again. There was never a report on whether Kendall flat out told Melvin to take a hike or whether he would’ve considered resigning at a reduced rate. Kendall was said to have greatly enjoyed his time as a Brewer, so it’s nice to think that he would’ve at least considered it.

To focus on what actually happened, though, is to realized that Gregg Zaun was approached by as many as six teams in this first week of free agency. He has said that the Brewers separated themselves pretty quickly from the pack. It helped that Milwaukee could offer a chance to be the primary starter. nearly-40-year-old catchers (or ballplayers of any position at that age) seldom hear those words. Now, Manager Ken Macha has seemed to be a no nonsense guy in his first year. That would seem to indicate that if Zaun isn’t performing at an acceptable level, then he would lose a start or two per week as whomever the backup winds up being will gain that playing time. Zaun is veteran enough in this league to know that performance is what hangs onto a job.

Should Zaun falter and his backup be called on…well, I don’t know what to tell you at this point because there is no certainty who that backup will be. Rumors flew (and continue to fly) since the end of the season about giving highly-touted prospect Jonathan Lucroy a shot to make the leap from AA to the big leagues. Then again, had prospect Angel Salome not missed so much combined time in 2009 due to injuries, might it be his name that would’ve been getting ballihooed about? There’s also the realization that Mike Rivera has been a decent backup the last few seasons as well at the big league level, thereby making him the devil they know, so to speak. Backup catcher is a much more important decision this year because Gregg Zaun will not be starting 130+ games.

Enough sidebarring. What else is the team gaining with Gregg Zaun behind the dish? How about more power, a higher batting average and, since Zaun is a switch-hitter, a second left-handed bat against right-handed pitchers. A little more balance can make a big difference.

As for the things Kendall excelled at (blocking the plate, blocking up pitches in the dirt, calling a game), Zaun is good at all of those things too. Let me put it this way, without going to find defensive statistical numbers… When you’re 38 years old and still playing in the big leagues, it’s usually not because of your stick anymore, especially behind the dish. Why do you think Henry Blanco is still playing? A cannon arm is among the top reasons why.

So when you add it all up, is there really any debate as to whether or not the Brewers made the right call? Of course there is. That’s the beauty of baseball and of all sports. Until the games are played on the field/court/rink/etc, you never know. But at least in baseball, statistical analysis provides a pretty darn good idea.

Despite all of this, though, the team needs more help. Formally offering a contract to Craig Counsell is a good start (depending on the value of said contract), but it’s hardly enough. The Winter Meetings begin in Indianapolis, Indiana in three days. With Doug Melvin and company being able to spread their focus around in 2009, let’s all hope that more irons in the fire yield better results in the long run.