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.
Just in case you missed the announcements when they officially came out this afternoon, the following roster moves took place today…
RHP Livan Hernandez and C Yorvit Torrealba have refused outright assignments to Triple-A Nashville (which is their right with their respective statuses as MLB veterans) and elected free agency.
RHP Jesus Sanchez, a relief pitcher, had his contract selected from Triple-A Nashville and was thereby added to the 40-man roster. Sanchez would have been exposed in the upcoming Rule V Draft had he not been added to the 40-man roster.
With these three moves, the Brewers’ 40-man roster stands at 37. Remember too that Mat Gamel and Chris Narveson will need to be reinstated from the 60-day disabled list at some point. Also, should the club decide to exercise its option on Alex Gonzalez he too would need one if those currently open spots.
It’s been quite a while since someone wrote on the blog here other than me, the primary author. This was submitted by my podcast co-host for your enjoyment back near the beginning of August. My crazy schedule led to my forgetting to get it posted until now.
With that said, certain information is “as of writing” and should be taken as such (i.e. Izturis wasn’t yet traded).
By: Cary Kostka
The Brewers were selling in the days leading up the non-waiver trade deadline sending us all on a “what now” path for the rest of this season, as well as what to look for next season. Although this is largely seen as a step backwards for the organization, I see this as an opportunity for the team to be better down the road.
The Brewers have the next couple of months to evaluate their current roster and newly acquired players, and like most Brewer fans I have my own theory as to how the next couple of months should play out.
I broke it down into the following categories: starting pitching, bullpen, catching, infield, and outfield.
The injuries we have seen over the course of the season have given us long looks at Marco Estrada and Mike Fiers, as well as a touch of Tyler Thornburg mixed in.
The Brewers acquired a couple of arms in the Zack Greinke deal, and a bullpen arm in the George Kottaras deal. But what will the rotation look like for now?
Below I have two rotations: one for August, and one for September. You will notice that the September rotation has six pitchers listed. This is not a mistake on my part…I see a 6 man September rotation as a great way to take a look at some additional young arms. With Shaun Marcum’s impending free agency and Randy Wolf’s option possibly not being picked up, the make-up of the 2013 rotation is in the air.
So, here are my projected rotations (not in any particular order) for the rest of 2012.
August rotation: Yovani Gallardo, Wolf, Estrada, Fiers, Marcum/Mark Rogers.
Marcum is still a question mark at this point, and him being moved to the 60-day DL means that he will not be available until the last third of August. He has been feeling good in simulated outings, so I would imagine he would be back in time for a late August start.
September rotation: Gallardo, Wolf, Marcum, Estrada, Fiers, Rogers/Wily Peralta.
Go to a 6-man rotation in September, and in the 6th spot, alternate starts between Peralta and Rogers. Peralta has been pitching much better lately for Nashville (5-2, 3.06 ERA in his last 10 starts).
With his arm fatigue, Thornburg would be best served spending September on the bench or in limited bullpen duty.
What a thorn in the side of the 2012 season this bunch turned out to be. Let’s face it; the bullpen was a heaping load of mediocrity this year.
Try to deal K-Rod if you can…if not, park him at the ass end of the bullpen. I think John Axford will be fine, and a new bullpen coach will help here. The loss of veterans LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito hurt him this year, as he leaned on both of them for advice and instruction (Hawkins in particular).
Below is how the roles should shake out for both August and September.
Closer: Axford and Jim Henderson. Keep throwing Ax out there, but let Henderson continue to get work in as a closer.
Setup/General Relief: Whatever the situation dictates.
Lefty Specialist: Manny Parra Longman/mop-up: Livan Hernandez
Same as August, except you add Rogers and Peralta to the bullpen mix when they are between starts. Park K-Rod and Hernandez on the bench, and let’s see what our newly acquired arms (Pena, Hellweg, and De Los Santos) can do. Thornburg could help here as well, but that depends on how his arm is responding to rest. I’d like to see how Rogers would do in the setup role.
Ok, so this one is easy.
Lucroy is back, but I say split his playing time with Maldonado 60/40. Catchers are the baseball equivalent to NFL running backs; they have short shelf lives due to constant wear and tear. There is no sense in “using up” Lucroy in a non-playoff season. Also, this gives Maldonado a great chance to continue his growth. This pair will be one of the best catching tandems in baseball next season.
Corey Hart is here to stay as our first baseman at least for this season. With Aramis Ramirez entrenched at third, the big questions arise in the middle of the infield.
Rickie Weeks has had just shy of two months of production this year, and shortstop had been ok defensively but a black hole in the lineup, sans Cody Ransom’s innate ability to seemingly make every one of his few and far between hits a game changer.
My thoughts on this are to send Izturis packing…he is not a long term option, and the team would be better off if newly acquired Jean Segura was promoted and started. Jeff Bianchi would be called up on September 1st, and would see some time at short as well.
At second, we’re basically stuck. Would the team be able to find a place on the 25-man roster for Eric Farris? I’d like to see what he’s got, though he projects as more of a backup type player. I would like to see Taylor Green get more playing time to get a better feel for what he is capable of, or not capable of doing. I feel this is something the team needs to know going into next season.
Mat Gamel will be a question mark next season, and if Green shows he can hit, 1B could be a little less of a question mark in spring training, and would allow the team to confidently move Hart back to right. Hart has done pretty well at first, but next season will be the final year of his contract. It would be good to know our other options at that first.
I have heard speculation about giving Green more time at second, but that would be a mistake given his concrete boot like range at second.
Travis Ishikawa maintains his current role on the team.
Trade or waive Nyjer Morgan. He does not have a place on this team at all. I would much rather see Caleb Gindl or Logan Schafer get some MLB trigger time.
Ryan Braun is a lock in left (duh).
The mechanical adjustments Carlos Gomez made recently have upped his game to a new level. Make him the sole starter in center and see where this takes him.
Norichika Aoki has played great and is a lock in right. Call up Gindl as a reserve outfielder, as he has logged double digit games in all three OF spots. Schafer gets the call up on September 1st.
So, Brewer Nation, what say you?
I’m not sitting down with an article idea to post on this. I just wanted to see the words written down so that I can stare at it and ponder what it all means.
What follows might be a bit of “stream of consciousness” writing.
First off, to be fair, he actually is probably an upgrade over a couple of the arms currently in the bullpen, and if he actually does only pitch out of the bullpen for the Brewers it would give them the true long-man they’ve been lacking since Chris Narveson’s injury and Marco Estrada’s subsequent move to the starting rotation.
Hernandez also could almost single-handedly solve the fatigue problem the Brewers’ bullpen is currently experiencing because, to be honest, I’m not sure the man ever actually expends stamina when he throws.
Sure, he exerts effort and energy, but he seemingly has the super power to absorb energy from the environment around him to maintain optimum levels in himself.
He’s the “Human Gatorade”, if I may.
He’s the “Ageless (Really, we have no idea how old dude actually is) Wonder”, if I may.
Doesn’t “Livan” translate to “Effortless” in ancient Mayan, or something? I heard that once.
I also once heard that he moves from city to city in MLB so nobody notices how he never seems to age to the point where one would normally be unable to lift their arm, let alone throw a baseball with any accuracy. Maybe he was the inspiration behind Will Smith’s titular character in the movie “Hancock”?
Well, in any event, here are his career numbers for your absorption.
175 W, 177 L, 4.40 ERA, 493 G (474 GS), 50 CG (9 SO), 3152.2 IP, 3481 H, 1655 R (1541 ER), 352 HR, 1058 BB (86 IBB), 1947 K, 77 HBP, 13 balks, 1.44 WHIP
Hernandez posses a career ERA+ of 96 (100 is league average).
All of that was done for eight different franchises over 9 different stops with 10 change of address forms for his agent to send him stuff in-season during a, to this point, 17-year career in the big leagues after being signed as a free agent following his defection from Cuba.
The team (along with a couple of national names) has confirmed the signing (first reported by Bill Hall on Twitter because he happened to run into Hernandez at the airport — of course he did!).
Now, all we can do is ponder about the meaning of this move from a metaphysical standpoint.
Oh, and we get to talk about who might be coming off the 40-man roster if Hernandez will be signed, as believed/reported, to a Major League contract.
Cesar Izturis is due back from the Disabled List today, so perhaps it’s him who goes as the tandem of Cody Ransom and Edwin Maysonet have played capably.
Then again, maybe the team is ready to simply cut ties with an underperforming player.
Maybe with the move to first base by Corey Hart, the team feels it no longer needs to retain the services of Travis Ishikawa once he’s healthy.
Maybe Marco Estrada had an as-yet-unreported setback following his rehab start last night for Nashville.
The worst situation would be if something further was found in Shaun Marcum’s elbow requiring him to miss the rest of the season.
***UPDATE: It’s LHP Juan Perez who has been Designated For Assignment to make room for Livan Hernandez.***
So now that it’s been announced, sit back, stare at that headline and consider…
“What does it all mean?”
or perhaps just
“What the hell?”
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.
Brandon Kintzler (’10-’11)
Livan Hernandez (’12)