Just prior to the close of the business day Monday, the Milwaukee Brewers announced six players as no longer being a part of its 40-man roster by way of outright assignment to Triple-A Colorado Springs.
New general manager David Stearns has been discussing his ongoing evaluation of the organization’s talent pool. Now almost a month into his official tenure, the first wave of changes are underway in earnest.
Five of the players could have remained under team control for 2016. Four of those five appeared in the big leagues in Brewers uniforms this season along with the sixth player who won’t be back with the club in any capacity.
- RHP Johnny Hellweg
- LHP Cesar Jimenez
- C Juan Centeno
- 1B Matt Clark
- OF Logan Schafer
- RHP Kyle Lohse (declared free agency)
Lohse’s declaration should come as no surprise given how his tenure in Milwaukee ended this year. All five of the outrighted players now also have the right to declare minor league free agency, though they could sign minor league contracts for next year should they choose to do so.
Despite a new man in charge and disappointing results following Tommy John surgery and rehab, you would think the Brewers would prefer retaining Johnny Hellweg on a minor league contract. They have, after all, put quite a bit of time and money into him after he was acquired as the second piece in the Zack Greinke-to-Los Angeles deal. Hellweg was also the Brewers MiLB Pitcher of the Year once upon a time.
Jimenez’s outright is probably the only somewhat unexpected move as he performed acceptably for the majority of his time in Milwaukee. That said, he’s certainly a veteran player who doesn’t have a ton of business on a rebuilding roster at the end of the day.
Centeno was passed over for a September call-up after appearing in 10 games early in the year. While it’s not a bad thing to have a third catcher on the 40-man roster, that spot is much more valuable this off-seaosn for Rule 5 Draft protection than for a guy who is inconsequential while there are no games being played.
After being sold a bill of goods never fulfilled, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Matt Clark look for his next opportunity elsewhere. He’s flashed a solid set of tools and I believe he could help a team at the MLB level. That said, at 29 years of age next season, he’ll be outside of the range wherein the Brewers would best benefit from his skills before they deteriorate.
As for Logan Schafer, he’s always been a great guy and he still plays top flight defense (when he’s sharp) but given where he’s at in his career against where the Brewers are in their rebuild, this one just felt kind of inevitable. Schafer is a solid 5th outfielder, in my opinion, but outfield just so happens to be one of the deepest positions in the organization right now both in terms of players currently on the 40-man roster and those hopefully on their way through the minor (Brett Phillips, Tyrone Taylor, Trent Clark).
The Brewers have plenty more decisions to make as the weeks and months pass following the completion of the World Series. For now, Stearns has decided he needs the room on his 40-man roster. After all, two of the spots would appear to be spoken for already as RHPs Jimmy Nelson and Michael Blazek will likely be reinstated from the 60-day Disabled List soon enough and will, as a result, fill two of the current openings.
Nelson and Blazek were reinstated from the 60-day DL on Monday as assumed. That officially puts the 40-man roster at 36 players with four open spots.
***END OF UPDATE***
Ron Burgundy may never have heard Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin,’” but David Stearns obviously has, and he’s willing to make the moves he deems necessary to regain Milwaukee’s footing in the ultra-competitive National League Central division.
Up next for Stearns? It could be a decision on whether to pick up the $8 million club option on first baseman Adam Lind. That decision must come by the close of business Wednesday.
While not exactly two months (that happens tomorrow) thanks to the odd setup of February, any time you reach a round number in any countdown, it’s a nice milestone along the way. Some of our earliest counting after we master single digits is counting by 10s. More than that, round numbers have always had a mythical place in baseball lore. 3000 hits, 500 home runs, 300 wins, 20 win season, hitting .300, scoring 100 runs, driving in 100, etc, etc, etc.
60 days isn’t on the same level, of course, but it’s still a round number that we can sink our teeth into on the way to zero.
Much the same, the man wearing #60 does out of necessity. It was assigned to him last year, but he’ll be seeking to change it should he break camp with the Brewers this year. He is…
I don’t think I’m off base if I say that on July 3, 2014 very few Brewers fan knew who Matt Clark was. I also don’t think it’s erroneous to state that only a relative handful knew who he was on August 30 of that year. So allow me to fill in some of those blanks for those who still know nothing more of Clark than that he was a September call-up last year.
Matthew Terry Clark is a 28-year-old first baseman. He was drafted into pro ball twice, first out of Riverside Community College by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2007, and then out of Louisiana State University by the San Diego Padres in 2008. It was with the Padres that Clark would begin getting paid to play.
In five years as a Padres farmhand, Clark hit 102 home runs, scored 311 times, collected 390 RBIs, slashed .282/.359/.494/.853 and racked up 1012 total bases, though with significant platoon splits each season. Clark reached Triple-A in the Padres system, but was basically blocked with first Adrian Gonzalez and later Yonder Alonso before Alonso proved to not be the answer. After those five seasons, Clark was sold to the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball.
Clark would play in Japan for just the one season, possibly because he could then return to the states as a full free agent. While it may have been a tough pill to swallow at the time, Clark looks back on his time in Japan fondly. He enjoyed the experience but more importantly credits the NPB style of pitching with helping him reach the big leagues with the Brewers last year. Clark said that his splits against left-handed pitching settled down in 2014 because so many NPB pitchers work off of their off-speed pitches. It forced Clark to learn to read pitches better and afterward he was able to make better adjustments which led to better contact. More on the culmination of all that in a minute.
After all, 2014 didn’t start off perfectly for Clark. Though he was able to sign with the New York Mets on January 31, 2014, Clark was optioned to Double-A after Spring Training and wasn’t given opportunity even at Triple-A let alone at the big league level despite the Mets’ trade of Ike Davis to the Pirates and the early struggles of Lucas Duda who was hitting just .229 as late at June 12th. After that low point for Duda (who ended up rebounding well through the end of July), and still no chance, Clark took matters into his own hands and requested his release from the Mets (which was granted on June 25). It was a gutsy move as there were no guaranteed spots anywhere else in the game. After all, especially in the high minors most teams have long since settled on their positional starters by late June. Clark would later state that he was willing to sit at home the rest of the season rather than continue to play Double-A ball for an organization who didn’t think he had a future.
Well, as the old saying goes, fortune favored the bold. Despite having both Sean Halton and former organizational Minor League Player of the Year Hunter Morris at their Triple-A Nashville affiliate, the Brewers found themselves in need at the position when the latter suffered a fractured forearm. And as coincidence would have it, a former coach with the Padres when Clark was there, Bob Skube, was currently the hitting coach with Nashville. Skube had recommended signing Clark in the previous off-season once he was coming back from Japan, but there wasn’t a fit at the time. This time, it worked out and Clark hit the ground, well, hitting in Nashville. In 53 games, Clark slashed .313/.371/.605/.976 with 16 home runs over just 195 at-bats. His numbers against left-handed pitching were very good (though in limited at-bats).
He was finally, squarely, on the radar of a big league general manager. With the veteran Lyle Overbay slowing down after not offering a ton of offense to begin with in 2014, and veteran slugger Mark Reynolds mired in one of the biggest power outages of his career, Clark finally got his chance. He slugged his way into cult lore with three home runs in his first 17 at-bats, including a three-run blast in the 7th inning of a September 14 tilt against the Reds which the Brewers won 9-2.
Clark’s playing time was a little inconsistent, and he was seeing the best pitchers in the world for the first time and understandably skidded to a .185/.226/.519(!) finish, but that was in just 31 plate appearances, so not a ton can really be gleaned from it.
For 2015, the Brewers look to have Clark entrenched as their starting first baseman at the new Class-AAA affiliate Colorado Springs after trading veteran pitcher Marco Estrada to Toronto for Adam Lind. It wasn’t an indictment on Clark, in my opinion, but proper hedging at a position where the Brewers have had more than their fair share of struggles offensively since their 2011 run to the NLCS with Prince Fielder. And while Clark could make the team as lefty power off the bench late in games (Clark has played a bit of corner outfield in his minor league career, as it speaks to some versatility), Clark is absolutely still in the picture here. Morris was outrighted off the 40-man roster this winter and Halton was protected at Double-A before the Rule 5 Draft in December to give him the opportunity to head to a new ball club. Furthermore, it’s not like Lind has the cleanest medical history either, so some at-bats could find their way into Clark’s ledger that was as well.
I would think that a legitimate chance is all a guy like Matt Clark ever wanted. He got one in 2014 with the Brewers and while he’s decidedly unlikely to break camp as the every day Brewers first baseman, that same chance which Clark capitalized on in 2014 exists for him today and as we head into camp in a couple of weeks.
I think he’ll take it.
Follow Matt Clark on Twitter: @MattClark60
Catch up on the countdown!
BREWERS ON DECK TO INCLUDE OVER 50 PLAYERS, COACHES, BROADCASTERS & ALUMNI
Event to Feature Community Book Drive; Food Donations Accepted through Hunger Task Force
Nearly 50 Milwaukee Brewers players plus a host of alumni, coaches, front office executives and broadcasters are scheduled to participate in Brewers On Deck, which is set to take place on Sunday, January 25 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Wisconsin Center.
Advance tickets are $15 for adults and $9 for children 14 and under. Tickets on the day of the event are $20 for adults and $15 for children 14 and under. A portion of the proceeds from Brewers On Deck will benefit Brewers Community Foundation. Tickets may be purchased at the Miller Park ticket office, by calling the Brewers ticket office at 414-902-4000, or online at brewers.com/ondeck.
This year the event will feature a community book drive that will help support Next Door’s Books for Kids program. The goal of the Books for Kids campaign is to help all children in Milwaukee’s central city, regardless of their family income or education levels, have books they can call their own. Local author Marla McKenna will help host the event. Fans are encouraged to bring new or gently used children’s books to donate. In appreciation for their contribution, fans who donate a book will receive a free copy of McKenna’s newest publication, “Mom’s Big Catch,” a story based upon events that took place at Miller Park.
Once again food donations will be accepted through Hunger Task. Donations can be dropped off at two main entrances to the Wisconsin Center, located at 4th Street and Wisconsin Avenue, and 4th Street and Wells Street.
Players, coaches and alumni scheduled to attend include (all subject to change):
- Michael Blazek
- Ryan Braun
- Juan Centeno
- Matt Clark
- Clint Coulter
- Khris Davis
- Mike Fiers
- Scooter Gennett
- David Goforth
- Carlos Gomez
- Hector Gomez
- Brooks Hall
- Jim Henderson
- Jeremy Jeffress
- Taylor Jungmann
- Brandon Kintzler
- Corey Knebel (just added)
- Adam Lind
- Jonathan Lucroy
- Kyle Lohse
- Jimmy Nelson
- Gerardo Parra
- Wily Peralta
- Shane Peterson
- Jason Rogers
- Luis Sardiñas (just added)
- Logan Schafer
- Will Smith
- Michael Strong
- Tyler Thornburg
- Rob Wooten
- Darnell Coles (Hitting Coach)
- Joe Crawford (Video/Scouting)
- Matt Erickson (Timber Rattlers Mgr.)
- Mike Guerrero (1st Base Coach)
- Marcus Hanel (Bullpen Catcher)
- Rick Kranitz (Pitching Coach)
- Jerry Narron (Bench Coach)
- Ron Roenicke (Manager)
- Ed Sedar (3rd Base Coach)
- John Shelby (Outfield Coach)
- Lee Tunnell (Bullpen Coach)
- Jerry Augustine
- Cecil Cooper
- Craig Counsell
- Rob Deer
- Jim Gantner
- Larry Hisle
Brewers On Deck will feature a number of activities for the entire family. Autographs and photos from Brewers players, coaches and alumni; interactive games in the Kids Area; Q&A sessions and game shows with Brewers players, coaches and broadcasters; vendor booths with baseball memorabilia; Brewers Community Foundation’s Treasure Hunt, a 50/50 raffle, live auction and many other activities will all be a part of Brewers On Deck.
Details regarding autographs include the following: Recipients of “PREMIER” autographs (players to be announced next week) will be chosen through a random selection process. Each fan in attendance will receive one Premier Entry sheet which may be redeemed at the Random Selection area outside the Main Exhibit Hall of the Wisconsin Center District. The Premier Entry sheet will be exchanged for a numbered coupon to be entered into the random selection process for any one of the select Brewers players. Coupon distribution will be available at 8 a.m. the day of the event and will continue up to an hour before each designated autograph session. There is no cost for coupons to enter the random selection process; however, those holding winning coupons must pay $10 at the respective autograph stage to collect their player signature. There will be 250 winners for each of the autograph sessions. The winning ticket numbers will be posted at the designated autograph stage no less than 30 minutes prior to each player’s session.
Players and staff not included in the PREMIER autograph list will not use the random selection process. Each of these players will sign 250 autographs at prices ranging from free to $10. A schedule of players, their session times, and distribution info will be posted next week. The autograph opportunities are for signatures on photo cards provided by the team; the Brewers cannot guarantee that any player will sign other memorabilia. For additional information, visit Brewers.com/ondeck.
Autograph proceeds benefit Brewers Community Foundation. Please note that cash is the only acceptable form of payment for autographs. The Brewers cannot guarantee that any player will sign other memorabilia, and personalization of items is solely up to the discretion of each player.
A detailed schedule of all Brewers On Deck events will be released next week.
***UPDATE! Here is the schedule…***
Recipients of “PREMIER” autographs Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy and Bob Uecker will be chosen through a random selection process. Each fan in attendance will receive one Premier Entry card which may be redeemed at the Random Selection area outside the Main Exhibit Hall of the Wisconsin Center. The Premier Entry card will be exchanged for a numbered coupon and entered into the random selection process for any one of the select Brewers players. Coupon distribution will be available at 8 a.m. the day of the event and will continue up to an hour before each designated autograph session.
There is no cost for coupons to enter the random selection process; however, those holding winning coupons must pay $10 at the respective autograph stage to collect their player signature. There will be 250 winners for each of the autograph sessions. The winning ticket numbers will be posted at the designated autograph stage no less than 30 minutes prior to each player’s session. A schedule is listed below:
PREMIER AUTOGRAPH SCHEDULE
Player Signing Time Stage
Bob Uecker 12:30 – 1:15 5
Ryan Braun 1:00 – 1:45 6
Jonathan Lucroy 2:30 – 3:15 3
Carlos Gomez 3:00 – 3:45 1
Players and staff not included in the above autograph list will not use the random selection process. Each of those players will sign 250 autographs at prices ranging from free to $10.
The autograph opportunities are for signatures on photo cards provided by the team; the Brewers cannot guarantee that any player will sign other memorabilia, and personalization of items is solely up to the discretion of each player (BOLD ITALICS – Premier Autograph).
Autograph Schedule – MAIN STAGES
10:30 – 11:15 Scooter Gennett ($10)
12:00 – 12:45 Logan Schafer ($10)
1:30 – 2:15 Mike Fiers ($10)
3:00 – 3:45 Carlos Gomez ($10)
12:30 – 1:15 Jim Henderson ($10)
2:00 – 2:45 Gerardo Parra ($10)
3:30 – 4:15 Will Smith ($10)
11:30 – 12:15 Adam Lind ($10)
2:30 – 3:15 Jonathan Lucroy ($10)
3:45 – 4:30 Wily Peralta ($10)
10:30 – 11:15 Brandon Kintzler ($10)
12:00 – 12:45 Rob Wooten ($10)
1:30 – 2:15 Khris Davis ($10)
11:00 – 11:45 Jimmy Nelson ($10)
12:30 – 1:15 Bob Uecker ($10)/Mark Attanasio ($0)
3:30 – 4:15 Jeremy Jeffress ($10)
11:30 – 12:15 Tyler Thornburg ($10)
1:00 – 1:45 Ryan Braun ($10)
3:45 – 4:30 Kyle Lohse ($10)
Players who are not listed above will sign free autographs on the Bonus Stage all day long.
Please note that cash is the only acceptable form of payment for autographs.
The 620 WTMJ Stage will broadcast live from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. and will include interviews with Brewers players and coaches.
New this year, fans are invited to stop by the Social Media Stage for fun and games. Fans can also post their photos from the event to Twitter and/or Instagram using the hashtag #BrewersOnDeck for a chance to win prizes such as a trip down Bernie Brewer’s slide, game tickets and more. For contest rules, visit brewers.com/onDeck.
Children are invited to visit the Farm Teams Infield for free batting and hitting clinics scheduled throughout the day. Brewers alumni and players will be on hand for the instructional sessions. Kids can run around the field or try a quick game of ping pong with Brewers players.
Klement’s Main Stage Schedule
10:15 a.m. – Welcome – Brewers television broadcaster Craig Coshun will welcome fans to Brewers On Deck. The winners of the seven T-Shirt Friday designs will be introduced to fans.
11:15 a.m. – Meet the Coaches – Third base coach Ed Sedar will host a Q&A session with Brewers manager Ron Roenicke and his coaching staff.
12:30 p.m. – The Brewlywed Game – Brewers players, coaches, prospects and alumni will participate in a game show to see which pair really knows each other the best. Joe Block will host the show.
2:00 p.m. – Meet the Management and Newest Players – Brewers Chairman and Principal Owner Mark Attanasio, President of Baseball Operations – General Manager Doug Melvin, Vice President – Assistant General Manager Gord Ash will join the newest Brewers acquisitions – Corey Knebel, Adam Lind and Luis Sardinas – in a question and answer session with Brewers fans. The session will be hosted by Brian Anderson.
3:15 p.m. – Call to the Pen – Brewers players, coaches, prospects and alumni will participate in a game show, similar to Pictionary. Joe Block will host the show.
My annual countdown to Opening Day will return for another season!
There has been some decent 40-man roster turnover since Spring Training. I mark the passage of time from (roughly) the turn of the calendar until Brewers Opening Day by previewing players who wear a certain uniform number on the corresponding day.
We’re 98 days away from Opening Day, so we won’t get underway on this thing quite yet, but once the countdown coincides with a jersey, you’ll see the first column go up.
I call the series “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” and it works a little something like this:
- Opening Day is April 6, 2015.
- March 29th is eight days before April 6th.
- Ryan Braun wears number 8 on his jersey.
- I’ll write an article reviewing Ryan Braun’s 2014 and looking ahead to his 2015 and post it on March 29, 2015.
Make sense? Here’s another example:
- Jonathan Broxton wears number 51.
- 51 days before April 6th is February 14th.
- I’ll post my Broxton column on February 14th.
I do a column on every player who is on the Brewers 40-man roster along with most Spring Training non-roster invitees. I’ll update this space with a full schedule once the uniform numbers for the newest 40-man additions are announced. I’ll update it again as non-roster invitees are revealed.
Thanks for reading and sticking with me this winter. BBtJN is a very popular series and I thank you for that. Stay tuned!
Today the Brewers confirmed the call-ups of the three players I reported yesterday afternoon. In that linked piece, I mentioned that the resultant fallout to open up the necessary pair of 40-man roster spots could be interesting. Looks like I was right again.
The additions of two players who earned spots comes at the expense of two who had previously done the same.
Designated For Assignment was Caleb Gindl. Should he clear waivers, it’s a virtual certainty that Gindl would choose to leave the Brewers organization. He has talent but was never afforded a consistent opportunity to showcase himself at the game’s highest level. And since his last chance, he’s been passed on the organizational depth chart by Khris Davis and bumped further down with the acquisition of Gerardo Parra who should return for 2015.
Gindl can be traded during the DFA period as well, but cannot technically refuse an outright assignment to Nashville as he has not been removed from a 40-man roster before in his professional career.
In my opinion, there’s a spot for Gindl on a Major League roster somewhere, but in Milwaukee it just came down to a matter of available space. There just wasn’t enough.
The other player lost, in his case to outright release, was right-handed pitcher Hiram Burgos. The professional story of Burgos is one to behold, as he pitched his way from High-A ball to being on alert as the “next-guy-if-we-need-someone-in-September” all in just 2012. I’ve chronicled that on the blog before, if you’re interested in reading about it.
Burgos pitched well in 2013 winter ball, but after a rough start to his season as lead dog in the Triple-A affiliate Nashville Sounds rotation, Burgos underwent a “clean up” procedure on his throwing shoulder on June 19th. His season was done, and now we know so was his tenure in the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
Bottom line: The Brewers needed two spots and guys have been removed off of 40-man Rosters for lesser reasons than “too much depth at one position” and “growing injury history”. That doesn’t make it less impactful to the lives of the men and families behind the names on a transaction page, but at the end of the day it’s a business.
To Caleb Gindl and Hiram Burgos, two players that have always been gracious where I’m concerned, I wish them the absolute best in continuing their careers outside the Brewers’ organization.
Following their first round of call-ups yesterday, I just heard from a reliable source that the Brewers will call up at least three more players following today’s game now that Nashville’s season has concluded.
Joining the Brewers in the clubhouse tomorrow will be:
- Jason Rogers
- Hector Gomez
- Matt Clark
Rogers, the Brewers’ reigning MiLB Player of the Year, has been playing mostly third base this season in the minor league system. He’s been on an absolute tear of late, finishing his minor-league season on an eight-game hitting streak that included a pair of home runs.
For as hot as Rogers has been at the plate, nobody holds a candle to the lefty clubber Matt Clark. Acquired after Hunter Morris went down with a long-term injury this season (he’s been back and playing), Clark has demolished the Pacific Coast League. In 53 games with the Sounds, Clark is slashing .313/.371/.605 and has hit 16 home runs, all in just 195 at-bats. Of those 16 home runs, a cool 12 have come in the just-completed month of August.
Gomez is primarily a shortstop, and could have been a minor league free agent following this season had the Brewers not added him to the 40-man roster. He was also announced as a participant in the upcoming edition of the Arizona Fall League on behalf of the Brewers so it was widely thought that he would have to be added to the 40-man roster at some point. Gomez played in two MLB games back in 2011 as a Colorado Rockies player, but hasn’t been back since.
As for Rogers and Clark, their first games in a Brewers uniform will be their first games at the highest level of professional baseball.
Congratulations to all three players on strong seasons. They’ve earned these promotions.
Gomez and Clark will require 40-man roster moves. The Brewers could move *UPDATE* Johnny Hellweg (not Tyler Thornburg who is already there) to the 60-day DL easily enough. The other move could be simple, or a bit more interesting depending on how the Brewers choose to go.