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.
Per the minor league watchdog Matt Eddy of Baseball America, the following players who finished 2012 in the Brewers’ system are now minor league free agents. Their contracts expired and they have not (at least not yet) agreed to new deals with Milwaukee.
RHP: Evan Anundsen (AA), Brian Baker (AAA), Josh Butler (AA), Mike McClendon (AAA), Amaury Rivas (AAA), Claudio Vargas (AAA)
LHP: Mitch Stetter (AAA), Philippe Valiquette (AA)
C: Humberto Quintero (AAA)
1B: Erick Almonte (AAA)
3B: Andy Gonzalez (AAA), Juan Sanchez (HiA)
SS: Domnit Bolivar (AA), Hainley Statia (AA)
OF: Jordan Brown (AAA), Corey Patterson (AAA)
The full post with all 30 MLB teams’ minor league free agents from Eddy is available here: http://www.baseballamerica.com/blog/prospects/2012/11/minor-league-free-agents-2012/
You can follow Matt Eddy on Twitter: @eddymk
On September 1st each baseball season, teams are allowed to carry a MLB roster of up to 40 players. This is as opposed to the standard 25.
Teams almost always promote at least a player or two though the outside amount seems to have something to do with their postseason aspirations. If you’re in the hunt for October you don’t want several inexperienced hands trying to find their way during a pennant race, for example.
The Milwaukee Brewers aren’t exactly in that position this season.
Sure they opened the day 7.5 games behind the brand new second Wild Card berth, and start things have happened as recently as last year, but to call it “unlikely” is quite fair.
In part due to their record and in part because of the situational circumstances for certain player (i.e. shutting down Mark Rogers due to an innings limitation), the Brewers will probably be calling up a healthy group of their higher-end minor league talent.
Infielder Eric Farris was a lock to be recalled in my opinion but was already called up to the 25-man roster yesterday after Cody Ransom was claimed off waivers by the Arizona Diamondbacks. I also expect the Brewers to help out all three areas in a couple of days when the Triple-A regular season has concluded.
For the bench I would be shocked if infielder Taylor Green and outfielder Logan Schafer weren’t recalled. I do think they’re likely to call up outfielder Caleb Gindl as well.
In the pitching side there is an opening in the starting rotation with the aforementioned exclusion of Rogers. Not coincidentally at all, right-hander Wily Peralta made his final start of the season for the Nashville Sounds on the same night Rogers was making his last for the Brewers in 2012.
Along with Peralta, you can expect Tyler Thornburg to come back up and start once or twice add the season winds down.
I would normally expect Mike McClendon to be rewarded for a long season with a recall but he was taken off the 40-man roster the most recent time he was sent back to Nashville.
Any other bullpen help would likely come from outside the current 40-man composition but the Brewers can add as many as three players to it right now should they choose to do so.
I do think they’ll add coverage though so perhaps someone will get an add. Maybe Brandon Kintzler, Donovan Hand, Rob Wooten, John Lowe, maybe even Hiram Burgos…just some names to think about.
Regardless of who gets to don a Brewer uniform for the rest of the year, there should be plenty of reasons to continue to pay attention if only to see these guys get some playing time.
So, those are my thoughts. Anybody I forgot about? Who do you think should come up? Why?
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.
Valerio De Los Santos (’98-’99)
Gary Glover (’04-’05)
Chris Demaria (’06)
Guillermo Mota (’08)
Jesus Colome (’09)
Mike McClendon (’10-’12)
Wei-Chung Wang (’14)
Preston Guilmet (’15)
Ariel Peña (’15-’16)
Neil Ramirez (’16)
Rob Scahill (’16-Current)
Welcome back to this lengthy consecutive days streak for the “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” series.
Yesterday, which was 59 days away from Opening Day, saw the first legitimate 2012 big leaguer profiled in John Axford.
Today, which is 58 days away from Opening Day, sees a guy who bounced back and forth a couple of times between Milwaukee and Nashville over the past couple of seasons:
Michael Melton McClendon is a 6’5”, 225 lb, right-handed relief pitcher who made his MLB debut on August 14, 2010 after being selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 10th round of the 2006 amateur draft.
McClendon has had a fair amount of success in the big leagues, given his inauspicious promotion and use in mostly low-leverage situations.
He stayed up with the Brewers from his debut in 2010 through the end of the season. His MLB campaign saw the Texas native appear in 17 games, totaling 21.0 innings pitched. His first two appearances were 3.0 inning jobs, which shows that he wasn’t exactly designated for “close and late” situations. The balance of his year resulted in a line of: 2-0, 3.00 ERA, 21.0 IP, 15 H, 7 ER, 2 HR, 7 BB, 21 K. He held opponents to a .195 batting average and saw his WHIP finish at 1.05.
The next year, McClendon got a nice look in the spring but wasn’t brought north to Milwaukee. He began the season with the Triple-A Nashville Sounds where he would pitch in three games (1-0, 6.1 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 1 BB, 4 K, .174 BAA) before being recalled to Milwaukee on April 19th.
McClendon would pitch that same night against the Philadelphia Phillies, allowing just one walk in an otherwise perfect ninth inning, sealing up a win for Milwaukee.
That appearance kicked off a 2011 for McClendon that would see him pitch in eight more games for the Brewers before being sent back to Nashville due to the return of Zach Braddock from the disabled list. In those nine appearances, McClendon only gave up runs twice. One was a true blow up type where he allowed three earned runs on five hits (including one home run) in an inning and two-thirds at home against San Diego. I remember, because I was there! It was that game where the Padres scored eight runs in the eighth inning en route to a 13-6 victory.
Otherwise, another very encouraging season from McClendon. He totaled a 2.63 ERA in 13.2 innings, won three games, finished with a 1.32 WHIP after surrendering 15 hits and three walks. He did strike out 10 over the nine games as well.
The other lasting legacy of McClendon’s time in Milwaukee was the introduction of the quick pitch to many fans. LaTroy Hawkins used it a few times as well, but McClendon really brought it to the forefront of Brewers fans’ minds.
Back in Nashville, McClendon finished the Triple-A season with 38 appearances, all in reliefe. He tossed 58.2 innings, and produced a 5-6 record, 3.53 ERA and recorded 8 Saves.
Looking at the total picture, it was a solid season for McClendon. He has things to work on, but so does every player. The bottom line for the team is that he’s shown flashes of being a reliable and capable option for a call-up in the case of injury to one a member of the bullpen.
Barring injury, Mike McClendon isn’t likely to make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training. He will start the regular season in Nashville’s bullpen. These are likelihoods that you can feel comfortable with.
I just suggest that he keeps at least one carry-on bag packed.