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.
Doug Melvin, General Manager of our beloved Milwaukee Brewers, was on the radio this afternoon on AM 1250 WSSP in SE Wisconsin for a few minutes talking about his off-season plans.
Here is a transcript of the interview (which you can listen to by clicking here):
On speculation connecting the Brewers to certain players (i.e. Josh Hamilton, Zack Greinke):
“Well, I don’t think those are the names that were gonna be involved with. I think this is gonna be a year we’ll take a look at the free agent market, but more than likely I don’t anticipate us being actively involved in free agency. We may try to find different ways to improve our ball club. We do like the current club we have. We were 36-23 with the third best record in the National League after August 1st with some of the young pitchers we brought up. We do have most positional guys back so I wouldn’t get too excited about those kinds of names. I think a lot of it is speculation. It often makes sense. This is the time of year when those kind of things happen.”
On having young pitching after years of waiting for some and if he may have to trade some of it away to acquire a proven starter:
“We feel right now there’s probably a better chance we’re going to hold onto our young pitching. We saw Mike Fiers come up last year. He struggled a little bit later (in the year). We saw Mark Rogers and Wily Peralta both come up with the power arms they showed us in the past. We had Tyler Thornburg. We’ve got Hiram Burgos who’s going to be added to the roster, had a very good year. We’ve had Taylor Jungmann who’s probably going to be at Double-A. We’ve got John Hellweg who’s pitched very well in the Fall League and was just picked by the scouting bureau as the best player on that Phoenix ball club. So, we do have some depth with our pitching. Jimmy Nelson we like; we’re very high on him. Nick Bucci (too) so. We’ve got a chance to have, out of 10 starters in Double-A and Triple-A, we have a chance to have 8 to 9 of them they’re gonna be legitimate prospects we think will pitch in the big leagues. The big league pitchers? It’s time to give Wily Peralta, time to give Mark Rogers that opportunity.”
In discussing fan support following a rough first half and the resultant decisions surrounding trading away Zack Greinke:
“Who’s not to say that if we kept Zack Greinke that we might’ve got back in this thing. You have to make some tough decisions sometimes. When a shortstop was included in a deal for Zack, we just had to make the decision at that particular time. … It’s a credit to Ron, the coaches, the players that they didn’t give up and it’s something that we can learn that in baseball you can be six, seven, eight games out and that can be made up in two weeks time. So, it’s a lesson we all can learn that sometimes you gotta be a little bit patient. It is a long season.”
Asked if there is any way Zack Greinke can be back in a Brewers uniform:
“I don’t know. I’m sorry but I don’t think that’s gonna happen. As much as Zack liked it here and enjoyed it here, there’s a couple clubs that are gonna get heavily involved with him. He is no doubt the number one pitcher out there…from the starting pitching standpoint. I think he’s gonna do very well but I would expect that we may get a phone call from his agent but I think in the end it’s going to be difficult for Zack to come back here to Milwaukee under the amount of money he’s probably gonna be offered.”
Asked if he would like to add a veteran starting pitcher and if any free agents intrigue him:
“Yeah, there’s a few names out there. Obviously we’re gonna lose Marcum and we’re gonna lose Greinke so we’ve talked about adding a starting pitcher. We do have to add to our bullpen too. Edwin Jackson’s another name that’s been out there. I don’t know where he’s headed or what his thought process is. We do have an opportunity; we can go with the current guys we have. The tough part with that is that any kind of injury, then you really tap into not having the depth that’s needed over the course of 162 games. Going with the younger guys and Yovani, Marco Estrada, Mike Fiers, Rogers, Wily Peralta, Chris Narveson will be back and be healthy. The part of that is you really cross your fingers that everybody’s going to stay healthy and everybody’s gonna produce. So you would like to have a veteran that you could put out there in the rotation that could eat up a couple hundred innings, but you also want quality innings. In the past, we’ve had the Jeff Suppan, Randy Wolf. They both came in here when we didn’t have the younger pitching and they gave us innings and that but obviously you’d like to get the quality. Pitching takes a long time to develop.”
On Manny Parra and fans growing impatient:
“He’s on the roster now and we’ll wait and see. I can’t indicate at this time, but…there comes a time when changes of scenery do help players and that happens sometimes. That’s what we’ve talked about before and if you look at Manny’s numbers and break them down, the numbers are there. You’d like to see more consistent performance, so you know, there’s a possibility. Manny right now’s on our roster at this time and we’ll wait and see.”
On arbitration, bullpen changes:
“I think you’ll probably see three to four new faces out there. I think John Axford, Jim Henderson, I think Brandon Kintzler pitched well enough that he can step in and perform in one of those roles. We would like to maybe try to get a left-hander but we also want a left-hander of quality if we can otherwise we’ll just stay right-handed. But I can see where you could turn three or four names over in that bullpen. Also with the starting pitchers there’s going to be one of those guys that will lose out (on a rotation spot) and will probably go to the bullpen and be a long guy.”
On Axford sticking as closer in 2013:
“I’d like to think that John can. As I said in the press conference at the end of the year, he had two months where he had more than one blown Save. He does strike out people. His strike out rate is still one of the best in the game. His walk rate was too high this year and he needs to get that back down. I do like having a closer and a guy in the bullpen that’s gonna strike people out. I think that’s important. That’s why I like a closer that’s gonna get strikeouts so I lean a little bit towards (Axford) but they also have to reduce the walks. We’re confident, in John, the stuff is still there but gonna have to improve on his command and control.”
On how he feels about the hitters:
“We look at it and we feel pretty good about the ball club we put out positional-wise. Offensively, it’s a pretty good ball club. It fits both what Doug Melvin looks for and what Ron Roenicke looks for. I’m a home run and doubles guy and Ron likes the aggressive style. We fulfilled both those (philosophies) leading the leagues in home runs and also stolen bases we were first or second. We were very aggressive on the bases scoring runs, second in the league in sacrifice bunts. We scored runs in a lot of different ways. I do believe with our ballpark we’re always gonna be a team that’s gonna rely on the home runs just because of the facility we play in and that. But I’m pleased with the positional aspect of our game. I think I’m more than pleased in the fact that Maldonado coming on the scene we’re very set at catching. Having a young shortstop in Jean Segura, being young up the middle with catching, shortstop, Rickie bounced back, and then Carlos Gomez in center field. Carlos is a five-plus guy so we’ve gotta determine is Carlos is here over the long haul or is he here for (only) one more year.”
On Alex Gonzalez possibly returning:
“We’ve gotta make that decision yet. Alex is a free agent so he could test the market too. When it comes down to asking players, when you’re a free agent, he’s gonna want to know his playing time. How much time is he gonna play or do we view him as an extra guy and are we going with Segura. We have to answer that question. Jean is playing winter ball right now and is hitting almost .400 and he hit very well the month of September for us. We’re pretty high on (Segura) at this point. We can go with Jean Segura. We just want to make sure that is the right thing to do. Alex would love to return to us but it’s probably going to be about playing time. ‘Are we the right fit for him?’ And if you do bring Alex back, what impact does that have on Jean Segura? We haven’t made that final call yet. Right now we’re probably leaning toward Segura and just letting Jean do the job because we do think the resources are going to be needed for pitching.”
On Josh Hamilton again:
“No. There’s nothing going on. If he wants to sign that “Andre Dawson” contract…that $500 thousand contract that Andre Dawson did for the Cubs. I think it’s about time a player did that so I’m waiting for that one.”
On any off-season proclamation like he did in 2010 before acquiring Greinke and Marcum by stating he was going to go get some pitching:
“I don’t have any right now. I gotta go check the piggy bank.”
Alright, Brewer Nation. What do you think of what the GM had to say today?
The Milwaukee Brewers have announced that they have released veteran pitcher Randy Wolf today.
Signing with the Brewers as a free agent in December of 2009, Wolf couldn’t last the full three years of the guaranteed portion of his contract.
Over the course of his tenure as a Brewers starting pitcher, Wolf was 29-32 with a 4.37 ERA in 92 games (91 starts). His ERA+ finished at 92 despite a career-worst 73 in 2012.
The Brewers did have a $10 million club option on Wolf’s contract for 2013 with a small $1.5 million buyout that won’t have much of an impact at all.
While many figured Wolf’s days in the Cream City were numbered, everyone thought that he’d have until the end of the season. Especially after talk that current rotation members Mike Fiers and Mark Rogers might need to be shut down at some point before the season ends, it was assumed (or perhaps resigned to) that the veteran stalwart Wolf would continue to throw.
The Brewers do have a couple of arms they need to see this September as they look to the future at that position, including Wily Peralta and a hopefully rejuvenated Tyler Thornburg. Also with the return from injury by Shaun Marcum, a spot had to be opened up in the rotation and manager Ron Roenicke told the media yesterday that they aren’t ready to shut down Fiers or Rogers just yet.
As for Wolf, as mentioned earlier, he is now 36 years old and will be coming off the worst season of his career. While that’s hardly uncommon at 36, one has to begin to wonder how much more time he’ll have in a big league uniform…at the very least as a starting pitcher.
Regardless as to his professional future, Randy Wolf is a tremendous man and teammate. Brewers fans will hopefully recall his contributions last season fondly.
As the additional piece of news in today’s transactions, infielder Jeff Bianchi was recalled from Triple-A Nashville. The Brewers have been playing a hitter short for a while.
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?
It is July 21st and the Milwaukee Brewers are through eight games of a critical, “do or die” (to quote Francisco Rodriguez), direction-defining nine-game intradivisional stretch.
The Brewers have won four of those games and they have lost four of those games. The Brewers sit 9.5 games behind the National League Central Division-leading Cincinnati Reds, who have just taken a pair of games from the Brewers.
The narrative was stated loud and clear over the All-Star Break: Make some hay over the next nine or it’ll be time to sell. Gain some ground or start answering the phone. Win much more than you lose or prepare to be broken up.
No hay was made. No ground was gained. They simply haven’t won enough.
There are valuable, non-cornerstone pieces on this roster that can be of use to teams with achievable aspirations. It’s time for Doug Melvin to move as many of those pieces as he can while, of course, considering roster construction, salary structure, and the future.
Speaking more high-level though, there are a handful of players on the 2012 Brewers who are simply unlikely to be on the 2013 Brewers. This is mostly a list of players whose contract situations (be they pending free agency or non-tender candidacy) point to that end. If those players have value, they need to be sent to someone for something.
This list includes players such as Francisco Rodriguez, Nyjer Morgan, George Kottaras, Shaun Marcum, Travis Ishikawa, Randy Wolf, and the prize of the group: Zack Greinke.
There is a reported offer on the table from the Milwaukee Brewers to Zack Greinke right now in the ballpark of five years and roughly $110 million. Should Greinke decide to accept that offer, then clearly he won’t be getting traded. As he hasn’t done so yet, we must work under the situation as it currently stands. That being: Greinke is a pending free agent.
I’m not writing tonight to tell you who the Brewers should target or who I think they can get from various farm systems throughout baseball. I can tell you that I’ll begin to look at that information in earnest now.
What I am here to say is that it’s no longer time to stand pat and evaluate. The Brewers play another game in Cincinnati tomorrow and then have a three-game set in Philadelphia before coming home for a four-game series against the Washington Nationals. I don’t expect everyone currently on the roster to be on that flight back to General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee.
I originally blogged that the decision would be coming on Monday, July 23rd. The nine-game stretch which I identified before the team publicized its importance would be over and the brass would be able to meet Sunday evening and decide.
As is often the case in the prediction business, I was off. I was off on the date, but I was also off in saying that the decision would be made by Brewers brass after some meetings. The decision was made tonight when the team on the field fell to 4-4 in this stretch.
What is left to decide though is how big of a sale to have.
The players I listed earlier all should be moved. There’s no baseball reason to keep any of them if you can get someone to give you something of value in return. The organization clearly wants to keep Miller Park as the summer-long destination for group outings, parties, and money-spending. You can do that, in a sell situation, by highlighting two things: First that this is a necessary evil to ensure success in the near future and second by providing an opportunity to still win on any given night.
Losing many valuable pieces will feel like there’s no chance of winning but Jonathan Lucroy should be back in the bigs soon (maybe even this Thursday as a target?) and they’ll still have Yovani Gallardo, Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez (most likely), Norichika Aoki ,and the feel-good story of Mike Fiers. Baseball is still fun, the experience of going to a game and being in the ballpark is still enjoyable in and of itself regardless of team performance, you can still tailgate just as hard before a loss as before a victory.
But again those are impacts on the business and bottom line (which can feed into baseball decisions if there’s enough of a drop off in attendance) decisions.
From pure baseball considerations, however, how big of a sale should Melvin commit to? Because there are a couple of players who are under contract with the Brewers for (at least) 2013 which could net return for the future as well. The biggest piece in that group, to me, is Corey Hart.
Hart is only under contract for 2013 after this year. He is a capable player at the plate despite extremely streaky tendencies. He has proven himself an improbably capable defender at first base which adds to his versatility. Comparable players to Hart have gotten contracts that are extremely cost-prohibitive to a standard Brewers budget. What’s more, Corey Hart has shown zero propensity toward anything resembling a “hometown discount”. He has held out for every possible dollar throughout his arbitration years and you therefore must operate under the assumption that this trend will continue.
Hart could have a ton of value to certain teams right now. Case in point, for the sake of discussion, are the Texas Rangers. They’re set in the outfield when everyone is healthy but they haven’t exactly had a ton of production at first base. Enter Hart who has played tremendous defense and would probably hit even better inside of the Ballpark at Arlington.
It’s something that the Brewers could consider if they decide to reload toward another run in 2015, for instance. Hart would likely be gone anyway so move him early which increases the return and play for a couple of years down the road. If that’s the decision, then guys like Jose Veras (arbitration eligible in 2013 and 2014) could go and, if they decide to jettison everybody not named Braun, Gallardo, and Lucroy, Rickie Weeks (under contract through 2014) and Aramis Ramirez (signed through 2014) could be moved, though they’d be much more likely to go in the off-season or at the 2013 trade deadline. That’s because Weeks’ value is very low right now due to his incredibly slow start this season and Ramirez has two years left on his deal after this season instead of just one like Hart.
But I digress before I get too deep down the rabbit hole of possibilities tonight. For now, the initial group I listed earlier needs to moved if possible. They won’t be on the 2013 Brewers but at least they could still impact that team in a positive way if they are moved now for something that can help later. There will be time for discussions and blog posts about rumor, innuendo, discussion, scuttlebutt, conjecture, and of course wild prognostication.
Well, no more than 10 days, I suppose.
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.
John O’Donoghue (’70)
Gary Ryerson (’72-’73)
Larry Anderson (’75)
Rick Austin (’75-’76)
Randy Stein (’78)
Paul Mitchell (’79-’80)
Chuck Porter (’81-’85)
Dave Stapleton (’87-’88)
Mike Young (’88)
Randy Veres (’89-’90)
Jim Hunter (’91)
Mark Kiefer (’93-’96)
Doug Jones (’96-’98)
Joe Hudson (’98)
Jim Pittsley (’99)
Matt Childers (’02)
Dave Burba (’03-’04)
Justin Lehr (’05-’06)
Manny Parra (’07-’08)
R.J. Swindle (’09)
Randy Wolf (’10-’12)
The Brewers hit the road following their brief three-game season-opening homestand. They headed south on Interstate 94 to Chicago to take on the Cubs in a four game series which, because it’s Chicago, meant two evening games and two day afternoon games.
The Crew took the first three games in the series and looked good heading into an opportunity for their first ever four-game sweep of the Cubs at Wrigley Field. They fell painfully short of that goal, but more on that later.
The fact is that in a venue where the 96-win 2011 Brewers only won two games all year, leaving town with three notches on the bedpost is certainly an acceptable outcome.
For more on each game’s individual happenings, read on!
Game 1 – Monday – Brewers (1-2): 7, Cubs (1-2): 5
Winning Pitcher: Shaun Marcum (1-0, 4.50) Losing Pitcher: Shawn Camp (0-1, 7.36)
Save: John Axford (1)
In the opening tilt of the series, the Brewers not only scored early (RBI sac fly by Aramis Ramirez, plating Nyjer Morgan), but often (scoring runs in six of their nine frames).
In a nice blend of small ball and…big ball, I guess…the Brewers got a solo home run from Rickie Weeks in the third and RBI extra-base hits from Mat Gamel (triple) in the sixth inning and Ramirez (double) in the Brewers’ next frame. Milwaukee also picked up RBIs by way of both a safety and suicide squeeze, and a pair of sacrifice flies.
The only real point of concern came in the bottom of the ninth when, sporting a 7-3 lead and with closer John Axford having just thrown 27 pitches the night before, manager Ron Roenicke called on Manny Parra to finish out the game.
Parra allowed a leadoff double and was lifted for Tim Dillard once the left-handed hitters were done. Dillard walked Geovany Soto which forced Roenicke’s hand.
Axford entered the game and allowed his first batter faced to single home a run on Parra’s linescore. With men at second and third and only one out, Axford struck out David DeJesus but then walked Darwin Barney to load the bases.
In a beautifully-called and executed sequence, Axford then struck out Starlin Castro on three pitches to end the game.
Game 2 – Tuesday – Brewers (2-2): 7, Cubs (1-3): 4
Winning Pitcher: Chris Narveson (1-0, 3.60) Losing Pitcher: Paul Maholm (0-1, 13.50)
Save: Francisco Rodriguez (1)
A cold night in the Windy City saw a team of (mostly) hooded men residing in the first base dugout.
The hoods designed to keep a player’s head and neck warm could also be pulled up to cover the face while running the bases, and the sight of so many of the Brewers wearing them caused many fans to invoke a “ninja” theme to the evening’s events.
It was a mostly fitting description for the early part of the game as the Brewers struck blows to the Cubs starting pitcher repeatedly. The loudest blow of the night for Milwaukee came from the first hitter in the batting order to plays sans shroud, Alex Gonzalez. He made plenty of noise by blasting a three-run home run into the left-center field bleachers, capping the scoring at five for the frame.
The ninja thing might have been a perfect description if not for the fact that Corey Hart and Mat Gamel were both hit by pitches in the first inning. After all, ninjas are supposed to be incredibly stealthy and therefore shouldn’t be able to be plunked.
The Cubs were never really in this game, though they did cut the lead to three runs in the third inning.
There was more ninth inning drama as well. The Brewers once again put a four-run lead up against the Cubs final three outs and put a non-closer on the bump to begin the ninth.
After Kameron Loe had pitched two mostly brilliant innings of scoreless relief, Jose Veras was given the first chance to slam the door but hung a curveball to Geovany Soto which was blasted into the stands for a home run. After striking out the scuffling Marlon Byrd, Veras walked the pinch-hitting Bryan LaHair.
The situation now being a three-run lead with the tying run in the on-deck circle made it a Save opportunity. With John Axford having thrown over 50 pitches over the previous two days, manager Ron Roenicke had decided prior to the game that the Ax Man was off limits tonight. Roenicke walked to the mound and signaled for a right-hander to enter the game.
Francisco Rodriguez jogged to the mound looking to record his first Save as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers.
K-Rod needed just seven pitches to get through the final two hitters. He secured Chris Narveson’s first Win of the year by striking out David DeJesus and inducing Darwin Barney to ground out to Alex Gonzalez.
The Brewers had just guaranteed themselves no worse than a series split, but had eyes for more.
Game 3 – Wednesday – Brewers (3-2): 2, Cubs (1-4): 1
Winning Pitcher: Yovani Gallardo (1-1, 5.91) Losing Pitcher: Ryan Dempster (0-1, 1.88)
Save: John Axford (2)
Yovani Gallardo’s start on Opening Day was brutal. (You can click here for that recap.) A lot of people were questioning the staff ace and his abilities, which is ridiculous but they were, and were looking for a bounce-back start against the Cubs.
Going seven strong innings, only allowing one run (earned) while scattering five hits and two walks, he struck out six Cubs hitters on the day. He shaved nearly nine runs off of his ERA (early season small sample sizes are fun!), nearly a point and a half off of his WHIP, and thousands of doubters off his back about his admittedly rough start five days earlier.
Nearly exceeding his performance, however, was Cub starter Ryan Dempster. He too pitched on Opening Day for Chicago, but with much better personal results than Gallardo achieved. Dempster made it to the seventh scoreless, but allowed a one-out, two-run home run to George Kottaras which proved to be the difference in the game.
Gallardo was set to be pinch-hit for had Kottaras not come through, but instead he came back out in the bottom of the seventh and worked himself into and out of the only substantial Cub threat of the afternoon.
The eighth and ninth were by design after that, with both Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford striking out the side around two walks and one double, respectively.
Having hoisted the L flag atop Wrigley for the third consecutive game, the Brewers looked to do what they had never done before…
Sweep a four-game set from the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Game 4 – Thursday – Brewers (4-2): 0, Cubs (1-5): 8
Winning Pitcher: Matt Garza (1-0, 1.23) Losing Pitcher: Zack Greinke (1-1, 6.75)
When you head into the final game of a series with a chance to sweep that series, and you have one of the best pitchers on your staff starting, you feel pretty good about your chances that day. So, too, did the Brewers with Zack Greinke toeing the rubber on Thursday afternoon.
In a confluence of recent and unfortunate trends, however, Greinke pitched during the day and on the road. While coincidental at best, neither of those situations was particularly friendly to Greinke last season. (For the record: Greinke’s Win-Loss record was good during the day last year, but we all know how much that actually reflects his performance.)
Regardless of the circumstances, Greinke seemed out of sorts the entire day. He barely touched speeds with his fastball that he usually sits comfortably at. He normally sits 94-95, touches 97, but on Thursday he was sitting 91-92 and his high watermark only rounded up to 95. PitchFX information had Greinke topping out at 94.9 MPH, while averaging 92.64. (Those figures were quoted to me by mutual Twitter follow Jaymes Langrehr of the Disciples of Uecker blog. You can follow him on Twitter: @JaymesL.)
The second half of the Brewers pair of aces could only muster 3.2 innings pitched on Thursday afternoon, and he was charged with eight earned runs before it was all said and done. That was a far cry from his seven shutout innings against the St. Louis Cardinals five days prior.
The highlights of the game for the Brewers would be that two relief pitchers, who had been previously roughed up a couple of times, posted multiple, scoreless innings in relief of Greinke. Manny Parra took over in the fourth inning and pitched through the sixth, striking out four along the way while walking none. Tim Dillard then covered the seventh and eighth, also walking no one. Each relief pitcher allowed two hits while working.
Otherwise, Matt Garza simply had his way with every Brewer hitter not named Nyjer Morgan (two hits in four trips to the plate) or Jonathan Lucroy (one hit, one walk in three PAs). Garza only allowed three hits through 8.2 innings pitched, while striking out nine and walking only two.
His only hiccup, if you can even call it one, was when Garza induced a ground ball back to himself off of the bat of pinch-hitter Norichika Aoki but then threw the ball way over and past first baseman Bryan LaHair, allowing Aoki to reach.
With Garza then at 119 pitches, Cubs manager Dale Sveum marched to the mound and lifted his starter in favor of Monday’s starter Shawn Camp. Camp got George Kottaras to ground out on four pitches to finalize things.
Like I said at the top, taking three out of four games at Wrigley Field is never a bad thing, regardless of whether you lost the final game with arguably your best pitcher on the bump.
Games against the very much so rebuilding Cubs are just as important, if not more so, as games against other opponents in the division. You must beat the teams which you are supposed to beat if you hope to approach last season’s franchise-best win total.
I really liked seeing solid starts from Shaun Marcum and Chris Narveson in their first turns, and was greatly encouraged by the fact that heavy use early didn’t affect John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez as they were both very good as usual.
The bats need to wake up a bit still. Look no further than notoriously slow starter Aramis Ramirez (2-for-22 to begin the campaign) as evidence of that, but there is plenty of time to turn things around.
After beginning 2011 with a 0-4 record and not winning for the third time on the road until their ninth try, being 4-2 after six with three victories away from Miller Park isn’t a bad place to be.
The Brewers are in Atlanta tonight for the first of a three-game series. Tonight is the Braves’ home opener. That game will be contested by Randy Wolf and Jair Jurrjens with the first pitch being scheduled for 6:35 Central Daylight Time.
Would you look at that? We’re in the single digits, folks!
Regular season baseball is almost here.
Well, regular season Brewers baseball that is. See, they’re playing games that matter today in Japan. The Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners are playing a regular season series outside of North America.
It’s not the first time it has happened, nor will it be the last, I’m sure. That fact doesn’t make it less silly though.
Anyway, you didn’t come here to read about any of that. No, you’re here to read about the man who is wearing jersey number 9 for the first time as a Milwaukee Brewer (or as a big leaguer at all):
The backup to Jonathan Lucroy, George Kottaras is a 6’0″, 200 pound catcher who hails from Scarborough, Ontario. Though Canadian by birth, he is of Greek descent and played on the 2004 Greek baseball team in the Olympics.
Kottaras is an offensive catcher who possesses a bit of power from the left-handed batters box. He is streaky in his offense, though when he’s on he’s usually very on.
In fact, Kottaras had a very significant offensive achievement in 2011 when he hit for the cycle in a game at Minute Maid Park in Houston against the Astros.
It was an event that might not have happened for him had everything gone to plan.
Kottaras, along with Wil Nieves, broke camp with the team in 2011 because Lucroy was shelved with a broken finger. The incumbent starter was ready to return eventually and the team later needed to open a roster spot. The decision came down to who would backup Lucroy.
Nieves, proven to be superior defensively to Kottaras, was chosen to remain on the team as the backup catcher and Kottaras was outrighted to Triple-A Nashville. It was a move which would prove fruitless for the Brewers and Kottaras rejoined the club when Nieves was completely useless at the plate. Nieves was traded to Atlanta shortly thereafter.
While catching games in 2011 for the Brewers, the pitchers he caught posted a 3.59 ERA. That would be 101 earned runs in 253.0 innings. Kottaras started 31 times, catching left-hander Randy Wolf in 22 of them. The Brewers were 20-11 in games where Kottaras was in the starting lineup.
Like was mentioned, though, Kottaras was on the roster for his stick. He batted .252 with 5 home runs and 17 RBI in 49 games. A far cry from starting catcher material, but a significant improvement over Nieves.
Still, Kottaras was a candidate after the season for non-tendering. The Brewers have another solid catching prospect in minor-leaguer Martin Maldonado and Kottaras was set to be arbitration-eligible, thereby greatly increasing his compensation.
Instead of being non-tendered, Kottaras agreed to a 1-year contract which he signed on 12/12, thereby avoiding arbitration and guaranteeing himself a job (at least going into spring).
Kottaras has had a good spring this year, and has all but assured himself of the backup catching job. He has hit .316 (12-for-38), scored 7 runs and driven in 7 as well, including a 5-RBI game on March 14. He’s walked four times and has even stolen a base.
As for the outlook for this year, it’s the same as last but with more time on the 25-man roster. He’ll likely catch every fifth day when Randy Wolf pitches, and occasionally a day game following a night game. The only difference might be that manager Ron Roenicke stated to the media that he intends to use Kottaras more in a late-inning pinch-hitting role.
All that is well and good, and I know that this won’t be a popular statement with the ladies, but 2012 could very well be the final season for Kottaras in Milwaukee.
He’s arbitration-eligible again after the season and with Maldonado having another year to get better in the minors, it might be time to pull that trigger.
Bottom line though, Kottaras should contribute a bit on offense, be torched badly by the majority of would be base stealers, and the subject of plenty of “personal catcher” tweets throughout the year.
After signing a new five-year contract extension, the Brewers will be looking for Lucroy to increase his games this year for sure, so Kottaras shouldn’t have too much exposure. And while I’ve got faith that Kottaras will win at least one game this year with his bat…
A lack of exposure of his weaknesses is better for everyone.
ESPN is slowly revealing its list of the best 500 players in baseball, heading into the 2012 season.
This was determined by a team of 34 “experts” (their word) were given a list of the top 600 players projected to play in the Major Leagues this season.
Using a 0-10 scale, they evaluated “only the quality of each player for the 2012 season” which means no past performance should be factored in, though we know that likely won’t be the case.
In the event of ties, ZiPS was used to project performance and therefore break those ties.
I make this post to pull out the Brewers players as they are revealed.
The surveying took place over the last two weeks of February, so I’m very interested to see where Ryan Braun’s final ranking comes in.
Ages listed are as of July 1, 2012.
Without further ado, here are the Brewers that have been revealed to this point on the list:
Rank – Name – Position – Age – Twitter handle (if appicable)
# 6 – Ryan Braun – LF – Age: 28
# 42 – Zack Greinke – RHP – Age: 29
# 53 – Yovani Gallardo – RHP – Age: 26
# 84 – John Axford – RHP – Age: 29 – @JohnAxford
# 90 – Rickie Weeks – 2B – Age: 29
# 130 – Shaun Marcum – RHP – Age: 30
# 133 – Aramis Ramirez – 3B – Age: 34
# 144 – Corey Hart – RF – Age: 30
# 173 – Francisco Rodriguez – RHP – Age: 30 – @El_kid_rod57
#232 – Randy Wolf– LHP – Age: 35
# 320 – Alex Gonzalez – SS – Age: 35
# 330 – Jonathan Lucroy – C – Age: 26
# 331 – Nyjer Morgan – CF – Age: 31 – @TheRealTPlush
# 362 – Chris Narveson – LHP – Age: 30 – @sleep_trick
# 458 – Carlos Gomez – CF – Age: 26 – @C_Gomez27
# 461 – Mat Gamel – 1B – Age: 26 – @JMGamel
I will be updating this post daily as more names are announced.
(A cool little bonus to the list is that ESPN is including confirmed Twitter handles for players when they know them, and while they’ve included Chris Narveson’s, they skipped both Gomez’ and Gamel’s. I have included them in this post.)
Today is St. Patrick’s Day in the United States of America, but at least as important, if not more so, is the fact that today is 20 days away from Opening Day!
You read that correctly. There are less than three weeks to go, Brewer Nation!
Today while you’re likely out partaking in some adult beverages and/or watching the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament’s Round of 32, be safe. Getting hurt (or God forbid worse) simply isn’t worth missing out of Opening Day.
But sometimes playing it safe can’t keep you injury free and you might miss Opening Day after all.
Such was the case last spring with today’s subject:
During a normal drill during Spring Training last year, Jonathan Charles Lucroy broke the pinkie finger on his throwing hand. (Lucroy bats and throws right-handed.) It caused Lucroy to begin the year on the disabled list as Wil Nieves and George Kottaras began the season as the two catchers on the 25-man roster.
Lucroy was reinstated to the active roster on April 10th and immediately worked back into the starting role. He had a nine-game hitting streak to begin the season once he got back to Milwaukee and was named the team’s Player of the Month for May.
Overall for the year, Lucroy batted .265/.313/.391, in 430 at-bats over 136 games (114 starts). He scored 45 runs, drove in 59, and totaled 114 hits (16 doubles, 1 triple, 12 home runs) while striking out 99 times and only walking 29 times.
More important for a catcher though is how he performs defensively. In that regard, the Brewers had a 3.63 ERA when he caught (1043.2 innings, 421 earned runs) and went 68-46 when he started. Lucroy threw out 21 of 98 runners attempting to steal, good for a 21.4% rate.
What’s more is that there have been more than a couple of articles written over the winter about Lucroy’s ability to frame pitches and help get borderline strike calls for his pitchers.
He was also inserted late in games which he did not start to pair up with the late-inning relievers. He is much more defensively sound than George Kottaras and those late changes helped evidence that.
Lucroy joked at one point during the season that he was the closer off the bench for the closers in the bullpen.
Back to the bat, Lucroy is having by far the best Spring Training of his career. Coming into today, Lucroy is batting .571 (12-of-21) and slugging .857 by way of three doubles and a home run. He’s also recorded his first Cactus League stolen base.
It’s been related by the beat writers that Lucroy has really taken well to the instruction from first year Brewers hitting coach Johnny Narron. If the results in the regular season and over the course of the long summer reflect the improvements he’s made so far, it’ll be a banner year for third year big-leaguer at the plate.
If there is any knock on the way Lucroy has performed to this point in his career, it’s in the fact that he is only the starting catcher 80% of the time. He might get more days off than that of course with day games following night games, or the occasional double-header, but he’s only the #1 option for four of the five starting pitchers in Milwaukee’s rotation.
That’s not entirely Lucroy’s fault, of course, but the face remains that he and left-handed starter Randy Wolf have been unable to get on the same page. Wolf likes to pitch a game a certain way. He has a very specific game plan and knows what he wants to throw in any situation. Lucroy hasn’t gotten it yet. He needs to work harder to be able to catch Wolf and not force manager Ron Roenicke into having to catch Kottaras (or more accurately “not Lucroy”) against tough left-handed pitchers.
Lucroy and Wolf have been paired together this spring and it seems to be working well enough so far. Having said all that, every catcher not named Jason Kendall needs some days off and catching Kottaras every fifth day all the time at least helps keeps Lucroy fresher.
As for being on the club on Opening Day, things are looking good for Lucroy there as well. Getting the start on the mound on Opening Day will likely be Yovani Gallardo, one of the four that Lucroy catches.
What all that means is that when Miller Park announcer Rob Edwards is rattling off the members of the Milwaukee Brewers prior to first pitch 20 days from now, it’ll be Lucroy’s name he calls out in the batting order as “in the bullpen” while he’s warming up Gallardo.
It may be a small thing, but making your first Opening Day roster means something to a ballplayer. But there’s something special about Opening Day.
For Jonathan Lucroy, it doesn’t signifying anything that we don’t already know. He’s the starting catcher and will be so for the majority of 2012.
But you just never know what it might mean to the individual. Hopefully in 20 days, we’ll find out what it means for Lucroy together.