- Winter Preview----Milwaukee Brewers:
Quote expected to be overheard in Milwaukee sometime in May when Ken Macha is fired and replaced by Willie Randolph: "Okay, Willie. Fix this mess."
What they need: Another starting pitcher; more bullpen help; a power bat off the bench; a utility player.
Free agents: OF Mike Cameron; OF Frank Catalanotto; INF Craig Counsell; C Jason Kendall; RHP Braden Looper; 2B/SS Felipe Lopez; OF Corey Patterson; RHP Claudio Vargas; RHP David Weathers
The Brewers have already replaced Cameron with Carlos Gomez and Cameron's going to get a multi-year deal with a contender or would-be contender.
Catalanotto is a journeyman, but a useful journeyman. He's versatile and can hit; he might be back.
Counsell has carved out a nice, long career for the undersized and underappreciated fill-in he was when he was a hero for the Marlins in their 1997 World Series win. I expect him to be back with the Brewers.
The Brewers have already replaced Kendall with Gregg Zaun.
Looper and the Brewers have agreed to part ways.
After his excellent performance at the plate from the second half of 2008 through 2009, it may be time to accept that Felipe Lopez has learned how to hit at age 29. That happens with players occasionally----they just figure it out. A better team will sign Lopez. I'd expect a 2-year deal for him elsewhere.
Patterson's got some pop in his bat for a bench player. I doubt he'll be back in Milwaukee.
Vargas pitched well for the Brewers out of the bullpen after he was re-acquired from the Dodgers. He might be back as a reliever/swing starter.
I vaguely recall David Weathers considering retirement. He can still pitch and might be back with the Brewers.
Players available via trade: OF Jody Gerut; OF Corey Hart; RHP David Riske; 2B Rickie Weeks; RHP Jeff Suppan; 1B Prince Fielder(?)
Gerut's one of those players who disappears for a year or two with injuries or goes to Japan; people remember him as a pretty decent player and occasionally ask "what happened to Jody Gerut?", then they forget about him when they can't get an answer; and he pops up on another team and has some use. He's a fourth outfielder who could bring back a minor leaguer via trade.
Hart has gotten progressively worse since a very solid 2007. The Brewers have openly discussed trading him. (There was a Hart to the Mets rumor floating around at the winter meetings, something I would not do if I were the Mets.) He's arbitration-eligible and I think he'll be traded.
Riske's been injured and ineffective. He has $4.75 million guaranteed through 2010. You want him? He's yours.
Weeks is an All Star talent who is maddeningly inconsistent. He has pop, speed and strikes out too much. He's arbitration-eligible and could be moved.
Suppan throws batting practice.
Nothing wrong with that except he does it during games.
He's guaranteed $14.5 million through next year and that contract is essentially unmovable.
Then we get to Prince Fielder.
I don't see the Brewers trading him this winter under any circumstances. That said, he's signed through 2010 for $10.5 million; he's arbitration-eligible after next season and will get an award of somewhere around $18 million if they don't sign him long-term. He's a free agent after 2011. The Brewers find money to sign some odd free agents to lucrative contracts, but will they have the money to keep Fielder?
Presumably he's going to want Mark Teixeira money when he's on the loose in the market, so would the Brewers be better off laying the groundwork to move him sometime next season if they aren't contending? (And it's safe to say they won't be contending.)
They'd be insane not to let it be known that Fielder could be in play next July depending on their place in the standings.
Non-tender candidates: RHP Todd Coffey; RHP Chris Narveson; C Mike Rivera
Coffey has shown some stuff as a set-up guy. He's got a good fastball, but he's arbitration-eligible and due a big raise. I'd be stunned if he was dumped for nothing after the excellent season he had in 2009.
Narveson pitched well in 21 games for the Brewers in 2009 with a good strikeout/innings pitched ratio of 46 k's in 47 innings. He's arbitration-eligible, but I expect him back with the Brewers.
Rivera is 32 and arbitration-eligible. He won't get a big award in arbitration even if he wins. The Brewers have two veteran catchers in Zaun and George Kottaras. Rivera's iffy as to whether he'll be back. I'd guess yes, but what's the difference?
Players to pursue:
Via free agency: LHP Doug Davis (Diamondbacks); RHP Danys Baez (Orioles); INF/OF Melvin Mora (Orioles); INF Jamey Carroll (Indians); LHP Joe Beimel (Rockies); 1B Jason Giambi (Rockies); RHP Jason Marquis (Rockies); RHP Kelvim Escobar (Angels); RHP Jon Garland (Dodgers); LHP Ron Mahay (Twins); OF/1B Xavier Nady (Yankees); RHP Pedro Martinez (Phillies); RHP Brett Myers (Phillies); RHP Bob Howry (Giants); LHP Erik Bedard (Mariners); RHP John Smoltz (Cardinals); RHP Ben Sheets
The Brewers have committed over $37 million to Randy Wolf and LaTroy Hawkins.
I don't get it either.
The stat zombies love Wolf for reasons I've never quite understood. He's okay, but certainly not a pitcher upon whom I'd lavish a $30 million, multi-year deal given his injury history despite his health over the past two years.
And Hawkins? Yikes.
The Brewers can still do with an upgrade of their starting pitching. Davis might be affordable on a short-term deal and he's a former Brewer who----similarly to Adam Dunn, except on the mound----you can write in ink what Davis will provide. He'll give 200 innings; gut his way through and go 12-12 or thereabouts.
Could the Brewers bring Ben Sheets back for a year or two? He wants a lot of money, but it's something to think about if he's healthy. Bedard is in the exact same boat as Sheets except Bedard's acknowledged as being a jerk.
Giambi would be a useful bat off the bench who hits for power and can still get on base.
Depending on what happens with Counsell, Carroll would be a suitable replacement.
Via trade: RHP Manny Delcarmen (Red Sox); RHP Andy Sonnanstine (Rays); OF/1B Luke Scott (Orioles); RHP Gil Meche (Royals); LHP C.J. Wilson (Rangers); RHP Brandon Morrow (Mariners); RHP Joe Blanton (Phillies); RHP John Maine (Mets); RHP Chris Young (Padres)
The Red Sox are going to trade Delcarmen. He throws hard and would upgrade most bullpens.
Sonnanstine isn't any good, but he's still better than what's currently at the back of the Brewers starting rotation, which is a big red flag for the Brewers.
The Royals will give Meche to any team willing to take the contract and give up a mid-level minor leaguer. Since the Brewers are spending so lavishly for mediocrity (Hawkins), and slightly above-average starters (Wolf), why not make a move on Meche? He's much better than Wolf.
Morrow's available and Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik worked for the Brewers for years and knows the farm system up-and-down.
The Phillies are quietly taking offers on Blanton; and the Maine-for-Hart idea is something I'd do immediately if I were the Brewers.
- Winter meetings deals and rumors----big, small and strange:
The Rangers do some weird things:
They couldn't get more that Chris Ray and a player to be named later for Kevin Millwood? And they kicked in $3 million to offset the $12 million he's owed for 2010?
That player to be named later had better be a legit prospect or this trade makes no sense for the Rangers. And I say this liking Chris Ray's arm and potential. After the deal was completed, the Rangers turned around and signed Rich Harden for 1-year and $7.5 million with an $11.5 million option for 2011.
There's no chance whatsoever of Harden replacing the innings Millwood provided and, truth be told, I don't think there's much of a chance of him pitching all that much better than Millwood when he does make it out to the mound.
There's also talk that the Rangers are talking to the Red Sox about a Mike Lowell for young catcher Max Ramirez swap. That would be a pure salary dump for the Red Sox. Lowell would hit for the Rangers. But would they move Lowell or Michael Young to first base? I have no idea.
How much of this has to do with the financial troubles of owner Tom Hicks?
Is GM Jon Daniels----who got off to a rocky start when he got the job and redeemed himself with some brilliant moves and in crafting the best farm system in baseball----suffering a reversion to the days of Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Young for Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka?
All I know is that these are some strange deals.
Braves trade RHP Rafael Soriano to the Rays for RHP Jesse Chavez:
The Rays have basically turned Akinori Iwamura (traded to the Pirates for Chavez) into Rafael Soriano. They've beefed up their bullpen brilliantly in an excellent move for Soriano.
Is there something in the water in Texas?
The Astros acquired Matt Lindstrom from the Marlins for two minor leaguers to be named later. I've always liked Lindstrom and this is a good move for the Astros (contingent on the Marlins not swiping two future All Stars without the Astros realizing it---very possible).
But then, the Astros turned around and did something that doesn't even qualify to be called bewildering. Ludicrous would be a better word.
They signed Brandon Lyon.
To a 3-year contract.
Worth a guaranteed $15 million.
First, Lyon gives up a lot of home runs; second, he was a pitcher who was either going to be sitting and waiting to see where the other free agent reliever chips fell before scrounging for maybe a 2-year deal somewhere or a 1-year deal with an option; and third, was the Astros bullpen this giant issue that they're addressing it so aggressively and, in Lyon's case, stupidly?
The Astros problems were based on their lack of starting pitching, not the bullpen. After Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez, they've got nothing in their rotation. Plus they're old. They need to get younger and clear some salary. That's why I've continuously said they should look into moving Carlos Lee, he's expensive but would bring back some quality talent.
The Lindstrom move makes sense. The Lyon move is ridiculous. And neither handles the Astros real issues. It's lunacy.