Friday, July 31, 2009

Brewers Concession Sales Skyrocket! Claudio's Back

The Brewers have acquired Claudio Vargas from the Los Angeles Dodgers in return for utility player Vinny Rottino.

Vargas, 30, will be making his second stint with the Brewers. He has pitched in just eight games out of the Dodger bullpen this season, posting a 1.64 ERA in 11 innings. The Dodgers were his fourth different team in four seasons.

Vargas is about as deliberate a pitcher as you will find. Even when Claudio is on his game, he is so difficult to watch considering every one of his starts takes near four hours. He strikes out a fair amount of batters, but will also issue some walks. He is certainly an upgrade over Jeff Suppan for the time being.

The Brewers gave up absolutely nothing in order to get him. Vinny Rottino was a fan favorite, but could not hit, and had no future with this team. In AA Huntsville this season, he posted a .239/.339./.332/.661 line in full time play.

Solid move by the Brewers considering they got a serviceable starter, only owe Vargas $150,000 for the remainder of the season, and gave up nothing in return.

T-Minus: Two Hours

With two hours remaining, things seem a little too quite for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Earlier today, the Tigers acquired Jarrod Washburn, a name that has been ties to Milwaukee for several days now. In return for Washburn, the Mariners were able to score two good young starting pitchers in Luke French and Mauricio Robles.

French, 23, pitched in seven games for the Tigers this season, starting five of them. French, standing 6'4", is a lanky lefty with good stuff according to Baseball America. He put together quite a season at AAA Toledo this season before his promotion to the major leagues.

Robles, 20, was signed out of Venezuela and was pitching in high A ball for the Tigers. In his brief career, he has posted a high strikeout rate while not walking many.

It seems like the Brewers dodged a bullet on this one. You would have to assume, after looking at what the Tigers had to give up, that trade talks would have started with Manny Parra and would not have ended there. Washburn is having a fluke season, in which the Brewers would have had to give up too much to get him.

There still is time to better this team. We'll see what happens going forward.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Brewers to Stand Pat?

According to Brewers General Manager, Doug Melvin, the Brewers are not close on any deals.

According to Tom Haudricourt, who interviewed Melvin, the Brewers may be keeping the team that they already have.

Melvin confirmed that he had asked about Seattle's Jarrod Washburn, and Arizona's Jon Garland and Doug Davis, but nothing appears to be imminent. He said he had "put calls out this morning but there doesn’t appear to be anything active," and that he was "not waiting for a call or anything like that."

He did leave the door open for future deals to transpire stating that he still had one day left and that he was keeping his mind open.

This is a strategy that seems confusing. The Padres can't be asking much for Kevin Correia, and the Brewers seem like they want to win, but think that they can get it done with what they have. Dave Bush will probably return in mid-August, but the Brewers have so many unanswered questions this season. Will Manny Parra be effective? Will Jeff Suppan come back healthy, and contribute anything to this team? Will Dave Bush be the pitcher that he can be?

This is the same team that was ten games over .500 at the end of May, but can they regain that form?

It seems like an acquisition like Correia could help solidify a weak pitching staff at a minimal cost. If the Brewers were in a mindset that they couldn't win, then why make a trade for Felipe Lopez? My guess is as good as yours, but I still think that a starting pitcher will join the Brewers in San Diego by tomorrow at 2PM.

I'll be updating the blog all day tonight and tomorrow with any new news. Stay tuned.

Brewers Roster Moves; Cubs Make a Trade

After defeating the Washington Nationals 7-3, and splitting a four game series, the Brewers made two roster moves.

The first was sending Bill Hall to AAA Nashville to get some at bats and somehow regain his form of 2006. Hall had to agree to do this because he has more than five years of service time in the majors, and can come back whenever he feels necessary.

In 199 at bats this season, Hall was hitting .201/.263/.337/.600. This seems odd considering Bill Hall still considers himself the best third baseman in the league.

Hall can still be an asset to this team going forward. Throughout his career he has shown that he can hit lefties well, and plays solid defense.

Hall is going to be a Brewers for the next season and a half, no matter what. To bad Dave Littlefield is no longer employed by a major league club, or the Brewers could make a Matt Morris type trade. He still has next season's contract worth $8.4 million, and a $9.25 million team option that will not be exercised (costing them another half million in a buyout).

With the other move, the Brewers placed Jeff Suppan on the disabled list with a strained left oblique.

He injured himself swinging during Monday night's game against the Nationals.

Suppan's spot in the rotation is set to come up on Saturday. The obvious replacement is Mike Burns, who has struggled in his brief time with the Brewers. He is not currently on the roster and would need to be brought up.

On Sunday, the Brewers have named the starter Carlos Villanueva. If I were a betting man, I would think that the Brewers are going to trade for Kevin Correia and start him on that day, considering he is already scheduled to face the Brewers on Sunday.

In other NL Central news, the Cubs acquired left handed specialist John Grabow from the Pittsburgh Pirates, along with SP Tom Gorzelanny for pitchers Kevin Hart, Jose Ascanio, 3B Josh Harrison. It seems like a decent haul for the Pirates, although I am not quite sure why they decided to include Gorzelanny in the deal. Grabow is considered a type A free agent, but the Cubs will not receive this pick because no one is going to sign Grabow and give up a first round draft pick.

It should be an interesting 20 hours for the Brewers, and baseball, stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Brewers Could be in on Kevin Correia

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Brewers are in the mix for Padres starter Kevin Correia.

Corriea, 28, would certainly help the Brewers for the remainder of the season, so the question is how much do they have to give up in or to acquire him.

In an earlier blog post, I thought the Brewers would have success if they were to acquire a low cost pitcher with good stuff such as Cleveland's Carl Pavano. Corriea is in that same type of group. Nothing about him this season is going to jump out at fans, but he could help the Brewers to the postseason.

This season, Correia has is 7-8 with a 4.75 ERA in 21 starts for the Padres. He has struck out 91, while walking 43, in 119.1 innings. He also has posted a 1.29 to 1 ground ball to flyball ratio, which should help out in Miller Park. He is in the first, and final year of a one year deal worth just under $1 million.

The fact of the matter is that Correia, or someone like him, could make the 2009 Brewers a better ball club. Maybe even more importantly, he is not going to cost the Brewers a top prospect. It is a move more that has reward without a lot of risk. With the Brewers reluctant to give up good young talent, a move like this seems to make too much sense not to do.

Lee to Phils; Jack Z Busy

FOX Sports is reporting, that the Philadelphia Phillies acquired the AL's reigning Cy Young award winner Cliff Lee from the Indians.

Lee will be sent along with Indians LF Ben Francisco to Philly for four minor leaguers.

The Indians received a haul for Lee however. Philly sent Class A right-hander Jason Knapp, Class AAA right-hander Carlos Carrasco, shortstop Jason Donald and catcher Lou Marson.

Knapp and Carrasco are consider two of the Phillies best pitching prospects and Donald and Marson have shown the ability to hit at the shortstop and catching positions. This trade certainly will help the Phillies going forward this season. If they make the playoffs, it will be tough to face a three-man rotation that consist of Lee and Hamels. Not to mention one of the best offenses in baseball.

Year after year, the Milwaukee Brewers farm system gained strength during the tenure of Jack Zduriencik.

From 1999-2008, Zduriencik work closely to Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin. Zduriencik is credited with the scouting that led to many of the great draft picks the Brewers had over the years.

Many people were very dissapointed, myself included, when Zduriencik accepted an offer to become the new General Manager of the Seattle Mariners this past offseason. Many thought that the Brewers made a mistake by not giving him the GM job over Doug Melvin.

In his first season as Mariners GM, he has the M's four games over .500, due in large part to his cheap, low risk acquisitions.

One of the first things he did was offer Russell Branyan a full time job, and 500 at bats, at first base. Branyan has put up some amazing numbers, posting a .264/.362/.546/.908 line in 326 at bats. Just think where the Brewers would be had Branyan stayed in Milwaukee and started everyday at third base.

He then stockpiled the bullpen with hard throwing, unproven arms. This is a strategy that has worked before, just ask the Tampa Bay Rays aboutGrant Balfour. He added hard throwing relievers Tyler Walker, and David Aardsma for next to nothing. Although Walker didn't turn out great, he cost the Mariners basically nothing. Aardsma on the other hand has excelled. He is now the closer of the Mariners, and is averaging 12 K/9.

Today, Jack Z made two trades. The first, seemingly eliminated the Brewers from acquiring Jarrod Washburn. This is a trade that seemed to make no sense in the direction that Jack Z was taking. He acquired an overpayed, overrated shortstop in Jack Wilson that has a large contract. Jack Z says he plans to exercise Wilson's 2010 option for $8.4 million. In the deal, he also acquired Ian Snell. Snell is a pitcher that has the arm to be a great starter. He excelled for a couple of years under the radar because he played for the pirates. Jack sent one of the best catching prospect in the game in Jeff Clement to the Pirates, along with former Cub Ronny Cedeno and three other minor leaguers.

In his second trade, Zduriencik sent Wladimir Balentien to the Reds in exchange for minor league reliever Robert Manuel. Zduriencik acquired possibly the best reliever in the minor leagues in this trade. Manuel struck out 92 while only walking 15 last season in AA in just 77 innings, posting an ERA of 1.40 in the process. He has continued to pitch well this season posting a 2.70 ERA in 46 innings with only 10 walks.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Brewers Lose Another Series; Trade Looming?

The Milwaukee Brewers dropped Sunday's finale against the Atlanta Braves 10-2. In the month of July, the Brewers have failed to win a series in six tries and have an overall record of 7-14.

However, help could be on the way. Melvin and Brewers' manager Ken Macha have hinted at a potential trade that could be on the way. writer Adam McCalvy hinted at a list of names that the Brewers are in on. Apart from Halladay, Lee, Garland, and Davis, there are several new names that are on the list.

The most intriguing name to me is Justin Duchscherer. Duchscherer, 31, has been sidelined the entire year after undergoing elbow surgery in March. Duchscherer is scheduled to make a rehab start tonight, and Jeff Fletcher for AOL baseball has confirmed Brewers' scouts will be in attendance.

The biggest question with Duchscherer is his health. If he comes back strong, he has the ability to pitch near the quality of a Halladay/Lee. The best thing about this trade for the Brewers would be how little the Brewers would have to give up. With all of the uncertainties that go along with Duchscherer, it is not out of the question that the Brewers may not have to part ways with any of Gamel, Escobar, or Parra.

The others listed are Seattle's Jarrod Washburn and Kansas City's Brian Bannister.

Washburn, 34, is from La Crosse and pitched collegiately at UW-Oshkosh, so he would go over well with the hometown fans. He has pitched well this season with a 2.71 ERA in 126 innings with 78 strikeouts and just 30 walks. The main question is with he keep it up? Prior to this season, Washburn was coming of three straight seasons where he struggled with walks and low strikeout totals. Over those seasons, he posted a 4.6 ERA in a pitcher friendly park.

Bannister, 28, is also coming off an injury and hasn't pitched at the major league level this season. His stuff is not that great and does tend to walk a high rate of batters. Although the youngest of the players mentioned, he seems to be the least effective. It doesn't seem like a trade for Bannister would put the Brewers over the top.

Stay tuned for more updates.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Homestand Could Dictate Trading Ideas

With exactly one week remaining before MLB's July 31st trading dealine, the Brewers next seven days could decide in what direction this ball club turns.

Tonight, the Brewers open up a seven day, seven game homestand at Miller Park. The Brewers face the Atlanta Braves for three starting tonight, followed by a four game series against the Washington Nationals.

With the Cubs starting to find their stride somewhat, and the Cardinals acquiring Matt Holliday, the next seven days could make or break the 2009 Milwaukee Brewers.

Say the Brewers are able to win five, six, or somehow seven games this homestand, they would be right back atop the NL Central and in great position going into the final two months of the season. On the other hand, say the Brewers win three or less games. That would put them, at best, at .500, behind numerous games, and trailing probably three teams in the NL Central.

Would it be worth selling the entire future of the franchise in order to finish in second, or third place and miss the playoffs? That is the harsh reality the Brewers management would have to face if the Brewers come out flat in a somewhat easy homestand.

Breaking Down the Cards' Trade for Holliday

The St. Louis Cardinals officially announced that they are "going for it" this season by acquiring Athletics left fielder Matt Holliday.

In return for Holliday, the Athletics scored some of the Cardinals top prospects. Holliday is essentially a rent-a-player and will most likely not be a Cardinal next season. In the trade, the Cardinals sent their second best prospect (according to Baseball America, Brett Wallace, along with two other solid minor leaguers in Shane Petersen and Clayton Mortensen. Wallace, 22, ranks 21st on Baseball America's list of top prospects.

Coming to the Cardinals, Holliday brings a solid bat out of left fielder. He will most likely hit behind Albert Pujols, and cleanup in the Cardinals lineup.

Holliday has always been an interesting player in his career. While playing for Colorado, his numbers were always off the charts. However, he was always highly criticized for his mediocre numbers away from hitter friendly Coors field. Holliday posted just an .801 OPS away from Coors.

In his lone half season as an Athletic, Holliday posted a .286/.378/.454 with 11 home runs in 346 at bats. He is a patient hitter that will always post high walk totals. He is a strong defender with an accurate arm. He has some speed which he showed off in Oakland, stealing 12 bases in 15 attempts.

This trade clearly makes the Cardinals a better club for the remainder of the 2009 season, but it badly hurts the chances of future Cardinal teams. It seems like the Cardinals gave up too much for a two month rental player who never proved himself outside of Coors Field.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Brewers News and Notes 7-21

On April 27th, Ryan Braun took Jeff Karstens deep for a first inning solo home run. In his next at bat, leading off the third, Braun was drilled in the back on the first pitch. Following the game, Braun vowed revenge. On Monday night, that revenge came.

In a scenario that seemed too perfect for the Brewers, Jeff Karstens led off the eight inning for the Pirates. Chris Smith promptly drilled him in the back. Karstens, taking exception to the retaliation, stood at home plate shouting at the Brewers reliever. The benches emptied, then the bullpens came in. Nothing really happened except a screaming match between Jason Kendall and a Pirates bench coach. Only time will tell if this will be the last time that the Pirates and Brewers tango. If you didn't see the pitch, it is available online here.

Doug Melvin was interviewed on 1250 AM in Milwaukee (WSSP) today. More of the same for Melvin saying that the are exploring all the options and such. He did mention that Casey McGehee will have to undergo surgery following this season. This was not a surprise. McGehee has been struggling to run the bases, and at times field ground ball that aren't hit right at him. Hopefully he is able to continue to contribute until the end of the season.

Melvin also mentioned the weak market for starting pitching that is prevalent. He mentioned that he may trade for a reliever if he is unable to obtain a starting pitcher. The trade for Felipe Lopez seems to make me think that Melvin believes that he will be able to acquire a starting pitcher. This new information, however, does lead me to think that the mention of George Sherrill may have some relevance to it. For what the Orioles are asking for in return, I hope this rumor does not happen.

On the Halladay trade front, the Blue Jays have set a July 28th trade deadline for acquiring him. It's not a bad technique to try if you're the Blue Jays. This way teams might have offers on Halladay in much quicker than if they never made the statement. Personally, I don't think the Blue Jays would turn down a trade for Halladay if the got the right offer on the 31st.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Brew News: Deadline Deals

The Brewers have become an interesting topic for the past couple of days. There are so many different ways this team can go in order to make it back to back playoff appearances. Here's some of the buzz.

Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel thinks that the Brewers will be backing off on Halladay because the asking price is too high.

It has been noted that the Jays would want a Parra/Gamel or Parra/Escobar package, however, if Brett Lawrie had to be included in the deal, this becomes way to much value to someone who may not even be a Brewer next season. That would depend on if Halladay exercises his choice to demand a trade.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports lists the Brewers on a list of teams that have interest in Orioles closer George Sherrill.

The George Sherrill rumors confuse me. The Orioles are looking for a young third baseman/infielder. I think we may have a better option that might not cost us anything in AAA in R.J. Swindle. Currently he has an ERA of 0.86 with a K/BB ratio of 39 to 13 in 41 innings. Also, he would cost us a prospect of two.

Bernie's Crew takes an in-depth look at the possible Roy Halladay trade and the problems that go along with giving up so much young talent.

Bullpen Assesment

After a frustrating loss on Sunday, I think it is time to look at the bullpen and the roles that we are giving certain players.

My biggest problem thus far has been the use of Seth McClung in big situations. There was no need to bring Seth into the game yesterday for, not only the 7th, but also 8th innings. Our bullpen was not overworked.

McClung has struggled all season with location of his secondary pitches. At times, it seems that the only pitch that he can get over is his fastball. Yes, he may throw it 98, but it is straight as a string. Major league hitters have no problem catching up to a strong fastball if they have no other pitches to worry about.

With my frustration of "Big Red" evident, lets go on to a more positive note, like the rest of our bullpen. With all of the complaints about Brewers pitching this season, many have forgotten just how good our bullpen has been. It's difficult to remember the last time Brewers fans have felt so confident with a lead after six innings. The Brewers have been able to build a great bullpen with a list that includes only one household name.

Trevor Hoffman has been spectacular for the Brewers all season long. He has only blown two saves, and was named to yet another all star team. What Hoffman has done has been spectacular, but the real key to the bullpen lies in his predecessors.

The back end of the bullpen is equipped with three good pitchers possess high strikeout totals equipped with a low walk rate. The eight inning belongs to Todd Coffey. Coffey, 28, was designated for assignment by the Cincinnati Reds less than one year ago. All he has done since then is shine in a Brewers uniform. In 47.2 innings, Coffey has struck out 43 while only walking 10. He has limited opponents to a .260 batting average with a two to one ground ball to fly ball ratio.

Mitch Stetter is just one year removed from a season in which he struggled to find the strike zone. What a difference a year makes. Stetter has been almost untouchable this season. In just 30.1 innings, he has fanned an incredible 36 batter while only walking 13. Many of those walks occurred in April, and since then hitters from both sides of the plate have struggled against Stetter. Stetter, 28, has proved more valuable that the Brewers could have ever imagined with his new found ability to get right handers out.

The final pitcher may be my favorite in the Brewers bullpen, Mark DiFelice. DiFelice, 32, never cracked the big leagues until his debut in Boston last may. Ever since that rough outing, Mark has shined in the bigs. His 82 MPH cutter has been the topic of sportswriters who wonder how that pitch gets so many major league hitters out. He is being used primarily in the bullpen as a ROOGY (right one out guy). This is something I cannot understand. Many Brewers fans have begun to think that Mark is unable to get left handed hitters out. This year Mark has held them to a .265 batting average with few power. In his minor league career, he has done much of the same. It is time that Macha becomes more comfortable with Mark and use him in much bigger situations. Mark is not a pitcher that you used in mop up situations.

Mat Gamel to Nashville

After acquiring Felipe Lopez, the Milwaukee Brewers sent down 3B Mat Gamel in order to clear a spot on the 25 man roster. Gamel struggled to hit at the major league level, due in large part to his infrequent playing time.

In just 113 at bats, Gamel hit just .239 with four home runs and 16 RBI. Gamel received the majority of his starts when the Brewers faced a right handed pitcher. This goes against everything I have ever seen on Gamel. He has always crushed left handed pitching. In AAA this year, Gamel hit .400 with five home runs in just 40 at bats. The move is not based on talent alone, but to get Mat consistent playing time. It would have been nice to see what Mat could have done in a full-time role at third base this season. Lets hope the next time he comes to Milwaukee, he is not platooned, batting only against right handed pitchers that give him more trouble.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Brewers Acquire Felipe Lopez; Roster Move Coming

In a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Milwaukee Brewers have acquired second baseman Felipe Lopez for a pair of minor leaguers. The Brewers immediately shore up a need by trading for Lopez. He plays second base, and is going to be used as a leadoff hitter. The leadoff spot has been a revolving door since Rickie Weeks went down quite some time ago. Whenever Jason Kendall is used to bat leadoff, the need is there.

Lopez, 29, batted leadoff for the Diamondbacks while posting a .301/.364/.412/.776 line in 345 at bats. In return, the Diamondbacks received outfielder Cole Gillespie and pitcher Roque Mercedes. Gillespie, 25, was blocked in Milwaukee and wouldn't likely have made the major leagues this year. He posted a dissapointing .242/.332/.424/.756 line in just under 250 AB's. Mercedes, 22, has the potential to be a good pitcher for the Diamondbacks in the future. He couples a high strikeout rate with a reasonably low walk total. He is only in A ball and is likely pretty far away for any major league impact.

The interesting thing about this trade could be what happens in the offseason. Lopez has a chance of being a type B free agent, which could net the Crew and compensation pick after the first round along with that teams 2nd or 3rd round pick. This is only if the Brewers decide not to resign Lopez. With Craig Counsell at the tail end of his career, this could be the Brewers utility man of the future. Second base does belong to Rickie Weeks in the future, but Lopez could be a valuable asset in the future. He is a switch hitter who can play three infield positions. There has to be room on this club somewhere for him.

Trade Deadline: What to do

In the past couple of days, there has been a lot of discussion about the Brewers and what they intend to do. Names like Roy Halladay, Doug Davis, and Jon Garland have surfaced. The question that needs to be answered is if the Brewers are willing to part ways with either Alcides Escobar, or Mat Gamel (or, possibly both).

Last year, the Brewers traded top prospect Matt LaPorta, along with some other pieces, for the top pitcher on the market C.C. Sabathia. This was the first time in my lifetime that the Brewers traded a top prospect for an immediate impact player. Looking back at the trade, it seems like the Brewers, although they made the playoffs, could regret this trade for years to come. Matt LaPorta is absolutely crushing the ball for the Columbus Clippers, posting a .307/.385/.533/.918 line in 244 ABs. It has been well documented that Sabathia left Milwaukee for New York in the offseason.

A trade for Halladay would not be the same however. Sabathia was signed through the end of the 2008 season, thus making him a rent-a-player. Halladay is signed through the 2010 season, making him locked up for a year and a half. The Jays have made it known that they are looking for a young major league ready young arm. The Brewers have two pitchers that fit this bill, Manny Parra and Yovani Gallardo. Gallardo is not going anywhere, so the pitcher would be Manny Parra.

Parra has been a very frustrating pitcher in his career for the Brewers. Arm injury after arm injury held him down in the minors much longer than the Brewers would have perferred. I, myself, am not ready to give up on Parra and trade him along with either Escobar or Gamel for a season and a half of Halladay.

The other names that I listed above are both pitching for the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks. The Brewers have seen Doug Davis before in a Milwaukee jersey before shipping him out for Johnny Estrada and Claudio Vargas. While in Milwaukee, he was a workhorse. In his three full seasons for the Brewers, he pitched an average of 215 innings per season. Since going to the Diamondbacks, his innings have went down. This was for many different reasons, including a bout with thyroid cancer. Davis is a pitcher that strikes out his fare share of hitters, but also walks a high amount too. Over the last couple of years, he averaged 7Ks/9 while walking just over four hitters per nine. He would be a serviceable starter for the Brewers for the remainder of 2009 (his final year of his contract).

Jon Garland is another name the Brewers have mentioned. The Brewers almost signed him in the offseason before Garland decided on Arizona, allowing the Brewers to sign Braden Looper to a one year deal. He is signed through this season with a $10 million mutual option for next year. His numbers this season are nearly identical to Jeff Suppan. There is no reason to fork out his remaining $3 million in order to pay for someone who would become arguably our worst pitcher. I would much rather see Parra every fifth day than Garland in a Brewers uniform.

The one name that I am most interested in Carl Pavano of the Cleveland Indians. After a dissapointing four season in New York, Pavano has pitched nicely for the Cleveland Indians. His 5.13 ERA is extremely misleading. He has struck out 77 batters over 107 innings while only walking 20. In his most recent start, Pavano shut out the Detroit Tigers over eight innings, striking out six while not allowing a walk. There have been rumors that the Brewers sent scouts to watch that performance. His ERA has been also due in part to the Indians bullpen. When he has left games this year, inherited runners have scored more than 50% of the time. He is only owed $700,000 for the remainder of this season and seems like a no brainer for the Brewers. Pavano has the potential to be the Brewers second best pitcher and would only cost us a low-level prospect. Why would you want to sell the farm for Halladay when you can get a good pitcher for next to nothing?