The Brewers have had a rough season this year. A lot of the blame has been placed on the starting pitching, and rightly so. Brewers pitching has been terrible this season. They currently ranked second to last in the national league in ERA, so let's focus on what might be available this offseason.
I am a believer in not giving huge, multi-year contracts to pitchers. Sure some pitchers do work out, but if that pitcher were to go down the Brewers franchise would be reeling for many years to come. Some teams are able to get away with a terrible contract, but not the Brewers, especially with so many young players coming to their free agency years. Anyway, below is a list of starting pitchers whose contracts expire after this year. I am only going to list pitchers that I would actually have impact for a major league team.
Tim Hudson ($12MM mutual option)
Brandon Webb (Club Option that might not be exercised)
Out of that list of pitchers, there are a lot of different directions that the Brewers could go. The top tier starters include Bedard, Harden, Hudson (if option not picked up), Lackey, Pineiro and Webb. All of those pitchers are going to expect a hefty pay day. Pineiro seems like an interesting option. He is having a career year for the Cardinals. His control is amazing and he posses the ability to induce groundballs. Currently he leads the major leagues in groundball percentage at around 63%. I'm sure he would be a great pitcher to plug into the 2010 rotation, but the Brewers need to look for a better deal that wouldn't hurt the budget so much.
The most appealing option for the Brewers would be a one year deal. There is a small amount of risk that goes into that type of deal. If the player doesn't pan out, you can just cut your losses. On that list, there are a couple of pitchers that could drastically improve the Brewers staff next season. My personal favorites are Justin Duchscherer and Carl Pavano.
Duchscherer is coming off an injury and will likely have to take a pay cut. He was one of the best pitchers in the American League prior to the injury and would transition nicely into the National League Central. The only problem with Duchscherer are the unanswered questions. Is he the same pitcher? How seriously did the injury hurt the remainder of his career? Those are the same questions that will be asked by every team in baseball interesting in him. This is why I feel he could be had for a one year, incentive based deal.
Anyone that reads this blog knows how much I like Carl Pavano. I was hoping the Brewers would trade for him near the deadline. He has pitched well since going to the Twins near the deadline. Pavano's numbers aren't mind blowing upon first look, but he is a good pitcher. His K/BB ratio is off the charts. He has struck out 127 batters in 176 innings, while only walking 35. He currently sports a 4.91 ERA between Cleveland and Minnesota. With his higher ERA he might not have a ton of interest this offseason. With the market for him down, the Brewers could pounce on him for a cheap contract.
However, before these decisions are made, the Brewers have some options that need to be addressed. Mike Cameron's contract is going to be up after this year. He wants to return to Milwaukee, but many have questioned if Cameron's money could be spent better with a starting pitcher. I think Cameron is a huge part of this club. Losing him means losing one of the best run producing centerfielders in the league.
The Brewers also have an option on Braden Looper that needs to be decided. He is owed $6.5 million next year if the option is exercised. My question is, what has Looper shown the Brewers to justify this option being picked up? His fly ball and walk ratios are both up. His strikeouts are down. He leads the league in HR allowed, setting a club record in the process. Why would the Brewers think of shedding Cameron's money, only to give $6.5 million to Looper? I think Looper is a little better than he has pitched this year, but the other options out there seem to be much better.
We are looking at one fun offseason. There are so many different ways the Brewers can go. Let's just hope the right decisions are made. Today is the one year anniversary of the Brewers clinching the NL Wildcard. If the right decisions are made, next year could be just as exciting as 2008. The window for this franchise is closing. Fielder will likely be gone after 2011. The front office needs to decide how seriously they think they can win. If 2010 looks like a tough time to win, then Fielder needs to be traded. If 2010 looks hopeful, and I think it can be, they need to strike now.