Sunday, December 27, 2009

Can Casey McGehee Protect Fielder?

It's a question that really bares meaning to the Milwaukee Brewers next season. There is no doubt McGehee played great in 2009, but is that really what we can expect? Can Casey keep up his phenomenal play, or will he regress in 2010?

McGehee took over the five spot after a hot month, while playing nearly everyday at third base. The five spot struggled to produce before McGehee stepped in last season. McGehee never looked back, excelling while protecting Prince Fielder. He went onto post an .859 OPS, while sporting a .360 OBP and .499 slugging percentage. Looking at those numbers, and there is little question about his ability to bat fifth next season, but you can't just stop at those numbers.

McGehee's career numbers would suggest he is not as good of a hitter as he showed last season. In fact, in his six pro seasons prior to last year, McGehee never posted an OPS over .800. Adding to that, McGehee's numbers last season were heavily influenced by a hot month of June. In June, McGehee posted a .368/.429/.671/1.100 line in 76 at bats. Take those 76 at bats out of McGehee's season and his numbers drop significantly.

MeGehee's second half numbers, although still high, are much more along the lines of what fans can expect next season. He posted a .282/.342/.469/.811 line, in 209 post all star break at bats. I would be more than happy with that kind of production next season, but I fear that's rather optimistic.

The early projections that have come out thus far are expecting a pretty big step back for McGehee in 2010. Bill James projects McGehee to post a .272/.328/.429/.757 line next season, while CHONE projects him for .262/.324/.410/.734. Those are not the kind of numbers teams are looking for from their five hitter.

The Brewers might just have a viable option to bat fifth with their other third baseman. Mat Gamel's projections are interesting to say the least. Bill James projects Gamel to post a .277/.354/.464/.818 line. CHONE, on the other hand, is much less impressed with Gamel, seeing a .251/.322/.407/.729 line next year. While CHONE's projection seems very low, it was nice to see such high numbers out of James.

Mat Gamel struggled in 2009, while getting limited playing time in Milwaukee. His struggles last season could be attributed to Ken Macha's lack of knowledge of Gamel's splits. Gamel rarely hit against left handed pitching in the majors, although he clearly has excelled against them throughout the minors. In 105 at bats against righties, Gamel hit .229 with a .341 OBP and .400 slugging percentage. Although his .741 OPS against RHP was disappointing, it wasn't that far off his minor league numbers. Where Gamel excelled against the top minor league pitching was when he faced southpaws. His OPS splits against LHP in his last two pro seasons were 1.061 and .935. Although he only batted 23 times against LHP in Milwaukee, he still posted a .304/.333/.522/.855 line. While 23 at bats really tells nothing, Gamel looked much more comfortable when facing LHP, as opposed to righties.

While I don't expect Gamel to start opening day at third base, it should be looked at as an option. Sure McGehee will play better defense, but I fear the Brewers are valuing 2010 too much. Gamel struggled and McGehee flourished. Career numbers would suggest a rise in Gamel's numbers and a regression with McGehee. With McGehee likely to come back to earth somewhat, it's tough to immediately slot him behind Fielder. If he is unable to keep his numbers up, Fielder will see fewer and fewer pitches to hit.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Who Bats Second?

There is no question one of the most important slots in a batting order is the player who bats second. They have to take pitches, watch the leadoff man (if on), and get on base for the run producers. It just so happens this is also a huge question mark for the Brewers next season.

The Brewers have one of the best 3-4 combinations in baseball with Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. On top of that, Rickie Weeks, if healthy, has developed a great eye at the plate and has shown the ability to get on base in front of Braun and Fielder. Still, there seems to be a void after Weeks with the current players on the team.

The Brewers have a lot of different options for the two spot in the lineup. The current candidates for the slot have been named as Alcides Escobar, Corey Hart and Carlos Gomez. While looking at each player, there really seems to be a clear cut option out of that group.

Alcides Escobar

Since J.J. Hardy was demoted to the minor league last season, the Brewers made it apparent Escobar was the future of the team. Over the remainder of the season, Escobar made 38 starts and received 125 at bats. In those at bats, Escobar posted a .301/.333/.368/.701 line. While the .301 batting average was nice to see, there is little to suggest Escobar can accomplish it while playing a full season. His .349 BABIP would suggest some luck was involved.

Nevertheless, while the raised batting average was nice to see, Escobar continued to show he has a lot of work to do. In his 125 at bats, Escobar walked just four times. That equates to an awful 3.1 BB%. Combine Escobar's low BB% with his 14.4% K% and some would wonder about his ability to handle the two spot next season.

To be fair to Alcides, he has shown a consistent rise in his walk totals throughout his career. Before being promoted to the major leagues, Escobar saw his BB% climb to 6.9 in Nashville last season. While that number is still a little low, there's evidence to show Escobar is beginning to head in the right direction.

This was one of my biggest problems with the Hardy trade. I feel the best option for this season was to let Alcides play everyday in AAA, while letting Hardy rebound and raise his trade value. Hardy would've been a better option for the two hole and the Brewers could've saved Escobar's service time by letting him mature in the minors.

Corey Hart

Corey had another disappointing season in 2009 after his horrible second half in 2008. In 419 at bats, Hart posted a .260/.335/.418/.753 line, while playing RF. The most troubling part about 2009 for Hart was his huge dip in power. His .418 slugging percentage is not what the Brewers are looking for out of a corner outfielder. He hit just 12 home runs and saw his isolated power (slugging minus batting average) drop to .158.

Even with his dip in power, 2009 saw Hart regain his eye at the plate. In 2008, Hart's OBP dropped to .300. That season, Hart walked just 4.2% of the time. Last season, Hart's OBP raised 35 points, even though his batting average dropped eight points. His walk rate increased from 4.2% to 9.3%, which was much more along the lines of his career averages.

Where Hart should bat in the lineup really depends on what kind of production he is capable of. If Hart is able to regain his power, the Brewers really don't see him batting in the two hole. However, if Hart's power continues to elude him, he might be the Brewers best option batting second. He has shown an ability throughout his career to get on base and is one of the fastest players on the team. With Ken Macha stating he is going to run more, Hart's ability to take pitches will help Rickie Weeks.

Carlos Gomez

While Gomez is the fastest player on the club, he has no business near the top of the order. When the Brewers acquired Gomez, many casual fans suggested he was the new leadoff hitter. This could not be further from the truth. For Gomez to succeed, and bat anywhere near the top of the order, he needs to develop more patience at the plate.

Since Gomez began playing in the major leagues, he has continued to swing at pitch after pitch outside of the strike zone. This lead to the high strikeout and low walk totals that sent Gomez out of Minnesota. In his 1017 major league at bats, Gomez has posted a .246/.292/.346/.638 line. That is not the line of a two hitter in the major leagues.

Obviously, Gomez' main problem is his free swinging approach at the plate. His walk total percentages in the major leagues are 6.0, 4.2, 6.5. His strikeout totals have continued to remain well above league average (21.6, 24.6, 22.9). Until Gomez is able to show improvements in both categories, he should remain near the bottom of the Brewers lineup.


Right now, Corey Hart looks to be the best option for the Brewers two hitter. However, if Hart bats second, the bottom of the order cannot generate anywhere near the amount of production it needs to. If Hart batted second, the 6-7-8 batters would be a combination of Gregg Zaun, Alcides Escobar and Carlos Gomez. Follow that with the pitchers spot and the Brewers can't expect much production other than the first five in the order.

With this being the case, Alcides Escobar will need to take over batting second. As I stated earlier, this spot comes with a lot of responsibility, which is a lot to put on the shoulders of a 23 year old learning on the go.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Is Jack Zduriencik the Best GM in Baseball?

In his tenure with the Milwaukee Brewers, Jack Zduriencik greatly influenced the talent in the organization's farm system. In his time, the Brewers had frequent success in the draft. Players taken under Zduriencik were Prince Fielder, Yovani Gallardo and Ryan Braun, just to name a few. While drafting is an important part of baseball, it becomes even more important in a small market like Milwaukee.

Because of his success, Zduriencik was a candidate for just about every General Manager job when they opened. In 2007, Zduriencik interviewed for a vacancy in Pittsburgh, only to passed over once again. Needless to say, Zduriencik's misfortune was the Brewers relief. However, luck had to run out eventually.

The next season, Zduriencik accepted the GM spot for the Seattle Mariners. Zduriencik wanted to stay in Milwaukee, but after Doug Melvin signed another extension with the Brewers, he realized his time was not coming in Milwaukee. Instead, Zduriencik accepted the tough job of turning around the 101-loss Mariners. Well, at least it was supposed to be tough.

In his first season with the Mariners, Jack Z has completely turned the franchise around. He has built the club perfectly around his surrounding in Safeco Field. The large gaps of Safeco require a good defense and that's exactly what Jack Z has created. Almost immediately after he took over, Zduriencik traded for one of the best defenders in baseball history: Franklin Gutierrez. Literally, Gutierrez has unlimited range. His UZR/150 ratings are unfathomable. Last season, Gutierrez posted a 30.9 UZR/150. In easier terms, Gutierrez' defense saved the Mariners one run ever 47 innings he played in the field. Those numbers are simply incredible.

Zduriencik didn't stop there. He also traded for slick fielding SS Jack Wilson from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Wilson, while often criticized for his bat, is another great defender. Combined between Pittsburgh and Seattle last season, Wilson posted a 20.4 UZR/150 while playing SS.

Acquiring this kind of team lead to the Mariners scoring an incredible 12.0 UZR/150 as a team last season, easily best in baseball. Despite scoring just 640 runs last season (3rd worst in baseball), the Mariners won 85 games. Their combination of pitching and defense allows them to compete without raking the ball.

This offseason, Zduriencik has only improved the club. He is nearing completion of a trade that would send Carlos Silva (and his $24 million contract) to Chicago in exchange for Milton Bradley. If completed, this is an absolute steal for the Mariners. While his ERA seems a little inflated, Silva is still one of the worst pitchers in baseball right now. Bradley surely brings attitude problems to Seattle, but also immense talent. An outfielder of Ichiro, Gutierrez and Bradley would save an incredible amount of runs. Also, Bradley's bat fits perfectly into the middle of the Mariners order. Add in the signing of Chone Figgins and the acquisition of Cliff Lee and the Mariners are set for success next season.

It's tough to say I fault Milwaukee in all this. Doug Melvin has done a pretty decent job as GM of the Brewers. While Zduriencik might have been the better option, letting Melvin go wasn't going to happen. Nevertheless, I have to say what Zduriencik has done in one season is pretty incredible. He took a 101-loss franchise and has turned it into a championship contender. Too bad he wasn't overlooked, again.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Craig Counsell Signs with Brewers

Today, the Milwaukee Brewers resigned Craig Counsell to a one year deal. Counsell played a huge role in 2009 for the Brewers. If everything goes according to plan, Counsell's main job will consist of coming off the bench. There was little doubt the Brewers were going to keep Counsell. The deal is reportedly worth just over $2 million.

Counsell had a great 2009. After Rickie Weeks went down for the season with a wrist injury, Counsell posted one of his best seasons ever. In 404 at bats, he posted a .285/.357/.408/.765 line, while playing above average defense. Throughout his career, Counsell's main attribute has been his glove. While his UZR's have fluctuated, he has consistently been a very good defender, even near the end of his career.

My main concern with the Counsell negotiations with Milwaukee was overlooking his prior failures at the plate. There is little to suggest Counsell can post the same numbers as 2009. Bill James currently projects Counsell to post a .246/.337/.327/.664 line in 2010. Those numbers would be in line with what the Brewers should expect out of Counsell. To be honest, last season's production really came out of nowhere. Before 2009, Counsell hadn't posted an OPS over .675 since 2005. While his change in batting stance might have helped somewhat, Counsell isn't going to set any records with the bat. While OPS under .700 aren't exciting, it seems rather consistent with what teams get from a backup middle infielders.

What sets Counsell apart from other infield reserve is his versatility and glove. Counsell is able to play 2B, SS and 3B. While other players are also able to do this, what sets Counsell apart is he can play great defense at every position. According to the defensive projections of, Counsell will play each of those positions above average in 2010. His projected UZR/150 for SS is 1.8, 2B is 1.6 and 3B is 1.3. Those are impressive numbers to say the least.

While Counsell can qualify as a good bench player, he also provides insurance to Rickie Weeks. Weeks surely has the talent to be one of the best second baseman in the game, but has had problems with injuries in the past. It's nice to know the Brewers have a viable backup if Weeks is sidelined. Counsell with also serve as a nice option if Alcides Escobar struggles in his transition to the major leagues.

After Counsell's 2009, I am really surprised how easy it was to retain his services. A two year deal would've been tough to swallow, but Doug Melvin was able to retain Counsell short term, and at a good price. While fans shouldn't expect similar production at the plate this season, Counsell remains a fan favorite and a premier gloveman in baseball.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Busy Week in Review

After a busy week for the Milwaukee Brewers, let's take a look at how the Winter Meetings and the Contract Deadline influenced the club.

Winter Meetings

I think anybody could've predicted the winter meetings for the Milwaukee Brewers. There was no question this franchise was in desperate need of starting pitching. To fill a much needed vacancy, the Brewers signed veteran Randy Wolf to a 3 year/$29.75 million deal. They didn't stop there, however. The Brewers then signed RP LaTroy Hawkins to a two year deal, setting up a very solid back end of the bullpen.

While some may argue Wolf's deal was too long and pricey, the Brewers got exactly what they needed. Other pitchers such as Doug Davis and Jarrod Washburn would've only compounded the problem, not solved it. The one question I have with the Wolf deal was the length, but let's face it, he wouldn't have come to Milwaukee without that third year. While 2012, and 2011 for that matter are tough to swallow, Wolf is well worth the $10 million he will be paid next season. Sure the last two years are a risk, but when you try to get free agents to come to Milwaukee risks usually have to be taken. Having said that, this contract is no where near the deal Jeff Suppan received from the Brewers. Wolf is much better and has shown his ability to strike out batters, while limiting walks. That is something Suppan just cannot do. Can we please stop comparing these two contracts? Suppan is nowhere near as good of a pitcher as Randy Wolf is.

Signing a reliever was not really a concern until the injury to Mark DiFelice surfaced. When a void was created, Melvin pounced on Hawkins after two amazing seasons pitching out of the Astros bullpen. If Hawkins is able to maintain that type of production , Milwaukee will have one of the best late game combos in baseball. If not, while $7.5 million is a risk, it won't set back this franchise too much.

Tendered Contracts Deadline

With eight active players to make a decision on, Doug Melvin had to decide the future of this ball club. The three main decisions can in the form of Dave Bush, Jody Gerut and Mike Rivera. When I first started hearing reports from Melvin stating he would explore all options on these players, I was nervous to say the lease. Releasing Dave Bush and Jody Gerut made absolutely no sense and would've put this organization's depth in serious jeopardy. When a team lack starting pitching, how does letting go a solid pitcher with minimal risk make sense? When a team is unsure as to the actual talents of a young, struggling CF, how does releasing a proven option make sense? They don't. While Bush and Gerut will cost this team nearly $6 million next season, the risk was far too great to release either player. Both are capable of being integral parts of next season's club. If Bush is healthy, he becomes one of the most attractive options in the starting rotation. Gerut provides a great 4th outfielder off the bench, although he should start over Carlos Gomez right now. The Brewers were smart to renew their deals, but it was surprising it was even a question in the first place.

When Mike Rivera was let go, I was shocked to say the least. Sure he would be getting a raise, but after only making $415,000 last season, it wouldn't have been that much money. While I like Rivera in his time as a Brewer, I really don't think he could succeed if he saw consistent playing time. With Gregg Zaun, the Brewers are asking for around 120 game out of him. That left an extra 40+ games for a backup to start. While Mike Rivera looked good in limited, and I mean limited action, his minor league numbers suggest he wasn't ready to take over those 40+ games. The Brewers have better options in the minor leagues and it really didn't make sense to renew Rivera. I was hoping they wouldn't renew, but I was surprised they actually didn't.

Friday, December 11, 2009

To Tender or Decline?

Decisions need to be made on whether to tender contracts to eight different Brewers. The deadline for major league baseball teams to make this decision is Saturday at 11:59 ET (10:59 CT).

Players include: Corey Hart, Todd Coffey, Carlos Gomez, Carlos Villanueva, Dave Bush, Jody Gerut, Mike Rivera and Seth McClung. Obviously, the Brewers will be offering contracts to the first four players, but the others are up for debate. For this post, we will look at the four players in question for the Crew.

Dave Bush

For the life of me, I can't understand why the Brewers are even questioning bringing him back. Bush is coming off an injury plagued 2009 after he was nailed in his pitching elbow by a line drive off the bat of Hanley Ramirez on June 4th in Miami. Bush limped to the finish line in 2009, but seems to be back to full strength for the 2010 season.

Other than C.C. Sabathia, Bush was one of the main reasons the Brewers made the playoffs in 2008. After posting an ERA near six in April and May, Bush dominated the remainder of the season. In his final 131.1 innings that year, Bush posted a 3.42 ERA in 21 starts. He struck out 82 batters in that time frame, while only walking 29. That included July, which Bush fanned 28 batters, while only walking one.

Sure his 2009 was terrible, but Dave Bush is an easy candidate for tendering a contract. Let's put it like this... if Dave Bush was a free agent pitcher, would you sign him to a one year deal worth $4.5 million? That is an obvious yes. There is no risk in offering him arbitration. If he hasn't fully healed, you can just cut the cord after next season. On top of that, Bush will still be under team control after next season, meaning he still can't test the free agent waters. It really is a shame that the Brewers are even considering non-tendering Bush. Sure he is likely going to be given a contract, but my question is why is this even worth discussing?

Jody Gerut

Gerut is another player who should be given a contract. While he struggled mightily in the beginning of this season, Gerut finished strong and gives the Brewers a great option off the bench.

His stats for the first part of 2009 were downright awful. He played for the Padres and pinch hit in Milwaukee for the 1st half and posted a .191./.226/.309/.535 line in 164 at bats. When Milwaukee started fading in the NL Central, Gerut was given more playing time and his stats improved near his career norms. In the 2nd half, Gerut rebounded to the tune of a .279/.343/.459/.802 line in 122 at bats. Those numbers are great, but what was even more exciting was that line was coming from a centerfielder. There are not many centerfielders who are able to put up that kind of production.

Gerut's second half was no fluke. In 2008, while playing everyday, Gerut hit .296 with an OBP of .351. On top of that, Gerut slugged an incredible .494 while playing in cavernous Petco Park. Gerut was also great in the field that season. His UZR/150 was listed at a 9.5, which is very good. Even while not getting consistent playing time in 2009, Gerut's UZR/150 was still 5.9.

Seeing that kind of production makes Gerut not only a easy decision to tender a contract, but should mean a starting job in CF over Carlos Gomez. Sure Gomez has potential, but Gerut is just hands down a better player at this point.

Mike Rivera

Rivera is the toughest decision the team has to make. There is no doubt in my mind if Rivera was given regular playing time in the major leagues, he would not succeed. He sure looked good while replacing Jason Kendall in the lineup, but anybody would look good replacing Jason Kendall in the lineup.

Rivera has looked good while playing with the Brewers, but in very limited action. I worry the small sample size with catch up with him. During the past two seasons, Rivera has accumulated just 176 at bats. In 2009, Rivera posted a .228/.326/.342/.668 line in 114 at bats. While those stats are acceptable for a backup catcher, I'm not sure he will be able to provide that type of production again. I am constantly brought back to the last time Rivera received constant playing time. In 2007, Rivera played everyday for the Nashville Sounds and racked up 349 at bats. In that season, Rivera batted just .215 with an OBP of .270. Keep in mind that those numbers are against minor league pitching.

If Gregg Zaun were to go down with an injury, I'm not sure Rivera has the ability to take over. I have grown to like Rivera over the past two seasons, but I think that may be due to my anger with Jason Kendall more than what Rivera actually did. Either way, Rivera made just $415,000 last season and wouldn't cost much. Whether he is offered a contract or not, I'm really not going to be that upset. I'm just worried we are expecting too much out of Rivera if we are asking him to start 40+ games next season.

Seth McClung

McClung is the only player on the list I feel is a clear candidate for release. He's shown signs in the past for success, but completely lost all ability to throw strikes in 2009. While many raved of his early season success in the bullpen, I was not so convinced. Although he maintained a low ERA early, he walked far too many batters, while seeing his strikeouts diminish. After being moved to the starting rotation, his luck caught up with him. He struggled time and time again and was moved back to the bullpen, where he continued that trend. After it was all said and done, McClung finished with a 4.94 ERA in 62 innings. He struck out just 40 batters, while walking 39. Strikeout to walk ratios of 1:1 do not belong in the major leagues. Add LaTroy Hawkins into the mix and there is simply no room to keep McClung; especially considering the $2 million contract he would receive.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

LaTroy Hawkins Reaction

If you haven't heard, after the Brewers signed Randy Wolf they announced the signing of LaTroy Hawkins. Hawkins, 36, signed a two year deal reportedly worth $7.5 million.

The toughest thing for me to swallow about this signing is just a couple of days ago, signing a reliever was an after thought. After it was confirmed the Brewers lost Mark DiFelice for the season, a void was created in the bullpen. One could argue that void could've been filled internally, but the Brewers decided to go a different route.

By signing Hawkins, the Brewers create a very solid back end of the bullpen. A combination of Hawkins/Coffey/Hoffman is one of the best 7/8/9th inning tandems in the league. Of course, that all rests on the ability of Hawkins.

If Hawkins is able to maintain his recent success of the past two seasons, this is a good signing for the Brewers. After being traded mid-season in 2008 to the Astros, Hawkins was amazing. In the next year and a half, Hawkins posted a 1.71 ERA for Houston. In that period, he struck out 70 batters, while walking just 21 in 84.1 innings. The thing that surprised me the most about his success in Houston was his career was seemingly in the tubes when he got there. He essentially lost all ability to control his pitches and his strikeouts were falling drastically.

I was surprised to see the deal was for two years, rather than one. Hawkins is only getting older. He turns 37 less than two weeks from now. Although his velocity has maintained, it's tough to think he will continue to throw in the mid to high 90's as he approaches 40. While $7.5 million is not going to kill the Brewers, it is a lot to give for a 7th inning reliever.

Essentially, the success of this signing depends on which Hawkins is coming to Milwaukee; pre-Houston Astros, or post.

Randy Wolf Signs with Brewers

The deal is finally official. The Brewers have just signed Randy Wolf to a three year deal worth $29.75 with a club option for a fourth season.

Wolf, 33, substantially increased his payday by posting a stellar 2009 where he went 11-7 with a 3.23 ERA. Those number do need to be taken with a grain of salt considering he pitched in the NL West, home to the worst offenses in baseball. In 2009, Wolf struck out 160 batters while walking just 58 for a K:BB ratio just under 3:1. He doesn't really have overpowering stuff, but locates the ball really well and has four pitches.

Wolf brings stability to a rotation that ranked near the bottom in just about every pitching category last season. If he is able to maintain the form of his 2009 season, this is a great addition. I would say the contract Wolf received was generous, but not too bad considering the missteps that could've been taken. There was talk the Brewers were exploring similar contracts with Doug Davis and Jarrod Washburn.

One of the main reasons I like this trade is the consistent numbers Wolf continues to post. Throughout his career, Wolf has consistently posted around 7 K/9, while usually allowing less than 3BB/9. In today's game, consistent quality numbers like that are hard to find.

There are people who are, just based on age and money, going to compare this signing to Jeff Suppan, that's just wrong. At the time of the signings, Suppan was, and still isn't anywhere near as good a pitcher as Wolf. Wolf is averaging more than 2.5K/9 more than Suppan, while walking the same amount of batters. He has better stuff than Suppan and is a very solid option at the top of the rotation. Also, he is getting less money and fewer years.

I think the funniest thing in this entire deal was the Dodgers not offering arbitration to Randy Wolf. Wolf was a Type A free agent and would've got the Dodgers two top draft picks in next years draft. Sure Wolf would've probably received less money, but the Brewers are now able to save their second round pick.

While the deal looks good now, fans have to realize Wolf is nearing his mid-30's. His numbers are likely to regress while in Milwaukee. I don't expect his 3.23 ERA to translate into the same season in 2010, but his number suggest he could easily post a sub-4 ERA. Bill James currently projects him at a 3.87, while other projections seeing him around a 4.2 next season. I think the likely outcome is right in the middle. Is a 4.00 ERA worth $10 a season? That's up for debate, but there is no question the Brewers needed a pitcher like Wolf in their rotation. This team lacks pitching depth at the top of their farm system and couldn't afford trading major league talent for an arm. Sure other short term deals would've been a better option, but Doug Melvin did a good job getting Wolf.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Corey Hart for John Maine Swap? (Update on the Randy Wolf Talks)

WOLF UPDATE: 12/08 3:30PM

Randy Wolf has been offered a three yeal deal reportedly worth $31 million from the Brewers. The Mets are still in the mix, but are reluctant to offer a third year. My guess is Wolf will probably sign rather soon with the Brewers. He'd be crazy to turn down that deal, unless the Mets are willing to match it and it seems right now they are not going to do that.

Late night reports from Indianapolis have surfaced on a possible trade that would send Corey Hart to the New York Mets in exchange for SP John Maine.

This is a tough trade to analyze considering no one really knows how healthy John Maine is. Maine is coming off back to back injury plagued seasons. After the 2008 season, doctors remarked the bone spur removed from his shoulder was "one of the largest they had ever seen." He was placed on the DL again in 2009 with shoulder fatigue and made just 15 starts.

When Maine is healthy, he can be a very solid pitcher. By all accounts he was not healthy for the past two season, but his production prior to that was phenomenal. So, the question is what pitcher would the Brewers be getting in return. Maine could easily regain his dominant form, but could also just as easily complete failed and spend most of his time on the DL.

Corey Hart has had some very disappointing seasons since his amazing 2007 campaign. He has seen the production with his bat and glove fall pretty drastically. Last season, Hart posted a .260/.335/.418 line last season, which was actually better than 2008 where he was named to the all-star team. He saw his OBP improve to .335, which is still below average for a corner outfielder. Couple that with a declining slugging percentage and one could see why the Brewers might want to move Hart, but I'm not so sure.

Corey Hart is just two seasons removed from an incredible 2007 where he nearly produced a .900 OPS. I still think he is a very valuable part to this team and trading him for a question mark doesn't make a lot of sense. If Maine was healthy, this would be a different story, but it seems like an unnecessary risk. Why trade for Maine when you could just sign a short term deal with someone like John Smoltz? Trading Hart would only create another hole in the outfield. I'm not saying that the Brewers shouldn't field offers on Hart, but trading him for the sake of trading him makes no sense.


The deal is near completion. An announcement will likely come tomorrow. The figures on the three year deal have not been released, but Tom Haudricourt believes the deal is for 3yrs/$25-27 million. Not bad all things considered.

Stay posted, if Monday is any indication this is going to be a very busy week for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Brewers Close to Signing Randy Wolf

According to multiple sources, the Brewers are close to signing Randy Wolf to a three year deal. Stay tuned for updates. Here are the links...

Ed Price (AOL Fanhouse)


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Winter Meetings Preview

One of the most important time period in baseball kicks off on Monday: The Winter Meetings. There has been a lot of discussion surrounding the Brewers club, so let's take a look of some possibilities that are being rumored.

Jeff Suppan for Juan Pierre

It is a trade that make some sense financially, but being beneficial to the Brewers is up for debate. Pierre has two year remaining on his current contract. He is scheduled to make $10 million this season and another $8.5 million next season. Suppan is in his final season and will make $12.5 million, while also receiving a $2 buyout when the Brewers decline his option next offseason. So essentially the Brewers would be adding $4 million in payroll if they complete the deal. While Pierre had a phenomenal 2009, he has shown little in his career to suggest he could actually contain some value to the Brewers. By all accounts, Pierre's 2009 was a fluke season surrounded by constantly terrible production just about every other year. Sure Suppan really contains no value for this team, but I would rather just shed the contract at the end of this season and free up the money as soon as possible. While Pierre doesn't sound very attractive, that doesn't mean Suppan couldn't be traded for an equally bad contract. The Diamondbacks are considering releasing Eric Byrnes, who is set to make $11 million in the final year of his contract. Byrnes has been an awful hitter the last two season, but a change of scenery may be in order. He has always played very good defense and would have some value as a 4th/5th outfielder in Milwaukee. With the Diamondbacks losing some of their pitchers via trade and free agency, Suppan might help bridge the gap for one season. The Brewers would probably have to throw in some cash, but I think this trade makes sense for both teams.

Free Agent Pitchers

Well as many of you know, the Brewers have essentially been linked to every pitcher in baseball. As the offseason goes on, the picture begins to fill out for pitchers. Arbitration offers are now in and in a weak market, some pitchers are considering accepting to wait until next season. Carl Pavano is currently pondering accepting the arbitration offer the Twins gave him. I truly believe Pavano is poised for a bounce back season, and the Brewers could easily beat the arbitration offer. In the current contract, Pavano will not make more than $4 million next season, which seems like a very small risk for a pitcher with huge upside.

The other "top" starters are demanding large contracts lasting many years. John Lackey is seeking a contract greater than A.J. Burnett's $82 million deal last winter. While Lackey is a phenomenal pitcher, there is no way the Brewers can afford to hand out that kind of contract. That is why I feel it is essential to pursue pitchers willing to sign short term, with one exception. The Brewers have been linked to Randy Wolf on numerous occasions. He is currently seeking a three year deal at about $10 million per season. Wolf's K:BB ratio has consistently remainder very solid. He has shown the ability to stay healthy and would not be a terrible sign. I usually am opposed to long term deals, but there are much worse things than three deals to a pitcher like Wolf.

One of the bigger mistakes this club can make would be to sign Doug Davis to a long term deal. I really do like Davis. I don't know what it is about him, but he always seems to post better numbers than he should. His poor K:BB would suggest a below average pitcher, yet he consistently has been pretty good. While I would like to think this could continue, his luck is going to have to run out. Walking more than 100 batters is not a good sign. Davis is only getter older. His walk totals continue to rise and his strikeouts continue to drop. If any deal on the market has Jeff Suppan written all over it, Davis is the pitcher. The Brewers really need to steer clear of Davis, especially for a long term deal.

Brewers pursuing Rafael Betancourt

When the Brewers were originally linked to C.C. Sabathia, there were reports of the deal including Betancourt, but nothing ever happened. In my book, he is one of the better relievers in baseball and an excellent setup option. He made $3.35 million last season and is setup for a substantial raise. I'm not sure it would be in the best interest of the Brewers to sign Betancourt to a large contract before working out the starting pitching problem. While he would be a nice pickup, the Brewers bullpen is in decent shape as is.

The winter meetings are always one of the most exciting times of the year. Trades and signings can pop up out of nowhere. With the roster having so many unanswered questions, Brewers fans better be ready an interesting couple of days. Stay Tuned.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Looking at Friday's Moves

Today, the Brewers signed Gregg Zaun, minor league OF Trent Oeltjen and made a formal contract offer to Craig Counsell. Coming into the winter meetings, Melvin continues to fill out the roster in 2010.

While some fans will try to convince you Mike Rivera can be an everyday catcher, he is not. Before the signing, the Brewers catching situation was a platoon between Rivera and minor leaguer catching prospect Jonathan Lucroy. While I like Lucroy's upside, he needs more time to develop in the minor leagues. Signing Zaun was a good way to bridge the gap and not rush him into a role he isn't ready for.

Zaun, 38, is an immediate upgrade at the catching position. He has consistently shown a good eye at the plate, and plays average defense behind the plate. Zaun was signed to a one year deal with a club option for 2011. He will make $1.9 million next season, which is $3.1 million less than the Brewers spent last season on Jason Kendall. In 2009, Zaun posted a .260/.345/.416/.761 line with eight home runs while splitting time between Tampa Bay and Baltimore.

There is little to not like about this deal. Zaun essentially signed for next to nothing and if he plays well, he can be retained for just $2.25 million next season. With the weak catching market, the Brewers did very well hear. I am pleasantly surprised the Brewers didn't resign Kendall. Kendall made way too much money for how he played in Milwaukee. While he was once a great catcher, his career is essentially finished. When you are struggling to break .600 OPS, it's time call it. Zaun will post a higher OBP than Kendall and has much more of an ability to drive the ball.

Looking at Craig Counsell, I am worried about the Brewers newly made offer. There is no question Craig was phenomenal last season, but overpaying for Counsell would be a mistake. There are multiple club who are interested in Counsell, which is likely to drive the price up. When he signed back in 2006, Counsell agreed to a two year deal worth $6 million. After his 2009, he is probably going to earn close to that, if not more. Counsell's production can easily be replaced internally and there is no reason to waste money on an aging, back-up, middle-infielder. I would like to have Counsell back, but if he asks too much, the Brewers need to look elsewhere. It hard to believe Counsell can repeat the production of his 2009 season, and is likely going to regress back into the player he was in his first couple of season in Milwaukee.

The Brewers also added depth to their outfield option by signing Trent Oeltjen. Oeltjen, 27, shows some promise after back to back solid seasons in AAA. While playing for Arizona's AAA affiliate last season, he posted an .862 OPS. His .369 BABIP is likely the reason for his recent success, but he is still worth a look.

Be happy Brewer fans, for once the catching position possess some ability with the bat. Signing Zaun adds a switch hitter to the lineup, which never hurts. With the winter meetings starting Monday, stay tuned for updates.