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.