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.
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?
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.
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.
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.