Today, the Milwaukee Brewers signed Jim Edmonds to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. If Edmonds makes the club, he would be guaranteed $850,000, but could make upwards of $2 million in incentives.
I really have to admit, I didn't see this one coming. When the Brewers were mentioned as having interest in another outfielder, I was confused. The Brewers already have a capable backup who can play all three positions in Jody Gerut. With the Brewers being tied to names such as Ryan Freel, Reed Johnson, or Gabe Gross, I figured why spend money on a 5th outfielder. While I not questioning the ability of either Gross or Johnson (I am for Freel), it just didn't seem like a necessary expense. This is what is so perfect about the Edmonds signing.
By signing Jim Edmonds, the Brewers are not contractually obligated to pay him, or give him a roster spot. If Edmonds comes to spring training and struggles, the Brewers can just release him.
Edmonds did not play baseball in 2009, so it is tough to gauge what the Brewers can expect out of him. After a rough start to the 2008 season in San Diego, Edmonds was released and picked up by the Chicago Cubs. He then rebounded to post a .937 OPS in 250 at bats in Chicago.
Even with his productive stint in Chicago, Edmonds value to the Brewers is on the bench. He could provide a decent option if Corey Hart continues to struggle. Edmonds has completely dominated right handed pitching throughout his career. From 2000-2009, Edmonds posted OPS' over .880 against righties in every season but one (2007 -.775). In 2008, Edmonds posted a .883 against right handed pitching.
If Edmonds is capable of playing at his 2008 level, the Brewers need to be wary of where/when they use him. At this point in his career, Edmonds is not the player he once was. In earlier years, Edmonds could produce against lefties, but those days are gone. In his last three seasons, Edmonds has failed to produce an OPS above .650 against lefties (.479, .631, .441). On top of that, Edmonds' well documented defensive prowess is no longer one of his strong points. While playing CF in 2008, Edmonds racked up a -23.3 UZR/150 in 840 innings. Those are not the defensive numbers of a everyday outfielder, especially an everyday centerfielder.
One thing to watch after this signing is the bench for the Milwaukee Brewers. If Edmonds makes the team, the bench now becomes filled with lefties. Joining Edmonds would be Joe Inglett, Jody Gerut, Craig Counsell, Mat Gamel and whoever the Brewers decide to backup Gregg Zaun. While that is a very strong bench, a right handed option is still needed. Sure Mat Gamel can hit left handed pitching (Macha doesn't understand that), but the Brewers are really short on right handed hitters. I look for Adam Heether to make a run at the opening day roster. He would provide a right handed bat off the bench and can play just about anywhere in the field. Melvin mentioned one of the things he liked about Joe Inglett was his ability to play outfield. If Edmonds makes the club, Inglett's outfield abilities really become useless, which really opens the door for Heether. Inglett probably plays better defense than Heether around the board, but a righty is needed off the bench.
All in all, I really like this signing for the Brewers. Edmonds comes very cheap and could provide some value for the Brewers next season. With that being said, he needs to be used correctly. At this point in his career, Edmonds has no reason to step foot in center field. Also, Edmonds should not be allowed to bat against left handed pitching. The clear cut role for Edmonds would be to back up the corner outfielders. He provides a good option off the bench and could spot start if Corey Hart or Ryan Braun need a day off. Only time will tell if this pays off, but this has the potential to be a very good signing for the Brewers.