Guessing the Brewers’ Arby Outcomes

January 16, 2010 2 comments

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=dave+bush+brewers&iid=6300132″ src=”6/3/1/d/Milwaukee_Brewers_vs_ea17.JPG?adImageId=9098488&imageId=6300132″ width=”234″ height=”288″ /]The Brewers’ seven arbitration-eligible players filed with the player’s union Friday — Adam McCalvy has the story at brewers.com. The players that will be looking for raises are Dave Bush, Todd Coffey, Carlos Villanueva, Rickie Weeks, Jody Gerut, Corey Hart, and Carlos Gomez. As McCalvy notes, this is the first year of arby eligibility for Villanueva and Gomez (Gomez qualifies for arby due to his Super Two status). The players will swap figures on Tuesday, according to McCalvy, and from there will have until the date of the hearing to iron out a contract.

Doug Melvin has never had to go to an arbitration meeting in his tenure as General Manager, and hopefully that trend continues this year. He won’t have to worry about working out a deal with Scott Boras for Prince Fielder this offseason, thanks to the two-year deal he got Fielder to sign last winter that locked in his 2010 salary. He will, however, have to deal with a couple of players that underachieved last season but will still be looking for raises anyway — here’s looking at you, Dave Bush and Corey Hart. Below is a table listing this year’s arby-eligible players and what they made last season, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
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Keith Law Chat: Brewer Items

January 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Keith Law held his weekly chat on ESPN.com this afternoon, and there turned out to be a fair amount of Brewer-related content. Alcides Escobar and Mark Mulder were a couple players that were mentioned.

Steve (Chicago): A. Escobar Or S. Castro
Klaw (1:55 PM): Castro.

(snip)

Brian (Madison): Not liking Escobar’s bat?
Klaw (1:57 PM): He doesn’t walk and isn’t going to hit for power. Castro’s bat is special.

He’s definitely not the first scout to say something to that effect, and we’ve known for awhile that Esco’s lack of patience is a concern and he’ll be lucky to hit more than a few homers a year. Hard to argue this point, even if Castro is entering his age 20 season and seems to be a year or two away from the majors.

Paul (Richfield WI): Do you think Mulder can contribute at a big-league level in 2010?
Klaw (2:01 PM): No.

Short and to the point, and again, hard to disagree with. While it would be great to see the Brewers take a chance on Mulder and get rewarded for it, it doesn’t seem likely. Mulder hasn’t pitched in more than three games in a season since 2006, and hasn’t pitched well since 2005. He turns 32 this year. If the Brewers get anything out of him this season, it’ll probably be a sign that things are really going their way. It’ll be nice to get him under contract, but he (or Chris Capuano, or John Halama) should not be counted on to do much for the big league club.

If anything, they should keep looking for that fifth starter in the free agent market as long as asking prices continue to tumble. Hey, Doug Davis says he’s interested.

Royals Hire Yost as “Special Advisor”

January 13, 2010 Leave a comment

As manager of the Brewers, Ned Yost had a lot of flaws. He tended to leave starters in too long and push them to the point of breaking down. He was too loyal to his starters, reluctant to bench those who were struggling. He was brash and confrontational when anyone — the media, the fans, or his own players — questioned his decisions.

What he is, though, is a good manager for a young team. Feelings about two late-season collapses make it hard to remember this, but he was exactly the type of manager the Brewers needed when he came in. After previous managers preferred to play crappy veterans instead of struggling newcomers, Yost stuck with guys like J.J. Hardy and Rickie Weeks, even after they struggled in their first taste of big league action. He helped changed the team’s mentality from feeling lucky to win to expecting to win. While the rah-rah act grew old with his players by the time he was let go, it was exactly what they needed to hear at the time. In short, he was the kind of guy you wanted to bring in to turn things around, but wasn’t the guy able to carry them over the hump.

Looking at the Kansas City Royals now, doesn’t it look familiar? Of course, Yost isn’t being hired to be the team’s manager…yet. But he is joining the organization as a “special advisor to baseball operations,” General Manager Dayton Moore announced today. Royals execs are still apparently confident that Trey Hillman is their guy, even if it looks like they may have just added his eventual replacement to the organization’s payroll.

If there’s one thing about this announcement that’s more surprising than anything, it’s that Yost would take a job when Bobby Cox is set to retire in Atlanta after this season. Yost has long been rumored to be a candidate there, even going back to his day’s as the team’s third base coach. It’s certainly possible that this move doesn’t eliminate him from consideration for managing jobs elsewhere, but after being linked to (and not getting) positions in Seattle and Washington, perhaps he’s just looking to get back into the game.

While many Brewer fans probably still hold negative feelings about Yost, I do hope he eventually gets another chance to manage. It would certainly be fun to see if he could do what he did for the Brewers for another team, especially a team like the Royals that — like the Brewers — lost a lot of the luster it once had in the 1980s. For now, though, it looks like he’ll just do some scouting for the team and won’t serve in an on-field capacity.

Marlins Make Small-Markets Look Bad

January 13, 2010 Leave a comment

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=marlins+owner&iid=4477574″ src=”c/0/4/4/PicImg_Nationals_vs_Marlins_21fa.JPG?adImageId=8964559&imageId=4477574″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]Lost in all the Mark McGwire hoopla over the past couple days was the news that MLB and the player’s union more or less came out and told the Florida Marlins to stop being so cheap. The Marlins have had the league’s lowest payroll in three of the past four seasons, and owner Jeff Loria has shown an aversion to paying players once they hit arbitration. Even with a new stadium opening within a couple years, the team continues to play poor.

From the Marlins’ perspective, it’s hard to argue with success — they’ve managed to win two World Series titles in their short existence, always seem to get great value in their trades, and last year finished in second place in the NL East to the eventual NL champion Phillies. They’ll happily take the money from the league’s revenue sharing system, but have shown they’re capable of winning without actually using that money — thanks in large part to a great general manager and minor league system.

That’s where the rest of the league has a problem with the Marlins. They abuse the system, pleading poverty when they play in a bigger market than teams like the Brewers, Reds, and Royals, among others. Those teams have at least tried to use their revenue sharing money to improve their on-field performance with free agent signings and contract extensions. The Marlins, while being consistently more competitive than those teams, have seemingly refused to use that money. The Brewers, playing in the league’s smallest market, spent more than twice as much money as the Marlins did last year. While the Brewers are an example of what small-market teams should do — dabble in free agency, lock up a couple key players, and develop minor league talent — organizations like the Marlins are the reason why large-market teams hate paying out revenue sharing dollars.

The timing of this compromise — the club is promising the spend more leading up to the opening of their new stadium — is a little curious. Dan Uggla, due for a big raise in arbitration, has been on the trading block for awhile. When the team’s extension talks with ace Josh Johnson fell through in the early stages, there was immediately talk of him being moved, too. This deal with the player’s union likely means both players will stay — at least for the short term — and both players will likely get paid. But will the Marlins finally become players in free agency? Or will they just sign a bunch of average players they don’t really need to short-term deals to boost their payroll?

Regardless, the Marlins (and to a lesser extent, the Pirates) need to change their ways and actually try to field competitive teams. That means spending money to keep guys in town. That means not alienating your fanbase by acting as a farm team for teams in bigger cities. If they don’t change, teams in smaller markets will continue to be looked down upon, and a salary floor will continue to be more likely than a salary cap.

Bring Back the Muscle

January 9, 2010 1 comment

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=russell+branyan&iid=5595896″ src=”b/f/0/d/Cleveland_Indians_vs_3f78.JPG?adImageId=8883709&imageId=5595896″ width=”234″ height=”241″ /]Casey Kotchman joined the Mariners earlier this week, and will likely take over the starting first baseman spot in Seattle. The Brewers are still looking to fill a reserve spot or two, and currently don’t have much firepower coming off the bench. These two things are seemingly unrelated, but to me, the connection is obvious.

It’s time for Doug Melvin to bring back The Man, The Myth…The Muscle.

No fan base has appreciated Russell Branyan as much as the fans of Milwaukee have in the past, and the feeling seems to be mutual. Branyan wanted to return to the club in 2009, but Melvin told him he didn’t have room for the Master of the Three True Outcomes, and instead told him to give Jack Z. a call in Seattle. Branyan belted 31 home runs in just 431 at-bats last year, playing half his games in spacious Safeco Field.

Now with Kotchman entering the fold in Seattle, it appears Branyan is out of work again. Could he find a starting job somewhere, either as a stopgap first baseman or a DH? Sure. But as he’s shown in the past, he has trouble staying healthy when he’s playing every day (possibly because one mortal body cannot contain so much awesomeness), and may be better off in a reserve role.

The Brewers’ bench situation is cloudy at the moment — beyond Jody Gerut and Craig Counsell, there isn’t much big league experience. As it stands, Counsell and possibly Adam Heether serve as the catch-all back-up infielders, with Mat Gamel being better off playing every day in Triple A to start the year if he’s not starting at third base. Casey McGehee appears to be the starting third baseman heading into the year, but he had offseason knee surgery and could still possibly be a one-year wonder. Rickie Weeks has proven to be less than dependable when it comes to staying healthy, and Alcides Escobar is no proven commodity at short. Considering Counsell can’t play three positions at once and we don’t know what we have in Heether, another infield bat could come in handy. There’s also a hole on the bench when it comes to a fifth outfielder, preferably a spot that could be occupied by someone who can play the corners.

Guess who can serve as the primary back up at third base, and also has experience playing the corner outfield? You guessed it — 3TO.

Is it ideal? Probably not. Ideally, Mat Gamel would be starting every day at third base anyway, and Casey McGehee would join Craig Counsell in the supersub role. Heether or Hernan Iribarren, who will be out of options this year, could serve as the fifth outfielder. But it is fun to dream, and the Brewers do need some pop off the bench. Branyan probably isn’t willing to go back to being a pinch-hitter who gets the occasional start, either, and probably wants more money than the Brewers can afford to pay — especially if the pitching situation isn’t completely resolved.

Categories: 2009 Offseason Tags: ,

Prospect List Round Up

January 8, 2010 1 comment

There’s still not much happening in terms of Brewers news — that much is clear when Tom Haudricourt is tweeting about the snow (I imagine him these days reclined in his cublicle like Peter in Office Space, playing Tetris with Cheetos scattered across the desk). That means we have to pass the time somehow, and many are turning to projecting Opening Day rosters and ranking prospects.

Brew Crew Ball is undertaking a community prospect ranking project, letting readers do the ranking. Predictably, Alcides Escobar grabbed the #1 spot, and the #2 spot seems to be a race between Mat the Bat and Brett Lawrie.

Matt Hagen at The Hardball Times rolled out his prospect rankings for the Washington Nationals and the Brewers yesterday, also predictably ranking Escobar #1. From there, though, his prospect list looks a lot different than most others. Mat Gamel doesn’t make the list (presumably due to losing rookie status last year), and Caleb Gindl is ranked third, ahead of the likes of Jonathan Lucroy, Eric Arnett, and Angel Salome. To Hagen’s credit, his list is certainly unique, but he doesn’t provide much reasoning for Gindl’s ranking beyond seemingly having a hunch that he’ll break out in Double A this year.

Ranking the Brewers’ prospects isn’t as easy as it’s been in recent years, with so many players graduating the system or falling off the radar. If I had to do a ranking of my own, it would look something like this:

1. Escobar
2. Gamel (Including him because we still don’t really know what we have in him)
3. Lawrie
4. Lucroy
5. Angel Salome (Let’s see what he can do with a healthy year, but finding ABs will be tough if Lucroy is also in Nashville)
6. Zach Braddock (Could make an appearance in the Brewers’ bullpen as soon as this year)
7. Eric Arnett (Interested to see how he does with the handcuffs off..won’t have to worry about high college inning totals)
8. Taylor Green
9. Logan Schafer
10. Jake Odorizzi

A bit short on pitching, but we already knew that — beyond the talent in the low minors, there’s not a lot there, and most teams can boast a few live arms at those levels. While the Brewers’ system still has a few bats that could make an impact in the majors, the same can’t be said for pitching. It’s one of the things that goes overlooked when people look at Jack Z’s success here (especially by those who look at what he’s doing with a bigger budget in Seattle and start crying for Melvin’s head) — for all the good he did building the system’s offensive power, he largely failed to produce big league arms.

Categories: 2009 Offseason Tags:

Bill Hall Traded Again

Former Brewer Bill Hall is on the move again. This time, he’s reportedly headed to Boston in a deal for Casey Kotchman.

Why does this concern the Brewers? Because Milwaukee is still paying a significant part of his salary this season. When Hall was traded for minor league pitcher Ruben Flores last season, it was reported that the Brewers were on the hook for Hall’s entire 2009 salary, as well as up to $7.15 million of his $8.4 million salary in 2010.

In this deal, the Red Sox swap out what would’ve been a relatively expensive bench player for one they basically get for free. From Seattle’s perspective, Jack Z essentially turned a 25-year old A-ball pitcher (Flores) into Kotchman, who could be a solid contributor for the M’s. And the Brewers are still paying Hall $7 million to play for someone else…at least he comes off the books after this season.

Categories: 2009 Offseason Tags: