Archive for the ‘Roundtables’ Category

10 Things to Look Forward to Before Opening Day

Monday, February 8th, 2010

This week is possibly one of the most boring in sports. There’s no more football, no baseball, no Olympics…just basketball. To get you over the hump, I’m going to try to post something new each day this week and open up some discussions.

Let’s start the week of on a positive note:

Here’s a list of 10 Brewer-related things I’m excited for before opening day

10) Brewers Winter Tailgate - What started off as nutjobs freezing for baseball tickets has been embraced by the team and the fans.

9) Pitchers and Catchers report - The four magical words in the middle of winter that make you feel like digging out of your hole. Anyone else start working out again once these words are said? Anyone else just have a good day on PaCR day? Yeah, didn’t think it was just me.

8) Promotional Schedule released - This isn’t a big deal, but it’s always fun to see who their going to make into a bobblehead this year. We already know there’s a Bernie Brewer one…perhaps a Prince as the HR Derby Champion bobble? Doug Melvin was a hit last year, how about a Mark Attanasio bobblehead?

7) This Year’s Breakout at Spring Training - Two years ago, it was Gabe Kapler. Last year, it was Casey McGehee. Who’s it going to be this year?

6) Ryan Braun’s Tavern and Grill - I know I’m lame, but I’m so close to Lake Geneva that it’s probably more exciting to me than others. And it can’t be any worse than Remitee, right?

5) Fantasy Baseball Draft - I love having all the guys get together for the draft, talk baseball, and speculate about players and teams.

4) Getting out the Grill and getting it ready for the season - This usually happens once most of the snow has left and it usually starts out as wanting to clean the grill and it usually ends up making burgers and brats…you know…to warm it up before the season.

3) Watching the pitching staff come together - Will the Crew have three lefty starters or will Manny and his fragile psyche get sent to AAA? Will the Narv-Dog be a reliever, long reliever, or AAA starter? Will Riske be ready? Will the relievers from last year still be worn out (already lost DiFelice for the year)? Will Jeff Suppan start? If so, it will because of two reasons; he will either have rocked in spring or there will be laugh-worthy reasoning from the managerial staff.

2) Spring Training Games - I love getting updates during the day about the team, not to mention seeing how prospects are doing this year. Plus, this year’s team has been through the biggest overhaul since 2006. It’s going to be interesting to see how all the new pieces work.

1) The night before Opening Day - The excitement has been bubbling for a long time and comes to a climax the night before.

RFB’s Offseason Roundtable - Who Makes the Roster?

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

This Week’s Topic: Today is the mandatory reporting day for spring training. Besides the starters, who do you believe will be on the 25-man roster when camp breaks?

Tyler -

I guess that depends on who’s considered the third base starter - but since Bill Hall isn’t in danger of missing the cut, I’ll safely assume it’s him. Beyond that…

Starting Pitchers:
- Braden Looper: He’s apparently the ace… yikes.
- Dave Bush: Awesome.
- Yovani Gallardo: Given.
- Manny Parra: New number, same young, more-than-servicable southpaw to hold down the back of the rotation. And crack doubles like their going out of style.
- Jeff Suppan: Untradable and overpaid. He’s 25-man material, if only for those reasons.

Outfielders (after assumed starters Braun, Cameron and Hart):
- Trot Nixon: I figure Melvin will pretty much hand him the spot due to his left-handed bat, veteran presence and moxie. Whatever, I guess.
- Jason Burgeois: Maybe a flier here, but his strong winter showing and emergency 2B capabilities make him worth more than Tony Gwynn Jr. or Hernan Iribarren. I predict he’ll break camp and send Gwynn/Hernie to the waiver wire. I’m envisioning another Joe Dillon… but good.

Infield (after assumed starters Hall, Hardy, Weeks and Fielder):
- Craig Counsell: Can play all four IF spots, pinch hit (annoyingly) from the left side. There’s no chance of him not making the team.
- Brad Nelson: Out of options and (unlike Gwynn/Iribarren) has the potential to be a valuable cog on the big league bench. Can play first, third and corner outfield while lending the Brewers some left-handed pinch hit power. (I hope) this is his year.

- Trevor Hoffman: Closer.
- Carlos Villanueva: Obvious.
- Seth McClung: More obvious.
- David Riske: See Suppan, Jeff but add the realistic possibility to turn it around and earn his pay.
- Mitch Stetter: LOOGY and he did pretty well in a similar, yet lesser role last season.
- Todd Coffey: Why not? He was lights out for Milwaukee last September. He’s looked like he’s earned it (barring a terrible spring).
- Jorge Julio: Signed over two months ago when a lot of other quality relievers were available, it’s obvious the front office saw something. I (and numerous others) sense shades of Guillermo Mota in him, a capable former closer who can hold down steady a 7th or 8th inning role in close games.
- Eduardo Morlan: Teams Morlan comes in contact with seem to covet him. A recent Rule 5 pick-up, Morlan proves baseball politics can be a bitch sometimes. As more a means of protecting a player Milwaukee thinks will eventually have an impact on its club, their hand might be forced to cast off a currently impactful pitcher. If demoted, I’d assume the Rays would take him back without hesitation, so unfortunately someone else will probably go.

The Close Calls (with injuries, suspensions and other unforseen moves - expect these names to substitute):
IF - Alcides Escobar/Mat Gamel: Not ready yet, but maybe one will absolutely mash and Hall’s injury will be worse than expected and be plugged in. But I’d rather they both develop in Nashville first.
IF - Mike Lamb: Poses an affordable ($400K) lefty to man third and pinch hit. Veteran presence too.
OF - Chris Duffy: I could be flat out wrong about Bourgeois, in which case, he’s in. I see Duffy more like a Jay Gibbons though.
RP - Eric Gagne: I’d love to see him back, and with a good spring (or bad/absent Jorge Julio spring) he could be. I think he was brought in as an impusle or insurance buy because of his sheer affordability. If he accepts assignment and rides it out for a month or two before opting out, he could be a quality piece to plug in.
RP - Rob “R.J.” Swindle - Could spell Stetter if needed, or maybe outshine Coffey and double the count of expected lefties in the bullpen come opening day

Bryan -

I usually don’t read the other members’ roundtable post before making my own, but I have to say Tyler did a great job breaking things down, so I’ll totally cop his style.

Starting Pitchers: Agreed

Outfielders besides the obvious: I agree that Trot Nixon will be on the team unless he doesn’t show up at spring training or something. It will be interesting to see who the Brewers try to send to the minors, Tony Gwynn or Brad Nelson. My money is that they keep Gwynn and try to send Nelson down.

Infielders besides the obvious: Counsell will be on the team and so will Mike Rivera. If Bill Hall is not hurt, the Brewers have a big decision. Do they send down Mike Lamb who can play both third and first base or do they try to send down Brad Nelson who is out of options? I believe they keep Lamb because of his versatility.

Relievers: Hoffman, Riske, McClung, and Villa are all obvious. I think Gagne, Coffey, and Swindle or Stetter make it, whoever has the better Spring Training. I believe that Swindle might steal the first crack because he’s dominated AAA already and this will be his chance. I also believe that Julio might be the reliever that gets chopped.

So that makes it Kendall, Fielder, Weeks, Hardy, Hall, Braun, Cameron, Hart, Rivera, Lamb, Counsell, Nixon, Gwynn, Hoffman, Riske, McClung, Villa, Gagne, Coffey, Swindle, Gallardo, Parra, Suppan, Looper, Bush

The amount of talent in the minors too makes this year very exciting! There might not be the huge names, but there are a lot of solid choices around the board.

RFB Offseason Roundtable - More Important Signing?

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

This Week’s Topic: Which signing was more important? Braden Looper or Trevor Hoffman?

Joe -

While the Hoffman signing was more sexy because…well…its Trevor Hoffman, I think the signing of Braden Looper is more significant and important.

While it’s important to have a solid closer, I subscribe to the Billy Beane train of thought when it comes to closers: basically that you can take any solid reliever and make them into solid closer. I also agree with Ken Macha’s thought that the most important inning in a ball game can come at any time. Most people think of the ninth inning as the most important inning of a game, but depending on the situations, the most important, or deciding, inning of a game could very well be in the sixth or seventh inning. You’re not going to see your closer in those situations.

Sure, Braden Looper isn’t a sexy signing. He’s not a type A free agent. But he adds very important depth to the Brewers biggest question mark going into the ‘09 season: starting pitching. Looper will eat innings while maintaining a very respectible ERA of around 4.30. I’ll repeat the stat that Jared found the other day. Only 28 MLB starters threw more innings (199) and had a better ERA (4.16) than Looper last year.

Braden Looper is not another Jeff Suppan as a lot of (obviously casual) Brewer fans have been stating. Melvin signed Looper for less than $5 million for one year with a mutual option for a second year. Suppan was given a hefty long-term deal. Besides, Looper is a better pitcher. Period. Good, safe sign by Melvin.

Jared -

I guess we won’t really know which was the more important signing until the end of the year, but my guess is Hoffman. While the stats might suggest it’s Looper because he’ll pitch a lot more innings and therefore can have a bigger impact, I think solidifying your ninth inning man creates an important domino effect to straighten out the rest of the bullpen. Last year’s early season bullpen struggles are a good example. After Gagne struggled, no relief pitchers had a defined role and it was a battle every game to pick up the innings after the starter exited. Torres brought some relief to that situation, but my hopes for Hoffman are greater than what Torres delivered last year. If Hoffman can come in and lock down most of his save opportunities, he’ll also instill a lot of confidence in the team. With a young team that’s prone to streaks, that’s especially important. So, I’ll go with Hoffman. In the end though, I hope they’re both key figures in the Brewers return to the playoffs.

Bryan -

Both signings were great, especially when you realize that we signed both of these fine pitchers for a little more than we payed Gagne for, but I’m going to tell you why the Looper signing was more important.

For years, we’ve had a closer at the start of the year and many times that closer has faltered. However, there has been someone else to pick up that important role and pick it up admirably. In 2003, struggling closer Mike Dejean was traded to the Cardinals. Dan Kolb came in and was dominant the rest of 2003 and for most of 2004. In 2005, Kolb was traded to Atlanta for Cappellan and the Brewers again didn’t have a closer. The Brewers tried a couple different people, I believe they started with Mike Adams, but eventually found Derrick Turnbow to fill the closer void. In 2006, Turnbow started the year off hot, but by mid-year couldn’t find the strike zone. The Brewers had to trade Carlos Lee by the deadline, so they added disgraced closer Francisco Cordero to the deal. CoCo came in and dominated in 2006 and 2007. CoCo was then offered a large contract, but chose to take the ever-so-slightly larger deal in Cincinatti. The Brewers started 2008 with Eric Gagne, but once he was hurt, Salomon Torres stepped up into the closers role and didn’t look back. As you can see, there’s someone who can step up or step into the closer’s role so even if Hoffman struggles, the Brewers already have backups in Jorge Julio and perhaps Carlos Villanueva. I’m not saying having a good closer is worthless, the opposite in fact, I am saying that your closer is the one reliever on the team who steps up and keeps his head in the game.

Looper, who could close by the way, gives the Brewers some stability and room to move in the starting rotation. As much as I like McClung, I do not believe he is able to be a starter the entire year. He is a solid reliever and an above average injury replacement. Now if there is an injury, the Brewers don’t have to go to Villa (who is not a starter like we thought he would be, but he is an outstanding relief pitcher) or to the minors right away. Looper was also an underrated arm in the free agent market and the Brewers got a steal of a deal for him. The rotation might not have CC and Sheets at the top anymore, but one has to admit that the rotation looks at least solid once again, all because of a couple young budding stars and one  signing.

RFB Offseason Roundtable - Strengths and Weaknesses?

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

This Week’s Topic: Doug Melvin has said that the Brewers are basically done making moves. As of right now, what are the team’s strongest and weakest points? Who should we watch for to step up this year and who should we lower our standards on?

Bryan -

With the latest Ben Sheets development, it doesn’t look like the Brewers will get another starter until mid-year. I think starting pitching is the weakest point of the team right now. I think most of the pitchers will have a good year, but if one pitcher gets hurt (and it’s baseball so it WILL happen), we then have to rely on Villa in a starters role or the triumphant return of Chris Capuano. We also shouldn’t count on our catchers much for offense, so I’m lowering my standards on Kendall and Rivera. Mike Rivera was amazing in very limited play last year, but I doubt he does the same this year. I hope he does, but I’m not expecting him to. I’m also not expecting Kendall to start the year off like a man possessed like last year.

The strongest part of the team is their outfield, both defensively and offensively. I expect Mike Cameron to have a better overall year, especially since he won’t miss the first 25 games due to suspension. Corey Hart’s mindset scares me a little. He ended last year with a massive slump and isn’t getting offered as much as he thought he should. This will either make him start tearing it up at the beginning of the year or it will cause the slump to carry over. Ryan Braun is basically gold in Milwaukee now. He will continue to work to improve on his already strong list of accomplishments. Even though the Brewers lost uber-benchie Gabe Kapler, I have a feeling Tony Gwynn is going to turn it around this year and be a strong part of the Brewers bench.

Jared -

I think the strongest area of the team is the offense. With the same starters as last year, the offense is obviously good. And I think a number of the guys on the team will contribute more this year than they did last year. They might have to in order to make up for the starting pitching.
The starting pitching is the team’s weakness. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the starting five. In fact, they’re probably above average. But the Brewers have no depth and there is no way they can make it through the season pitching just five starters. The Chase Wright trade was a step in the right direction and Chris Capuano could come back from injury, but there are just question marks after that… I think the team needs to add a starter or at least some more AAA depth.
I expect David Bush to step up this season. He’s flirted with pushing his game to the next level the last couple of seasons and I think he’ll take that step this year. I’m not saying he’ll be an ace by any means, but I think he will be a very solid starter (ERA under 4) that will consistently eat innings and be a level performer for the Brewers.
I like what Jason Kendall brought to the table last year, but I worry about him becoming a weakness on the team. He made up for his weak offense with his defensive play and how he handled the pitching staff last season, but if he takes a step back offensively or defensively, his value will be pretty limited.

RFB Offseason Roundtable

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

This week’s topic: Now that the numbers have been submitted: What do you think Hart, Fielder, and Weeks’ salaries are going to be and Is anyone going to go into arbitration hearings?

Jared -

I actually don’t think any of the players will go to arbitration. I felt that Prince would go, but obviously he seems to have worked a deal out with the Brewers. With just Weeks and Hart left as players that are due arbitration that haven’t signed a deal, I think the Brewers will be able to knock out agreements before the hearings. They’ll probably agree to deals at close to the middle point of the numbers submitted, though I think Hart’s number was a bit high. I think Hart will settle for around $3 million and Weeks will settle for around $2.5 million.

Tyler -

Though Doug Melvin has never attended and arbitration hearing in his tenure as Brewers GM, it looks as if he won’t be so fortunate this year. Of Milwaukee’s six arbitration eligible players, three players – Dave Bush ($4M), J.J. Hardy ($4.65M) and Seth McClung ($1.6625M) – have agreed to very reasonable deals. I don’t feel as confident of the other three signings going as painless and favorably as those did.
I’m just speculating here, but I see at least one hearing in Melvin’s near future, with the strong possibility of a second.
I do not imagine Rickie Weeks will opt to go to a hearing. If his less-than-impressive play and injury-riddled past aren’t enough to keep him from pleading his case, the fact that (unlike the other five arbi-eligible players) he’s only up for a slight raise from last season’s pay might help sway him to sign soon. With just an $800K difference in submitted figures, I expect the two sides to avoid a hearing and agree to a $2.4M deal – the exact middle of the two salaries.
I don’t know what to think about Corey Hart. He had another 20/20 season in 2008, a season where his own fans mistakenly willed him into an all-star gam e he had little part being in. I’ve heard that in such hearings, all-star appearances and certain numeric “milestones” are sometimes factored in – all things that occurred before he flatlined over months of the season. That, mixed with Hart’s apparent obliviousness with, well, everything may lead him to test the waters of a hearing. Maybe he’ll realize he’s going to hear about his recent shittiness and put two and two together (seemingly difficult to do in the Hart family) and come to know that squeezing every last cent out of a team will only bold his name on many a Brewers’ fan shitlist. But I doubt it. Hearing or not, I’d assume Hart will get somewhere between $3 and $3.2M in 2009.
Prince Fielder will almost certainly waddle to an arbitration hearing. Blame his agent, his greed, his Hart-like obliviousness or his wrongfully inflated opinion of himself. He’s no longer a team leader, he’s not Ryan Howard and he’s not going to be a Brewer for too much longer. For these reasons, I think Milwaukee’s front office has no qualms with taking Fielder to a hearing in which he’ll probably get between $6 and $7M – and whine about it.

Jack -

Well, since I’m here for numbers, let’s take a look at some.

Corey Hart -
Last 2 years: 4.6 WAR, 1.3 WAR for an avg 2.9 WAR, worth approx. 12 million dollars open market. An average 1st-year arb player makes about 40% of that which comes to ~4.8 million.  However, Hart projects closer to a 1.8 or 2.0 win player based on last year mainly, so we’ll say 8M open market, which ocmes to 3.2M for arb1.  I expect, however, based on hi’s terrible end of the season and his hostility towards the fans, that the arbitrators will side with the club (2.7M).

Rickie Weeks -
Last 2 years: 3.1 WAR, 1.9 WAR for an avg. 2.5 WAR, worth approx 10 million dollars open market.  40% of that comes out to 4M.  Unlike Hart, Weeks projects a little higher than this at about 3 WAR, worth about 13 or 14 million.  40% of that comes out to 5.2-5.6M.  It’ll be hard to rule for the club on this one, so I say the arbitrators will award the 2.8M to Rickie, which is still a steal for Milwaukee.

Prince Fielder -
Last 2 years: 5.1 WAR, 2.7 WAR for an avg 4.1 WAR, worth approx 20 million dollars open market.  40% of that comes out to 8M.  Fielder projects to be worth closer to 3 WAR, so his figures come in at 15M open market/6M arb1.  The 7M/11M he’ll get for the next two years is slightly over his fair market value, but since his perceived skills are probably valued higher than they’re actually worth, this should really help his trade market if the Brewers feel it is necessary to trade him over the course of the next two years.

*This was supposed to be put up on Thursday night, but I wasn’t able to get to a computer due to and some circumstances (PF) may have changed.

RFB Offseason Roundtable - 2008 Decisions

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

This Week’s Topic: Think back through the entire year of 2008. What were the best and worst decisions made in 2008?

Jared -

I’d say the worst decision of the year had to be the Eric Gagne signing. Melvin needed to bring in somebody to close out games. The team looked like it could be competitive and somebody needed to pitch in the ninth with the lead. The market for relief pitchers was through the roof and Gagne got $10 million despite some injury concerns, declining velocity and his ineffective pitching at the end of the year in Boston. Every Brewers fan (and Doug Melvin too, I’m sure) prayed that Gagne could recapture the momentum he had in Texas previous to the Boston trade in 2007 and we all dreamed of him being as dominate as he was in his prime in LA. No such luck… Gagne struggled from the get go. He came back strong in a lesser role as the season progressed, but he was not worth anywhere close to $10 million. That said, the guy can pitch and he proved to be a class act. I’d be happy to see him in a Milwaukee uniform again in 2009, just not for $10 million…

An under-the-radar move that came back to haunt the Brewers was trading away Gabe Gross. Gabe is not a world beater, but he’s a decent player offensively and defensively. The team could have used a left-handed hitting outfielder many times during the season and Gross’ patient approach at the plate would have been nice off the bench or in spot starts, especially on a team full of free swingers. How nice would it have been to have that Gabe after our other Gabe (Kapler) got hurt and couldn’t play late in the season? Gross could have given Hart a few days off and maybe Corey would have shook out of that horrible funk he was in. The Brewers basically gave Gross away too…

I think the best decisions the Brewers management made in 2008 were the little ones. They filled the roster with veterans and role players and it worked out beautifully. Jason Kendall played outstanding behind the plate. Gabe Kapler came out of retirement to play a huge role as a reserve and spot starter. Russell Branyan provided a much-needed offensive spark as the Brewers were struggling in May. Salomon Torres filled in admirable as the closer. Ray Durham and Craig Counsell were important reserves and got plenty of starts too. Even Todd Coffey and Mike Lamb contributed down the stretch. Melvin and company did an outstanding job filling in the gaps on the roster and it was the difference between reaching the playoffs and watching them from home.

It’d be blasphemous not to mention the CC Sabathia trade as a great decision too. The big man put the Brewers on his back and carried them into the playoffs. The package Milwaukee gave Cleveland is impressive and one or more of LaPorta, Brantley or Bryson could easily turn into good Major Leaguers, but I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. The moments CC and the 2008 Brewers gave us will be among some of my fondest Brewer memories for the rest of my life.

Jack -

I could go with the obvious answer here and say that the greatest move of 2008 was the CC Sabathia trade, but I think I’ll take the high road and find something a little more under the radar. My personal favorite move was the signing of Russell Branyan, who in his short time on the Milwaukee 25-man roster was worth 1.2 wins. Next, I’d go with the decision to put Gagne on the DL. Easily.

As I’ve already mentioned, the potential move of 2009 for me would be the signing of Joe Crede. However, hopefully that’s unnecessary, and Mat Gamel’s promotion to the ML level will turn out to be the big move of 2009.

On the other side of the spectrum, we again have an obvious pick for the worst move of 2008 – namely, the signing of Eric Gagne. But I think that clearly worse was the multi-year signing of David Riske, a player who was below replacement level last year and will likely continue to hover around that level.

The move going into the new year that I fear most is a possible signing of either Oliver Perez or Jon Garland. These are two players who have terrible peripheral stats but have nice and pretty W-L records and ERAs. I think that signings of these two could turn out as bad as the Suppan signing, and I hope we stay away.

Bryan -

There are two decisions that were the best this year: The first was signing Ryan Braun to a long term deal. The second was trading for C.C. Sabathia.

Ryan Braun is now the face of the team. I know big Prince is still a great leader, but the fans have this feeling that we know he’s going to chase the money in a bigger city so it limits our love for the big man. With Ryan, we have a young All-Star who says all the right things and is a complete team player. How many amazing moments has Braun already given Milwaukee? It’s amazing to think that I’ll be in my 30’s when Ryan Braun’s contract runs out.

The C.C. trade ultimately brought the Brewers to the playoffs. The Brewers were going to do their September collapse again, but C.C. wouldn’t let them. Yes he was costly and yes, we don’t even get a first round pick anymore, but for 4 months, C.C. was the biggest star in Milwaukee and the main reason the Brewers didn’t completely collapse again.

There were many more, such as the Kapler signing and Torres trade (which is still underrated by fans), but those two were the best.

As far as worst decisions go, Gagne was a rough one, so was Julian Tavares, perhaps it was batting the pitcher 8th, or using Cameron in the leadoff role, but one thing stands out in my mind as the worst decision.

This summer, we saw gas prices rise massively. It almost reached 4 and a half dollars a gallon. It became financially hard for many fans to make it to the game. Once fans were finally in the stadium, what did we see? A HUGE gas pump with numbers that kept going up, up, up all summer long! What an awful move by Citgo. I understand they put the thing up in 2007, but the decision to keep it was awful. Were they trying to find a silver lining to the gas price crisis? There are soooooooo many ways to tally home runs. There are soooooooo many ways for Citgo to promote themselves. But to have a gas pump rise all summer while real prices were rising causing fans to sweat more than ever was the worst decision of 2008.

Thankfully gas prices have fallen for now, but if they start climbing again Citgo should think about maybe sponsoring a concession stand instead of a giant gas pump. What would be smart would be for an investment company to put something out there so even though stocks are falling right now, the Brewers home run totals are up, up, up!

Tyler -

I’m probably not the only one who will mention this, but I view Eric Gagne’s one-year/$10 M contract to be Milwaukee’s most siazable front office error. As easy as it is to jump on Gagne, Doug Melvin and anyone else with bearing to this occurance now, I - as I know many others were - was happy with the transaction initially. Yeah, the price tag was a bit hefty, and Gagne’s directly preceeding bout with the injury bug and ineffectiveness in Arlington and Boston carried a great deal of uncertainty, but Milwaukee felt it needed to address the closer situation and went out and nabbed a player a few years removed from legendary closer status.

But alas, every legitimate worry of failure that accompanied Seth Rogen reincarnate was almost immediately realized, his mention in the Mitchell Report left Milwaukee’s brand new (ironically very old) bullpen with another PED-related black eye and the funds cherished by a mid-market franchise seemed sucked into an empty hole. Sure, he pulled it together to be a pretty good option for the 7th and 8th innings, but the price tag wasn’t fitting of a middle reliever. At the right price, I would welcome Eric back with open arms, and (as the current bullpen sits) even ponder letting him battle for the closer’s role in Spring Training. But you’d be hard pressed to find a fan who doesn’t feature Eric Gagne high on his or her (well hello, there) list of 2008 Brewers disappointments.

RFB Offseason Roundtable - Christmas Edition

Friday, December 26th, 2008

This Week’s Topic - Let’s get into the giving mood: What presents would you give members of the Milwaukee Brewers?

Bryan -

First of all, Santa Bryan wants to thank the entire team for getting to the playoffs and the entire city of Milwaukee for getting behind them.

Now the real presents:

For Yovani Gallardo, I would give a coat of armor for those run-ins with Prince Fielder.

For Corey Hart, I would give him a doctor’s check up. If he thought the fans weren’t behind him last year, he obviously needs his eyes, ears, and heart checked out.

For Dale Sveum, I would give him his kick ass 80’s stache again and a thank you card for not letting the team completely implode.

For Mike Cameron, I would give a calendar in which every month is August.

For David Riske who is missing his friend in C.C. Sabathia, I would give a Snuggie (It’s a blanket with arm holes and pockets!!! Holy Crap!!!! It’s like a bathrobe in reverse!!!!! I’m running out of exclamation points to talk about this life altering product)

For Jason Kendall, I would give overtime pay.

For Mike Rivera, I would give a warming massage chair…I mean the guy sits there all the time, might as well be relaxed.

For Seth McClung, I would give another beer to shotgun.

Bill Castro already received his Christmas gift.

For Chris Capuano, I would give tape of the first half of the 2006 season.

To Salomon Torres, a retirement gift, a Shamwow for all the messes he mopped up and for some he created.

For J.J. Hardy and Prince Fielder, I would offer just a sincere request to look into a long term deal. I know it won’t happen, but it is the season for giving…

Jack -

Ho ho ho!  I would give Doug Melvin a loophole that let’s him burn up Jeff Suppan’s contract.  And I’d give CC Sabathia a higher rank than Mark Teixeira in the Elias Rankings!

For Bill Hall, a pink bat to use every game of the year.

For Mike Rivera, a plate appearance.  He never gets these any more!

For Ken Macha, a suitable platoon partner for Hall.

For Rickie Weeks, an outfielder’s glove.  Because you just never know.

For Jeff Suppan, a lump of coal.  Grr!

Joe -

When Bryan e-mailed us the topic for this week, my first thought was, “These dudes are rich. What do they need?” I soon realized that is not the attitude to have. Professional athletes are people too. They have feelings, and even though they can pretty much buy themselves anything they want, they probably still like receiving gifts. With that said, this is a list of what I would give Brewers players for Christmas:

Rickie Weeks - I would hook Rickie up phatty with his favorite bat from college. I would couple this with a new MLB rule that allows only Rickie Weeks to use aluminum bats. Also, there would be a new rule (also in place only for Rickie) that disallows pitchers to throw him any off-speed pitches. Nice.

JJ Hardy - Hardy’s an all-star, millionaire, and a sexy stud. What does he need? I’d get him the same thing I get everyone else that I don’t know what to buy. A Target Gift Card.

Ryan Braun - I’d provide Ryan with an endless amount of young, gorgeous virgins!

Prince Fielder - Boxing gloves and a sweet new butterfly tattoo for the other side of his neck. B.A.

Corey Hart - I’d give Corey Hart an ITunes Gift Card. That way maybe he’d broaden his musical horizons and spare us all of that horrible fricking AB song.

Mike Cameron - I’d just give Mike a hug. What a good guy.

Bill Hall - An “I Love Mom” coffee mug.

Jason Kendall - I’d resort to the good ol’ coupon book Christmas gift. Included would be a “free off day” coupon, “free beard trim” coupon, and a coupon for a free game of bowling. Good anywhere.

Yovani Gallardo - The realization that he shouldn’t play in the World Baseball Classic.

David Bush - A puppy. British Bulldog to be exact.

Jeff Suppan - I wouldn’t give Jeff anything. Take that back. On behalf of the Brewers, I’d issue him a bill for $8.25 million. Due immediately.

Manny Parra - Attitude.

That’s all I can afford. Hopefully the other guys would get the rest of the players and the coaches something.

RFB Offseason Roundtable - Winter Meetings

Friday, December 12th, 2008

This Week’s Topic: How was Winter Meetings Week for you?

Joe -

This year’s Winter Meetings, for me, were…well…fine. That’s it. My emotions never got “down” and they certainly didn’t get high.

I’m sure many fans are pretty upset about losing CC, but my reaction to that is “what did you expect?” Sure, there was definitely a part of me that was really hoping he’d sign, but I knew better. Discounts are very few and far between in Major League Baseball. I’ll always be a CC fan. P.S. I fricking hate the Yankees. More on that later.

I don’t really have much of an opinion on the likely trade of Cameron for Melky Cabrera that gained a lot of speed towards the end of the Meetings. I think a straight one-for-one trade is good for the Brewers, but I agree it may mean the Brewers are looking past this year. Cameron is hands down the better option in center this coming year, but Melky has great upside and could be huge for the Brewers in the not-so-distant future. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Melvin can manage to make Hall part of the deal and get Ian Kennedy. I don’t see the Brewers getting Philip Hughes, but that would be great in my opinion.

I’m hoping Melvin can manage to get the pieces necessary for the Brewers to again be competitive this year. We’ll just have to sit back and see what happens. As for right now, I’m remaining level headed and patient.

Jared -

The Winter Meeting Week has sort of been like middle school for me. My body (or, in this case, team) is changing rapidly and I’m not sure what to expect. My voice is changing (Ned Yost to Ken Macha). My old friends (Sheets, Gagne, Shouse, Torres) are leaving only to be replaced by new, less reliable friends (Julio, Swindle, Melky Cabrera?). I was dating the hottest girl in school (CC Sabathia) and I thought things were getting serious, but when I asked her to go steady (contract offer) she cut me loose for that douchebag with money (New York Yankees). My dad (Doug Melvin) says everything will be fine and that I should try going after the older, more experienced girls (Smoltz, Johnson, Wolf, Moyer), but I don’t think I have much of a chance with them either. They’ve been flirting with the trendy guys with the flashy Trapper Keepers (West coast/East coast teams). It feels like I’ll never be kissed again (Wild Card), much less get handsy (division title) or do the things I’ve really been thinking about (World Series). But, hey, things could be worse (I could be a Cubs fan…). And at least I’m not that smelly kid sitting in the corner that everyone makes fun of (Pittsburgh Pirates).

OK, so that’s not exactly what the Winter Meetings week has been like for me and I really just took that convoluted illustration way, way, way too far (and, trust me, this awkward kid definitely never got any kind of middle school action), but you get the point… It’s been a frustrating week. I can see that Melvin and company are working towards something, but I’m not sure what it is and I’m not sure I like it at this point. I’ll give management the benefit of the doubt for now though and say I hope/expect some significant activity from the Crew in the coming weeks.

Bryan -

Winter meetings week is usually fun, what with all the tossing around of names and destinations. For awhile it was fun. I was constantly checking the every rumor blog update site I could find.

One thing that has really brought me back to reality this week was that almost every big name can be traced back to New York. I almost forgot what it was like to have New York absolutely DOMINATE major league free agency, but now I remember…it blows for those who don’t get the YES network.

As far as the Brewers go, I appreciate the offer they gave to C.C. We all knew it probably wasn’t going to happen; we’re used to it. I’ll still be a C.C. fan, just not a Yankee one. I’m sad to see him go, but he did more than we could have asked in the short time he was around. I’m actually worried for him, that he might fall apart like Alex Rodriguez and I honestly hope that doesn’t happen to the guy. He deserves better.

The Cameron/Cabrera rumor that popped up was an interesting one. I’d like to keep Cam; I think he’s a great with the Brewers’ young outfielders, but you can’t deny it’s interesting to think about having another young outfielder who has proven he can play in the largest media market to some extent and the Brewers could have him until 2013 if they wanted. That said, I’m glad it hasn’t gone down especially with the Bill Hall, Kei Igawa, Brewers picking up Cam’s tab rumors. C’mon Yankees…you’re going to spend a quarter of a billion dollars this offseason! What’s a measley ten million more? It’s like we say at the bar, if you’re gonna go…go all out!

The fact that I’m talking more about the Yankees than the Brewers can tell you how the Winter Meetings went down this week. Now I can get back to my regularly scheduled offseason.

Tyler -

The four-plus day span that was my Winter Meetings week to this point was OK. I woke up early like an overgrown and out-of-shape child on Christmas day to read the latest news, views and speculation on what teams were up to, who would sign where and how the chips fell. As you might be aware, I used my four consecutive days of 20-hour conciousness to scribe numerous up-to-date posts on both this fine Web site and HERE. I was so preoccupied that I thrice forgot to shave and subconciously weened self gratification to am almost prudish 5-6 times a day. The week was like one long religious holiday, except one for intelligent people who invested their interest in something worthwhile.

As far as the Brewers go, what can be said? I expected CC to go, and vowed to be happy for him no matter where he decided. His choice of the Yankees is a bit tougher to swallow than, say, any non-Cubs franchise, but I would’ve done the same thing if I had any flash of skill at a valued task. In all, I’m just happy to officially know his destiny so the Brewers front office can move on in their quest to field a decent team. I love the Todd Coffey signing, like the Eduardo Morlan Rule 5 pickup, feel numb and bored just thinking about the Mike Lamb re-sign, and - in all - feel like the groundwork has been placed for a modest signing and/or huge trade in the coming days,weeks or month.

In terms of feelings, I am sad that moments after this is posted, the Brewers will likely trade Mike Cameron and this thing I spent like 12 minutes writing will be stale and outdated. But, as is the case in almost every time wasting thing I choose to do in my unfufilling existence, I’m still happy I was involved… and that I probably did better than Jared. Lolz.

RFB Offseason Roundtable - Realistic Trade?

Friday, December 5th, 2008

This Week’s Topic: With the winter meetings starting next week, come up with a realistic trade idea for the Brewers

Joe -

I’m taking the high road on this one. Yeah, super lame and weak, I know. I was really pumped about the idea of trading for Matt Cain; however, that seems less and less likely. The Giants are reportedly interested in JJ Hardy (as Jared linked in Wednesday’s “News” post), but apparently the Brewers are not. On top of that, the Giants have signed Edgar Renteria to a two year deal. Although, if reports of the Giants courting CC Sabathia ring true and he does choose to sign with his “home town” club, the Giants might try to push a trade for one of their starters (besides little Timmy of course). Since the Matt Cain talk has subsided, there is no one in particular that gives me that J-Riv hard on. So I’ve taken the empty-minded, wait and see approach to this offseason.

Bryan -

One thing I love reading are all the crazy trade ideas people have and all the possibilities for players to land. That’s why this week’s topic asks for semi realistic trades but, in the grand scheme of things, are probably still terribly unrealistic. I’d still prefer it if more baseball players stayed put, but this is the system we have so might as well enjoy the drama that comes with it.

One trade that I think would make sense for both teams is this:

Bill Hall and a PTBNL to the Tigers for Zach Miner or Nate Robertson. The Tigers have a bunch of starting pitchers and have already looked into getting rid of Nate Robertson for Julio Lugo…allegedly. Even if they get rid of Robertson to another team, they still have stud-in-waiting named Rick Porcello in the minors. The Tigers also need a third baseman so Brandon Inge can go back to catching.

It won’t happen but maybe, just maybe, the Angels believe that Brandon Wood is their future and Chone Figgins would be on the Brewers radar. Or vice versa. They need a first baseman if Texeira doesn’t return and Brad Nelson wouldn’t be a bad piece in a trade that would also probably need to include a high prospect or current pitcher.

That said, I’d be shocked if the Brewers made a trade that would affect any starting roles. I believe we will see more signings and trades like the Julio signing this year and Torres trade from last year.

Next week, the roundtable will be back on Friday morning like it used to be. Until then, feel free to comment and enjoy the winter meetings.

RFB Offseason Roundtable - Free Agents?

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

This Week’s Topic: What non blue-chip free agents should the Brewers go after?

Tyler -

Free agency is a magical time where destinies are revised, teams once declared non-threats now lead the pack, and shirt jersey sales for a franchise’s newest member are comparable only to that of personalized No. 69 “Big Sexy” apparel. As a Brewer fan, one becomes accustomed to zooming past the flashy new products in store and, instead, sifting through the thrift store bargain bin for a misplaced Talking Heads record that is an affordable yet useful and even entertaining free agent tool.
To keep my picks shorter than my epic introduction, I’ll list a pitcher and a position player along with some benefits to Milwaukee acquiring their services.
Starting Pitchers:
Jon Garland – This 29-year-old would be a prime candidate to sign should Milwaukee want a long-term resolution to a lack of top of rotation-type hurlers on staff.
- He averages just below 32 starts a year… about 35 games/year.
- He’s coming off a not-so-hot 2008 so might be more of a bargain than initially expected.
- Career 4.47 E.R.A. (all in the American League).
Eric Hinske – I know I sound like a broken record with my odd adoration for Menasha’s (other) wunderkind. But with Craig Counsell’s (awesome) exit at least for the time being, a player like Hinske would be a versatile and effective piece for Milwaukee. The only hole in the starting lineup is third base which – if not addressed internally by moving Hardy or by a trade – won’t be given the relatively barren market at the position. Might as well fill in the bench.
- Left-handed bat with some pop (20 homers, 60 RBI in part time play last year).
- Not great numbers, but all obtained as a member of competitive AL East teams; I’d assume a slight j ump in numbers with a move to the NL.
- Can play decently (no worse than Hall or Fielder respectively) at either corner infield spot and legitimately well in the outfield.
- Flashes of speed for a guy his size… or plain good base running, call what got him 10 swipes in limited time last season what you will.
- Cheap. And with a possible return to the motherland, maybe even more affordable. He’s not a flashy choice, or even the best choice. But try to find better for the money along with the knowledge of exactly the production you’ll get.

What’d you want me to say, A.J. Burnett and Joe Crede? Unless by way of trade (which I see as likely), I don’t see Milwaukee making any splashes in free agency. Hunker down for a quiet winter in Brewland.

Jared -

As the Brewers look to fill holes this offseason, they’ll likely look at starting pitching, relief pitching, third base and the bench.

Third Base - The options at third base in free agency do not appear to be great and the team may end up handing the job to prospect Mat Gamel if they can’t find a third baseman via the trade market.

Starting Pitching - The starting pitching field is deeper in free agency, but expensive. The Brewers are likely to lose Ben Sheets and C.C. Sabathia. Getting a full season of Yovani Gallardo would help, but they could still use another arm. If they don’t work a trade, I think Jon Garland would be fairly inexpensive (compared to the top free agents) and could be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter. A rotation of Gallardo, Parra, Garland, Bush and Suppan would not blow anyone away, but it would be relatively solid. I think they should also look to sign Chris Capuano to a minor-league deal so he can rehab and be an option a month or two into the season.

Relief Pitching - While there are a glut of closers available via trade or free agency, I don’t think the Brewers want to spend much in a swap or in a contract on a 9th-inning man so they may look for a closer internally. If they go with that approach, it would be smart to bring in some reliable bullpen arms. Brandon Lyon might be someone they look towards. He has been a fairly reliable bullpen option and even has some closing experience. They should also look to resign Brian Shouse as their lefty specialist.

The Bench - The Brewers need a utility infielder and may bring Craig Counsell back, but I think they should make a run at Mark Loretta first. Loretta might get an offer for a starting job and then he’s probably not coming to Milwaukee. Loretta is a valuable player off the bench because he can play first, second, third and shortstop and he puts up decent hitting numbers. He could probably count on hitting the field a lot in Milwaukee too since there are some question marks at second and third and he’d be the top option if Weeks, Hardy or whoever is playing third go down.
So, recapping, I’d say Garland, Lyon, Shouse and Loretta would be a good group of less costly vets to target to round out the team. They might not be flashy choices, but they’d help fill out depth on a young team.
Bryan -
With the Cubs making a push for Peavy and the Cardinals waving both Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick as trade pieces, the Brewers can’t afford to be completely dormant this offseason. Third base is a concern, but the free agent crop is very thin at third this offseason. I’d be alright with the Brewers giving Hall another shot while having Gamel in the background getting ready. I actually would like to see Nick Punto playing the role Craig Counsell has the past two years if the Brewers could get him. Hopefully Ray Durham can re-sign with the Brewers as well, providing veteran leadership and an insurance policy for Rickie Weeks.
I actually liked the scheme the Brewers took to their bullpen last season, which was aquiring veteran arms to one year deals. I thought Gagne was risky (not Riske), but when I saw that he was backed up by Mota, Riske, Shouse, and Torres, I felt much better. We now have Riske, Villa, and Stetter in the pen (with the possibility of McClung and others), but we need someone to close. This is why the Brewers need to get an offer out to Brandon Lyon. He’s young and has been a closer, but lost his job halfway through the year (much like Cordero). Hopefully the Brewers can re-sign Shouse to a deal, because he has been a great professional in Milwaukee and it’s always nice to have two lefties in the pen. Braden Looper is also an interesting option. He was a starter last year, but has relief and post season experience.
The Brewers also need one starting pitcher. I hope, like most of you, that Sabathia will take the Brewers offer, but that would be pure gravy and is not very likely. If they don’t land one of the biggest free agents in baseball this offseason, they shouldn’t feel helpless. Jon Garland would be a great addition. He’s a hard working pitcher that you can count on. However, I don’t think he’s coming. I actually would take Carl Pavano. I think New York had too much media and too many high standards that the Brewers could sign him to a one or two year deal. I know he may be considered blue chip, but it’s worth noting that there has been an eerie silence on the Ben Sheets front as well, which makes me think that they could possibly bring him back as a starter or closer, but that’s still about as likely as landing Sabathia albeit slightly more likely in my opinion. No matter what happens in free agency, the Brewers shouldn’t feel the need to bring in a long term contract which effectively makes any free agent acquisition less of a risk.
For those of you keeping track at home, that’s 3 for 3 for Jon Garland, a mention of former Brewer Mark Loretta, but no mention of former Brewer Glendon Rusch. Anyone else wanna throw some mac and cheese on the hot stove?
Insomniac Ink