i was bullish on the brewers coming into this season. joke is on me, i guess. my thought was that braun/fielder would do about what they're doing, and it would be nearly impossible for a team not to contend, if that happened. the pitching really sunk this team.
last offseason, i advocated the "stand pat" strategy, based on the fact that i thought the cubs were such a strong team that they'd be impossible to catch talent-wise, but would be much weaker in 2010. doug melvin apparently felt similarly, as he made just a few low-impact moves.
some might say that it's too early to start worrying about the offseason already, but i disagree. once you've conceded the season (and i have), you can use the games left that season to help flesh out your offseason plan. the brewers have a lot to figure out, and the next month and a half could play a big part in helping with that. so here's the approach i think the brewers should take this offseason, and what they should do in the last 50 games to support this approach:
a) trevor hoffman-- he's pitched great, and will likely be a type A free agent. i'd offer him arbitration. if he accepts, great, he's exactly the kinda guy you'd love on a 1 year contract. if not, you save $6 million and get the draft pick (unless he retires).
b) mike cameron-- same thing. offer him arb. if he accepts, you have solved your cf problem for the next season. if not, you save $10 million and probably get the draft pick (he should be at least type B).
c) jason kendall-- there are no circumstances under which he can be offered arbitration. if he accepted, it'd be a disaster. under the mysterious system that classifies free agents, it's possible he could be a type B, but evenso, the brewers cannot be tempted. save $5 million.
d) felipe lopez-- i offer him arbitration, while making it clear that if he accepts, he's going to be a utility player. lopez will probably be a type B, and i'm assuming that he'll be looking for a 2 year contract somewhere. given that he made $3.25 million this year, he'd likely get $4 million or so in arbitration if he accepted, which is more than you'd like to pay a utility infielder, but not a total disaster. especially since lopez would make for a pretty good utility infielder.
e) braden looper-- i decline his option for $6 million and hand him the $750k buyout. it's not clear to me if you can offer a player arbitration after declining his option. if so, AND if he's a type B (unlikely), i offer the arbitration. he might accept, and again, that wouldn't be a disaster.
f) david weathers-- i pickup his $3.7m option. it's overpaying him, but he's one of the few relievers in the game, from whom you know pretty much what you're getting every year.
g) frank catalanatto-- love the guy, but he's not worth anything really, so i'm letting him go.
h) craig counsell-- see (g). if lopez does not accept arbitration, i explore bringing him back on the cheap again.
i) mike rivera-- happy trails big bopper.
WHAT TO DO
this leaves some obvious holes for next year's team-- centerfield, catcher, and the rotation. but, we've got 2 shortstops and about $25 million to work with after prince, hart, and bush get their raises.
the first thing i'm gonna do is trade jj hardy + prospect(s) to a team desperate for a shortstop and get a starting pitcher in return. i'm going to target the boston red sox and minnesota twins, since alex gonzalez's option seems unlikely to be picked up and orlando cabrera is a free agent. plus, both teams are deep pitching-wise. i don't expect to get a total stud in return, but someone like scott baker seems like a reasonable return. i'd also free up some cash with a move like that.
the next thing i'm going to do is sign a starting pitcher. there are some interesting guys out there this year, but the 2 guys i'm gonna focus on are rich harden and brett myers. both players come with some risk, but considerable upside. i'll go ahead and offer rich harden $39m/3 years and/or $42m/4 years to brett myers. i'd pay a little more for either, if necessary. another interesting guy out there is erik bedard. he's an obvious injury risk, but a damn good pitcher when healthy. i'd love him coming to the national league. john lackey would be awesome, but i just don't see the brewers ponying up for him. there are some safer, older guys i might use as a fallback position-- doug davis, jarrod washburn, randy wolf. additionally, i'd like to sign one or two cheaper, high-risk/high-reward starters. guys like-- jose contreras, chris capuano, john smoltz, etc.
with starting pitching addressed, i'll turn to the catching. the two internal candidates have some promise. both angel salome and john lucroy had abysmal starts to the season at AAA and AA respectively, but have been very good in the second half. salome displays good contact skills and moderate power, with limited plate discipline. lucroy has patience and a bit of pop. both are a little suspect defensively. i don't want to go into camp with those 2 as my only options, so i'd like to sign a defensive-minded catcher, who i wouldn't mind starting if i had to, and who i'd like to have as a backup if one of the youngsters pans out. as usual, the free agent market for catching is pretty terrible, but there's one guy out there that
fits the bill-- yorvit torrealba. i don't see the rockies picking up his option with ianetta established. i'll throw $6m/2 years at him.
centerfield is a bit of a conundrum. there is very little out there on the FA market. the brewers could mostly only add guys who are somewhat similar to the internal trio of lorenzo cain, jody gerut, and jason bourgeouis. guys like corey patterson, rick ankiel, endy chavez... so, i'm gonna make a trade here. what i'm looking for is a decent fielding cf with some upside, who another team undervalues or can't use. i think there are a few situations like this out there, but an idea i really like is trading casey mcgehee to the baltimore orioles for felix pie. the orioles need a 3b, and pie is just a 4th outfielder for them. he can pick it in center, run a bit, and still has some tantalizing upside. i think the orioles make this trade in a heartbeat, and i'm not hesitating either.
with the starters, catcher, and centerfield addressed and about $7-8m left to spend, i'm gonna perk up the bullpen a bit. with coffey, villanueva, stetter, mcclung, colome, riske, defelice, and weathers on board, i actually feel pretty good about where i'm at. however bringing in at least 1 stud arm and another solid guy couldn't hurt. with only 1 lefty on board, i might focus on mike gonzalez. failing that, rafael soriano and jose valverde are both out there. interesting cheaper options might include chad cordero or kelvim escobar. let's say the brewers sign soriano for $15m/3 years and kelvim escobar for $2m/ 1 year.
i know not all of these moves will end up being possible necessarily, but i don't think any of them are impossible, and many similar-type deals could be found. so let's say for the sake of argument that the brewers make the hardy trade for scott baker, the mcgehee trade pie, sign doug davis, sign yorvit torrealba, and sign rafael soriano. this is the team we'd be looking at for next season:
2b rickie weeks
ss alcides escobar
1b prince fielder
lf ryan braun
3b mat gamel
rf corey hart
c angel salome
cf felix pie
bench: yorvit torrealba, jody gerut, jason bourgeouis, hernan irribaren, craig counsell
1) yovani gallardo
2) doug davis
3) scott baker
4) manny parra
5) jeff suppan
bullpen: rafael soriano, todd coffey, mark defelice, mitch stetter, carlos villanueva, david weathers, david riske
aaa/dl guys: john lucroy (c), lorenzo cain (of), tim dillard (p), jesus colome (p), seth mcclung (p), dave bush (p)
honestly, i think that team contends in the nl central with a payroll about the same as the teams in 2008 and 2009. the offense should be just as good, if not better. a drop in production in cf should be offset by the possible return of rickie weeks, the arrival of mat gamel, and the basically guaranteed better hitting catcher. i don't think that much of escobar offensively, but he won't be worse than jj hardy was this year. defensively, this team has some questions at 3b and c, but is fairly strong up the middle and in the outfield. starting pitching is solid, if unspectacular-- this is where you can see how the quality of the FA pitcher they pick up is very important-- pop rich harden into that spot instead of doug davis and i'm starting to feel good. the bullpen is certainly serviceable and versatile, if a bit short on lefties.
there is, of course, a big question about rickie weeks' ability to return from injury effectively. if he can't, this changes the plan, and maybe it's an argument for re-upping with lopez. it's also why i don't mind offering him arb. also, if cameron or hoffman accepts arb, it changes things a little bit. in general though, this is the model the brewers should follow, with the idea that they can make a big pickup before the deadline next year if necessary.
THE REST OF THIS SEASON
the brewers can start figuring some of this out right now. i like the idea of letting rivera play more, to see if you maybe want to keep in the mix at catcher for next year. on september 1st, jason kendall must be dfa'd. they need the 40-man roster spot for john lucroy. lucroy and salome should get as many at bats as possible in september, in order to get a headstart on next season's position battle.
carlos villanueva should remain in the starting rotation for the rest of the year. he's been decent of late, and i'd like to see if he's really an option in the 5th spot or not. plus he can be showcased a bit in case any team wants to take a shot on him as part of one the trades.
jody gerut should immediately start platooning with mike cameron in cf. of course he's not as good, but the brewers need to see if he can handle cf defensively and possibly be part of a platoon solution for next season.
mat gamel needs to get called up and play 3b almost everyday. on days he doesn't play 3b, mcgehee plays there. all other days, mcgehee starts at 2b. i want to find out if mcgehee can play 2b, in case weeks can't come back, or in case it increases his trade value. if gamel really can't handle 3b, i want to know before the offseason. he looked shaky to me, but not awful when he was up earlier this year.
so, those are my ideas for your 2010 milwaukee brewers. thanks for bearing with the ultra-long post, and i'd love to hear what you think of these ideas and any alternatives that you have.
43 minutes ago