The Milwaukee Brewers have a lot of work to do this offseason to prepare to defend the NL Central championship. They do have their work cut out for them, however. The entire starting 5 pitching rotation is slated to return next season. Corey Hart, Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, John Axford, among others, are signed for long term. The biggest objective is obviously re-signing free agent first baseman Prince Fielder. Also, rebuilding our bullpen and fixing the left side of the infield is a must. We will take a look at the Brewers arbitration eligible players, free agents, the free agent market, and possible trade opportunities for the Brewers.
The Brewers have 9 players that are up for arbitration. Casee McGehee, Nyjer Morgan, George Kottaras, and Mitch Stetter are first timers. Kameron Loe, Manny Parra, and Josh Wilson and second timers. Shaun Marcum and Carlos Gomez are third year eligibles. For those confused on what arbitration in baseball is, players with three or more years on a Major League roster can file for salary arbitration. In special cases, a player can file for free agency with 2 1/2 years of service if they rank in the top 17 percent of players who have two years of experience but less than three years. In those cases, players will be granted arbitration eligibility even though they have less than three years of experience. Players cannot file for arbitration once they have six full years of experience. Those players can file for free agency.
From that list, the top 3 the Brewers need to focus on resigning have to be Gomez, Morgan and Marcum. After you lock up those three, focusing on McGehee and Kottaras would be next in line. McGehee is an interesting situation. He had a very bad year in 2011, but it seems many teams would be willing to take a chance on him to be there third baseman. So, signing McGehee and using him as a trade candidate would be in our best interest. The same could be said about George Kottaras. George didn't necessarily have a bad year, but some teams view him more then just a back-up catcher. So again, another possible trade candidate. As for the rest, Loe pretty much set his own fate with his performance this year. Manny Parra was a waste of space on our roster with injury, for the second straight year. Josh Wilson could have just been a mannequin in the dugout, as he did nothing impressive for the Brewers to keep him, either. Lastly, Mitch Stetter, who I think could go either way. Our bullpen needs a lefty and I believe Stetter has the stuff to be the specialist we are looking for. It just depends on what Melvin and Attanasio are willing to spend.
The rest of this article will be based on if the Brewers do not sign Prince Fielder to a new deal and we lose him to free agency. Ideally, the logical move would be to move Corey Hart to first base, shift Morgan to RF, and have Gomez be our everyday center fielder. With those moves, that strictly lets us focus fixing the left side of our infield. Now, as Melvin noted in his end of the year press conference that he had not considered Hart as our first baseman if we lose Prince. But that doesn't mean Melvin won't change his mind. We do have Gamel down in Triple A but I view that as last resort. The only other option is to obtain a first baseman via a trade or free agency. Third base, which was played by Casee McGehee in the regular season, and occupied fully by Jerry Hairston Jr. for the postseason. I think it would be smart to keep Jerry on our team for next year to be our main utility man off the bench, and either take a chance on McGehee or trade him. Shortstop, which Yuniesky Betancourt occupied all year and through the playoffs, did not play at a level to give the Brewers any reason to re-sign him for next year. He did play well in the postseason, but all the errors, effortless range at short, and useless at-bats all year outweigh his hot streak in the playoffs.
A look at free agents, by postion, the Brewers would consider:
Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez hit .266 with 19 homers, three steals, 78 RBIs and 72 runs scored during the 2011 regular season. Now, this is no where near Fielder stats, but Sanchez is young and he showed a lot of pop this year for the Marlins. The Marlins also are in the runnings for Prince Fielder, which again would leave no space on the team for the young Sanchez. The Brewers could get him for nearly nothing too.
Alexei Ramirez SS (White Sox): White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez finished the 2011 regular season with 15 homers, seven steals, 70 RBIs, 81 runs scored and a .269 batting average. He also won a Silver Slugger award in 2010 with the White Sox. With a new manager and more then likely a new direction as a team, the White Sox are probably going to be all ears on any offer teams bring to the table. He could come at a price, but the Brewers need a short stop bad, especially if Reyes or Rollins sign elsewhere.
David Wright 3B (Mets): Mets third baseman David Wright never got on track in 2011, hitting .255 with 14 homers, 13 steals, 61 RBIs and 60 runs scored in 389 at-bats. 2011 was an injury-pleagued year for David Wright, but with the money situation in New York, the Mets wouldn't mind getting Wright off their hands to free up some cap space. Wright would, however come at an extremely his price, as far as who we would have to trade. A Zack Grienke level player would be what New York would want.
In conclusion, the Brewers have a lot of work to do this offseason. However, with Attanasio and Melvin at the guns, I have no doubt that they will take care of business. Also, with Theo Epstein coming to the Chicago Cubs as their new President, he brings a huge threat to the National League Central. Melvin and Mark will open up the pocket book and do what they need to do to contend again in 2012 to defend the NL Central Championship and into the future seasons
Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.
-Andrew Vrchota @TheBIGVrchota & @WISportsBlog
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