Sunday, October 30, 2011

Agent: Prince Fielder

As of today, Prince Fielder is a free agent. Mark Attanasio and Doug Melvin will be meeting in L.A. in the next few weeks to discuss a contract they can offer Fielder to somehow keep him in Milwaukee for next season. Now, assuming we don't offer him something to stay, here are the Top 10 teams and a few wild card teams that will most likely be bidding for Prince this offseason.

10. Baltimore Orioles
Not many people know exactly what the intentions of the Orioles are at this point. They spent a lot of money that season by acquiring Vladamir Guerrero and Derrick Lee and signing J.J. Hardy to a long term deal. They are in a transition of General Managers as well so the direction of the team is a big question mark. In a tough division like the one they are in, the AL East, you would think that they would want a guy like Fielder to contend. It will all come down to what they can offer him if they make a run for him.

9. Seattle Mariners
The Mariners are believed to be considering Fielder. Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik drafted Fielder with the Brewers, but the Mariners already have switch-hitting first baseman Justin Smoak. The Mariners are in a rebuilding stage, so don't count them out for at least making an offer for Fielder. The Mariners would love to have a big bat and a veteran like Fielder in the middle of their lack luster line-up. I don't see Prince going there, though. Prince wants to win.

8. Los Angeles Angels
The Angels lack a big bat that Fielder offers, and even though they do have Kendry Morales and Mark Trumbo at 1B, the downside of Fielder coming to town is the laundry list of DH options the Angels have too. The Angels have the money to offer, but I don't think they have a spot for Fielder with the talent that they already have. Angels will trade for pitching without a doubt if they acquire Prince, as they would no longer need both Morales and Trumbo. Decision, decisions.

7. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers would be much higher on this list if Frank McCourt didn't turn the franchise into a disaster. But they still can't be ignored to at least make an offer. It all comes down to money in the end for the Dodgers. They need a first baseman, and with a line up that already consists of Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, adding Fielder to it could potentially do some damage in the National League. Its amazing that Fielder once wanted to raid the Dodger's locker room and throw bombs, and now he could potentially launch bombs in Dodger Stadium.

6. Texas Rangers
Coming off their second straight season of going to the World Series but walking out empty handed, the Rangers have to figure out what the missing link is to take them to the next step and win a championship. Quite frankly, it is not the offense by any means. The Rangers need to focus on locking up C.J. Wilson before they make a bid for another bat to add to their squad of lethal bats. Even though the Ranger's trio of Moreland/Young/Napoli worked perfectly fine throughout the season, you can't count Texas out in the Prince sweepstakes.

5. Washington Nationals
Let's get this crystal clear. The Nationals would love to have Fielder on their team. They have yet to say they are committed to Adam LaRouche and Michael Morse has every right to argue he should be the starting first baseman after the season to had last year. The reason why the Nationals would shy away from a deal with Fielder, is because of the simple fact that Prince has Boras. Boras is not a popular guy in Washington, because they feel they were ripped off with the lackluster performance of Jayson Werth. The Nationals signed Werth to a 7 year, 126 million dollar contract, identical to another wasted contract that is listed below for the Blue Jays. Washington doesn't want to waste more money on a guy who potentially could have weight issues and leg injuries in the making. It's possible that Nationals will pursue, but in the end I say they pass.

4. San Fransisco Giants
It needs to be stressed that the Giants need a starting first baseman. They do not want Brandon Belt as their starter. Pablo Sandoval could easily be bumped to third base, so that solves that little issue. The Giants have every other position filled. Just slight upgrades needed in the infield and outfield and they would be set. They have one of the best pitching staffs, when healthy, in the league. The Giants could potentially have their next south-paw to launch some bombs into McCovey Cove.

3. Toronto Blue Jays
This is my, along with a lot of people's, sleeper pick as far as where Fielder is going. There is sweat on the brow of every form of management who would potentially offer Fielder a deal, however, because of the last time they offered out a huge contract was a huge bust (Vernon Wells 7 year, 126 mil). It seems as though the Blue Jays are at a point were in the next few seasons they will be contenders in the AL East. Fielder is definitely a guy who can get them into the postseason, outlasting teams like Boston and New York.

2. Chicago Cubs
They have the money for sure. Adding Theo Epstein in the mix makes talks of Prince taking the trip down I-94 even more realistic. Carlos Pena had an awful year, and he if likely to play elsewhere in 2012. Epstein noted that he wants to bring in the right people for the job. Fielder blasting homeruns in Wrigley Field for 81 games a year must make Chicago fans drool. Fielder wouldn't be the only acquisition the Cubs would be seeking this offseason, either. With C.C. Sabathia opting out of his option with New York, Epstein will be looking to bring him in as well. Look for big changes to come for Chicago. They mean business. 

1. Miami Marlins
The Marlins should have Prince Fielder as their number one target this offseason. They are bringing in new manager Ozzie Guillen for their inaugural year in their new stadium with a brand new name of Miami, rather then previous "Florida". All they need is a face for the franchise to lead them to the teams 3rd World Series. They definitely have the money available to compete for Prince. They could easily move Gaby Sanchez to third base to make room for Fielder in the lineup which already consists of Mike Stanton, Hanley Ramirez, Logan Morrison, Omar Infante, John Buck, Emilio Bonifacio, and Gaby Sanchez. The only other thing the Marlins need to focus on this offseason is getting a closer and maybe one more starting pitcher, and they are set. Look out, people. Marlins are for real.

Two teams that would have a shot at Fielder could be the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies. The only way St. Louis has a shot is if for whatever reason the Cardinals don't re-sign Albert Pujols. The only way the Phillies would have a shot at Prince is if Ryan Howard has complications with his Achilles tendon. Both very unlikely situations, but it's worth mentioning. 

The kicker in all of this will be Scott Boras. It's all on what he thinks his client deserves. It will also be based on what Boras views as an acceptable contending team. I truly wish Fielder the best, I hope he gets the best deal possible with whoever that may be. The market is not typically "good" for a free agent first baseman this year, since the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies, who have the most money every year to spend, all have first basemen locked up for long terms. Who knows, Prince might not want to pack his bags just yet. I could only hope he stays in Milwaukee, but I'm a realist.

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota @TheBIGVrchota & @WISportsBlog

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, and more. Live in game commentary, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @TheBIGVrchota @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @mikeshuz

Friday, October 28, 2011

Green Bay Packers: Mid-Season Report Card

The last time the Packers started out 7-0 you would have to go back to the 1962 season when they went 13-1. Fortunately for the Packers, that's not the last time they had a great quarterback to lead them to such a great feat. Aaron Rodgers has quickly risen the ranks as a quarterback in the NFL these past 3 years. In his 4th year as the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, he is showing no signs of slowing down. Through 7 games, Rodgers has completed 171/239 passes (71.5 completion rating), 2,372 yards (averaging 339 YPG), 22 TDs (2 rushing), and with only 3 INTs. Those stats accumulate a passer rating of 125.7. Playing 15 games last season, Rodgers only tossed 28 TDs. Rodgers in on pace to shatter his previous season TD total and his all-time season high of 30 from the 2009 season. To his credit, he has all of his offensive weapons healthy this season. At this point last year, Finley and Grant were both lost causes for the Packers with season ending injuries. Rodgers has had the luxury of having all of his weapons. He's a craftsman with all of his loyal tools, and the football field is his workshop.

The Green Bay Packer's defense is still ranked amongst the worst in the NFL coming in at 27th. They are averaging to allow 20.1 points a game with a total of 141 points given up in there total of 7 games. They give up about 391 yards a game to there opponents in 7 games. If you compare the Packer's defense to the entire NFC there coming in at 14th out of 16th. Even though their defense isn't looking too hot right now, their defense didn't start off too hot last year, either. After the Week 7 win over the Vikings rookie Christian Ponder, who was tearing apart the Packer's defense until Charles Woodson was able to slow him down by grabbing two INTs to put him at #1 in the league with 5 INTs. Even though Clay Matthews has been slacking with the sacks this year after having a career best 13.5 sacks last year, he was able to record sack #3 last week against. If the Packers defense could stop allowing so many yards per game this team would be even more dominate, But how can a 7-0 team get any more dominate then they already are. The Packers have been cutting it close in some of there games because the defense is unable to make the 3rd down stops. They have been riddled with injuries, losing Chad Clifton, Sam Shields, Frank Zombo and Nick Collins. Collins is out for the year with a neck injury, and his career could possibly be over. Clifton and Zombo have injured knees while Shields has been bothered by a concussion.

Taking a step back and looking at the grand scheme of things, whether you focus on the dynamic offense, or their spotty defense, you can't give the Packers any less grade then an A so far for the season. The Packers have 3 legitimate tests left for the rest of the season. It will be next week in San Diego, Detroit on Thanksgiving,  then the following week in New York against the Giants. If the Packers can get past those 3 teams, I don;t see why not we couldn't see the Pack go 16-0. Stay healthy, be smart, make plays.

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota @TheBIGVrchota & @WISportsBlog
-Nick Pritzlaff @WSB_Nick

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, and more. Live in game commentary, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @TheBIGVrchota @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @mikeshuz

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What the Crew Needs to Brew This Offseason

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:

Jose Reyes
Jimmy Rollins
Marco Scutaro
Alex Gonzalez

Third base
Aramis Ramirez
Edwin Encarnacion
Wilson Betemit
Mark DeRosa

First base
Casey Kotchman
Wily Mo Pena
Brad Hawpe
Jorge Cantu

Now, based on the seasons these next players had in 2011, and based on possible moves these players teams could make this year, here are candidates that the Brewers could acquire via trade.

Michael Morse 1B (Nationals): When Adam LaRouche went out with injury in 2011, the Nationals turned to Michael Morse for first base and he delivered on a superior level. He batted .303 with 31 homeruns, 95 RBIs, with an OBP of .360. It's not Prince Fielder stats, but it's close enough. And, with talks of Fielder landing in Washington, the Nationals really have no place for Morse with LaRouche coming back, unless they bump him to the outfield. The Brewers would have to give up someone higher-tier for this to happen.

Gaby Sanchez 1B (Marlins): 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

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, and more. Live in game commentary, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @TheBIGVrchota @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @mikeshuz

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Nyjer Morgan "Put On" For His City

Coming off a great weekend of 2 home wins against the Diamondbacks, the Crew was looking to sweep Arizona at home. To say the least, the Brewers could not accomplish that task. Our starting pitching, which was so dominant in Game 1 and 2, lacked majorly for the Brewers. Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf simply did not look to be on their game. They were missing their locations, and were also not on the same page with catcher Jonathon Lucroy. The strike zone in this series was very strict, to say the least. Our offense lacked big time in Game 3, but showed a bit of fight in Game 4. Nonetheless, after it was said and done, the series was tied heading back to Milwaukee for Game 5.

Miller Park was a rowdy house on Friday afternoon. Yovani was on the bump and Brewer Nation was looking for a similar performance as to what they witnessed a week before fro Game 1. Yovani struggled to keep his pitch count down, again the third pitcher in a row to struggle with the umpire's strike zone. Arizona got on top of the Brewers 1-0 with a solo home run hit to opposite field by Justin Upton. The Brewers would tie it with Nyjer Morgan scoring on a sac fly to shallow right field and later take the lead on a Yuniesky Betancourt RBI single to center. Saito and K-Rod worked the 7th and 8th, respectively. The stage was set. Axford, running on a 44 consecutive save streak, was in for the 9th inning to close it out and send the Brewers to the NLCS. TBS made sure they covered every detail of when the last time Axford blew a save. Low and behold, Axford pitches himself into a jam, and gives up the lead. Blows his first save since April 18th. The game was tied 2-2 heading into extra innings, your definition of a nail biter.

It didn't take long for the Brewers to get the much anticipated and well deserved victory. Carlos Gomez lead off the10th inning with a single to left and would later advance to second on a passed ball by Arizona closer J.J. Putz. Morgan, calm as can be, singled to center, allowing Gomez to score. The Brewers were heading to a Championship series for the first time since 1982. Confetti was flying, champagne bottles were popping. The celebration had begun again in Miller Park.

And whats a celebration without a little controversy? TBS was in the middle of an interview MVP candidate with Ryan Braun when the analyst caught eye that Nyjer Morgan was standing on the outfield grass on the first base side doing the beast mode pose for the crowd, clearly enjoying the moment with the fans. Morgan was caught up in saying "F*** Yeah!, F*** Yeah!" on national television. I ranted a bit about this situation on the blog's Twitter page (@WISportsBlog). Here's what I had to say:

"Can't believe the amount of attention Morgan's post game profanity is getting. It's the analysts fault for stuffing the mic in his face. He wasn't being interviewed. He was celebrating with the fans. And the only people upset are the parents cause their kids are watching. Which, I can guarantee, are the same parents that let their 7 year olds watch R rated films and play M for mature video games. Pick your battles carefully people. Life is too short to get your panties in a bunch over a baseball players passion and excitement."

No punishment or fines have been handed out for Morgan, and I don't anticipate there will be, either. Morgan is not in the lineup for Game 1 vs the Cardinals, but there is no way its disciplinary. Gomez is known for defense, and that's what plagued us a bit in the NLDS. What was also very reassuring was that everyone on that offense produced in some way. We didn't strictly rely on just Braun and Fielder. Hairston, Betancourt, Gomez, Morgan, Lucroy all had a great series batting. Lucroy was a monster behind home plate for us. Took numerous shots, and still got right back in there. On a side note, Weeks will not be benched. His defense alone will keep him in there everyday. Every has slumps, incase you couch coaches didn't know that. Look at Parra from Arizona. He was hitless in the NLDS up until his last at bat in the series which started off a rally that kept his team momentarily alive in Game 5.

To close up, I want to actually give credit where credit is due. Kirk Gibson turned a team that was destined for nothing, according to the experts, into a championship caliber team. Although I don't believe their fan base is anything to be proud about, which I refer to as artificial, I must say they have some incredible talent on that team. Upton needs to lose the attitude of the world owing him something for not being picked for the HR derby and focus on improving that team. 

The Brewers now take on the St Louis Cardinals in a 7 game series, winner goes to the World Series, loser books the weekend tee time. This isn't just a regular series. This is for blood. This is a fight. A battle for the ages. This is a rematch of the 1982 World Series. It's time for the Brewers to show the baseball world that we aren't just a fluke and that we can beat teams with good record. Right now, to them, all we are is a bunch of cocky athletes who don't appreciate where we are and have no respect for the game. It's time to prove everyone wrong and quiet the skeptics, and I believe that Tony "Hush" and the Brewers will do that. Go Crew!

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota @TheBIGVrchota & @WISportsBlog

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, and more. Live in game commentary, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @TheBIGVrchota @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @mikeshuz

Thursday, October 6, 2011

4 Wins, 3 Teams, 1 State: On, Wisconsin!

This past weekend had to have been one of the most exciting weekends for the world of sports in a long time for the state of Wisconsin.  To kick off the weekend, we had the Brewers against the Diamondbacks in Game 1 of the NLDS.  Yovani Gallardo faced off with Ian Kennedy and in the end Yovani and the Brewers prevailed winning game one by a score of 4-1.  On to game two, Zack Greinke squared off with Arizona’s Daniel Hudson.  While not one of Greinke’s best performances, the offense was able to bail out the ace with a five run inning and hold that lead for the rest of the game winning 9-4.  Brewers lead the series 2-0.

The Wisconsin Badgers welcomed Nebraska to the Big Ten Saturday night at Camp Randell Stadium.  Quite possibly one the top match-ups of the season, the badgers proved once again to be the real deal.  They got off to a slow start offensively, but that changed quickly as the Badgers were ahead 27-14 at half.  The Badgers scoring surge continued into the second half and outscored the Cornhuskers 21-3.  Wisconsin went on to win by a score of 48-17.  The team was led by Heisman hopeful Russell Wilson, who threw for two touchdowns; and also a huge effort from Montee Ball who rushed for 151 yards and scoring 4 times.  The Badgers remain undefeated with a record of 5-0.

To finish off the weekend of sports, the Packers played the Denver Broncos at Lambeau Field on Sunday.  The Broncos scored first but Green Bay scored and could not stop.  They scored 14 points every quarter except in the fourth.  Aaron Rodgers had a field day passing for 401 yards and he threw 4 touchdown passes.  He also ran the ball nine times and rushed for two touchdowns as well.  The pass defense looked a little better this week, keeping Broncos QB Kyle Orton to under 300 yards passing and also intercepting him three times.  Packers remain unbeaten with a record of 4-0.

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

-Michael Schuster @mikeshuz

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, and more. Live in game commentary, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @TheBIGVrchota @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @mikeshuz