Saturday, December 21, 2013

Brewers' Remaining First Base Options

The Winter Meetings have come to an end and the Brewers left Orlando with their tails between their legs after losing out on the bid for free agent Corey Hart who landed with the Mariners. The team was constantly checking in on Ike Davis from the Mets and Logan Morrison of the Marlins, who was eventually moved to the Mariners.

Now the team must figure out what direction they will go between now until the start to Spring Training and eventually leading up to Opening Day. Do they pick from the scraps remaining in the free agent market? Do they attempt to make a trade without giving up major parts of our farm system? Or, do they stick with what we have currently? I'll take a look at every option painful as it may be.

Free Agent Market

Mark Reynolds

Mark is probably what most Brewers fans want at first base if they are fans who crave another power hitter. He's the most powerful right handed bat left on the market, but for every homerun he would hit for the Brewers he'll strike out twenty five times. A platoon with Juan Francisco would guarantee an aneurysm from Tom Haudricourt on Twitter on a daily basis. And, honestly, I don't think Mark Reynolds is a good option at all. His career slash line is .233/.339/.464 and averages 180 strikeouts a year.

Defensively, he would be a solid addition to provide depth not only at first base but third base as well. He's had three times the playing time at third base than first base, but he has played just fine at first. He holds a 99 Fielding % at first and a 92.8 Fielding % at third.

He honestly hasn't had a season to write home about since 2009, and even then it was just "meh". That's if you are like me and don't measure someone's season by home runs and RBI. Overall, I don't see the Brewers bringing in Mark Reynolds because for the money they'll have to fork over won't be worth the production he will give the team. He's young at the age of 30, but with the rapid decline in his play recently, you'd think he's 40.

Michael Young

When I first heard about the Brewers having interest in Michael Young, I honestly wasn't too excited about it. It is one of those things that makes sense, but wouldn't even be a thought if there were better options available. This is the case with Michael Young.

He holds a pretty respectable career slash line of .300/.346/.441. He's not a huge power hitter. He's just your average hitter and gets on base. He could play any position in the infield, so depth wise he'd be a great addition. For first base specifically, he's played 111 career games there (out of 1,900+ total career games).

The Brewers are also looking at Michael Young because of his veteran leadership (see: #LohseLeadership). He's a 7-time All-Star, a gold glove winner, and has post-season experience. He would be this year's Mark Kotsay or Jerry Hairston Jr.

Jeff Baker

You guys ready for this? As I said the other day on Twitter, when Jeff Baker is the best free agent first basemen on the market, you might have a problem. I originally said this as a joke, but the more I looked at his statistics last year with Texas, I warmed up to the idea of Baker platooning with Francisco. Baker actually would be a great signing and wouldn't cost Milwaukee too much. First of all, Baker is only 32 years old. He's an ultra utility man. He can play first, second, and third base as well as the corner outfield positions.

Last year with Texas, he slashed a .279/.360/.545 143 OPS+ in 74 games played. Call me crazy, but there may be something there. Those are the best numbers he's put up in his career. Also, before Jeff Baker landed on the disabled list with a thumb injury from high-fiving a teammate, Jeff Baker was hitting .317/.391/.695 (1.086 OPS). Just saying. 

Yuniesky Betancourt

Never mind.

Other names available that I know the Brewers have no interest in is obviously Kendrys Morales because we would lose our draft pick if we sign him. Casey Kotchman is awful. Lyle Overbay and Carlos Pena are old. So, yeah.


Ike Davis

We've seen this for weeks now. The Mets and Brewers are/were trying to work out a trade but the Brewers don't want to sacrifice any young pitching, which is smart on Melvin's part. Trading for Ike Davis is a crap shoot. He had an atrocious season last year, at least it would appear on paper he did. But, what if I told you it wasn't the entire season? I did some research and what I found out was kind of surprising.

What this shows exactly is that Ike Davis was sent down to the minor leagues after his horrific start to the 2013 season. His second half numbers show his production when he was called back up to the majors. Did he figure something out while in the minors? Statistics support that theory. Lower strikeouts, high walk rate, and getting on base more. He was clearly seeing the ball better. Melvin sees something in this guy and I think a change of scenery would help Davis.

Justin Smoak

Now that the Mariners have acquired every first baseman in the league, they obviously don't need Justin Smoak anymore. Justin Smoak is a switch hitter, but so is Cesar Izturis. Smoak is a far better hitter batting left handed vs. right handed.

A lot of people say Smoak is broken and can't be fixed. I really can't argue that because his stats are pretty bad, but I will say there was a huge improvement last year from years before.

In 2012, Justin Smoak (in 132 games) hit .217/.290/.364, 85 OPS+, .242 BABIP, 49 BB, 111 SO, -0.2 WAR.

In 2013, Justin Smoak (in 131 games) hit .238/.334/.412, 113 OPS+, .278 BABIP, 64 BB, 119 SO, +1.1 WAR.

The one downfall about Smoak is that he's only a first baseman and provides absolutely no depth at any other position. That is obviously something that will factor into who Doug Melvin wants to target.

C.J. Cron

Not sure if everyone remembers, but the Angels signed Albert Pujols to a contract where he's their first baseman until he's 42 years old. So, obviously you'd have to imagine the Angels would be willing to deal Cron. Since the Angels are already wheeling and dealing, the Brewer may want to at least kick a tire or two.

This is not a move where Cron would be starting right away. The only way the Brewers make this trade is if they are dead set on having an internal option (see below) platoon with Juan Francisco. A move for Cron would also mean they have all but given up on Hunter Morris, which already seems like they are heading down that road as it is.

Adam Dunn


Other names that are out there are Mitch Moreland and Kyle Blanks. Both of these guys will be tough to pry from their teams as they both are highly valued. The Rangers can always use Moreland in a DH role with Fielder at first base now and the Padres like Blanks as first base/outfield depth.

Internal Options

Juan Francisco

Doug Melvin said that unless things change, Juan Francisco is slated to be the starting first baseman for the Brewers in 2014. But he also mentioned he's looking into other options (Michael Young, Ike Davis, etc.). Juan will be something to watch this year. He's been playing well in the Dominican Winter League. If he has a sharp spring, I think we might see a nice turnaround for Juan. He's been an experiment that I hope the Brewers staff can fix and repair. He also provides depth at third base.

Hunter Morris/Sean Halton/Jason Rogers

Doug Melvin also said that these three will be in the mix as possible depth for first base. Out of the three, Sean Halton makes the most sense. If the team was confident in Hunter Morris he would have been called up already and Jason Rogers hasn't played passed Double-A ball yet. As scary as it sounds, we may end up settling for a Francisco/Halton platoon.

Rickie Weeks?

"Go home, Andrew. You're drunk."

If I were to pick an option from each category, I'd go with Jeff Baker from the free agents just because he's a right handed bat who had a lot of under the radar success last year. Trade, I have to go with Ike Davis. I really think he figured things out after his demotion last year. Internally, it's tough to say because I don't like any of it. I suppose Halton is the way to go but I think Weeks should give it a shot. It all remains to be seen.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota

Follow us on Twitter (@WISportsBlog) for up to date news on the Packers, Brewers, Badgers, Bucks, and Golden Eagles. We feature live in-game commentary, breaking news, rumors, previews, and post game discussion. Follow the entire writing team on Twitter: @AndrewVrchota, @jheldred, @JoeP_Norton, @olewr7, @Stevie2Westside, @10iskristin, and @JoeWiscoSports.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Wisconsin Sports Blog is Looking for Writers

I am looking to fill a few vacancies to the Wisconsin Sports Blog writing team. Here is the basic/minimal criteria I am looking for:
  • Complete knowledge of the Brewers, Packers, Bucks, Badgers, and Golden Eagles, as well as sports in general related to the MLB, NFL, NBA, and NCAA. Knowledge of free agency, prospects, recruits, etc.
  • Writing experience is necessary, especially online writing is preferred.
  • The ability to construct intelligent, well-written posts summing up the subject at hand.
  • Be able to handle constructive criticism.
  • Pay attention to detail.
  • To use Twitter at it's full capacity, including follower interaction (very important). Also the use of other social media applications.
You'll have an opportunity to write for a blog that has traffic of over 3,000 readers per month...and that number is climbing. The Wisconsin Sports Blog is a growing community.

If you're interested in joining the writing team, email wisconsinsportsblog[AT]gmail[DOT]com and in a couple of short paragraphs, give a sample of your writing and/or why you should write for the Wisconsin Sports Blog (a resume per say).

Thank you in advance for your interest! I will respond to all inquiries.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota
Lead Writer/Editor

Follow us on Twitter (@WISportsBlog) for up to date news on the Packers, Brewers, Badgers, Bucks, and Golden Eagles. We feature live in-game commentary, breaking news, rumors, previews, and post game discussion. Follow the entire writing team on Twitter: @AndrewVrchota, @jheldred, @JoeP_Norton, @olewr7, @Stevie2Westside, and @10iskristin

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Winter Meetings Notes: Brewers Edition

The Winter Meetings are well underway and it's off to a hot start for many major league teams. This article will be updated as more information becomes available. The following is what is out as of right now that I know of.

- The Brewers have contacted the New York Mets again regarding 1B Ike Davis, as have the Tampa Bay Rays. The Mets asking price is said to still be way too high and nothing is expected to happen there. [via MLB Trade Rumors]

- The Brewers remain in the hunt for Miami Marlins 1B/OF Logan Morrison, as well as a few other teams including the Orioles, Blue Jays, and Pirates. There was a rumbling that Rickie Weeks may be on the table for Logan Morrison but I can't confirm that. Personally, if you're talking Weeks in a trade, you have to assume the Brewers are paying most of that salary anyways or a third team is involved in the trade. [via MLB Trade Rumors]

- The Brewers have contacted the San Francisco Giants about 1B Brett Phill. [via Henry Schulman]

- The Brewers are looking for veteran relief pitchers. They have not contacted John Axford or Francisco Rodriguez but have checked in on former Chicago Cubs closer Carlos Marmol. [via Tom Haudricourt]

- The Brewers have met with Corey Hart's agent. The Brewers will wait for Hart's agent to gather other offers and then will negotiate. Hart remains the Brewers' #1 priority. [via MLB Trade Rumors]

- Six teams have apparently checked in on former Brewers "pop out to right field with bases loaded and two out" man Yuniesky Betancourt. Marlins are the most interested, shockingly. [via Chris Cottilo]

- Tom Gorzelanny had shoulder surgery. He won't be able to pitch until mid March. Don't be alarmed, it's said to only be a "clean up" procedure. [via Tom Haudricourt]

- Aramis Ramirez and Rickie Weeks are on schedule with their rehabs. [via Tom Haudricourt]

- Ryan Braun got married over the weekend. [Multiple Reports]

UPDATE: (12/10/13 1:43PM CT)

- Tom Haudricourt states in his following tweets that the "Brewers would not trade for a first baseman unless they get a definite no from Corey Hart. And they are hoping for answer very soon." Tom next tweet was rather confusing to tell what he meant to say, but believes the "Brewers have told Corey Hart what they'd be willing to do. A matter of accepting it or not. If not, trade for 1B." In addition, Tom states that "Weeks is recovering from major injury, has $11 M contract and has been in two-year offensive decline. Not a very marketable trade candidate."

Adam's tweet pretty much echos Haudrcourt's, but that's the latest on Corey Hart.

UPDATE: (12/10/13 4:36PM CT)

- Report: Corey Hart and the Milwaukee Brewers are actively moving towards a contract agreement and have been all day. It is expected to be completed before the Winter Meetings are over. Full report on said activities were reported by the Brewer Nation Blog.

The Brewers, as mentioned above, will not pursue a trade until the hear from Corey Hart on the offer they submitted to him. I can't imagine the Brewers will wait an extended amount of time on Hart. I would expect an announcement within the next 24 hours.

- Ron Roenicke named Tyler Thornburg the Brewers front runner to be the 5th starter for the rotation in 2014. The rotation would sit at Lohse, Gallardo, Estrada, Peralta, Thornburg. [via Adam McCalvy]

- Ron Roenicke also says that he doesn't need to know the specifics on Ryan Braun's steroid use and neither does anyone else. [via Adam McCalvy]

- Ron Roenicke confirms Scooter Gennett is penciled in as the starting second baseman for the Brewers heading into the 2014 season. Rickie Weeks' future is up in the air. [via Adam McCalvy]

Personally, if Rickie wants to impress, he may want to think about trying third base out. That would be a tough transition for him because of his arm strength. But, he really has no other choice.

UPDATE: (12/10/13 8:20PM CT)

Corey Hart could make his decision as early as tonight, tweets Adam McCalvy. The Brewers were reported earlier to have been working with Hart all day on a deal. Hopefully it pays off.

If the Brewers miss out of Hart and don't end up being the team that signs him, it appears they have a back up plan...Ike Davis. (UGH)

UPDATE: (12/10/13 9:42PM CT)

Good to hear. I did not want Ike Davis. Lots of people did not want Ike Davis. I'm so happy to know Melvin isn't willing to trade a young pitcher like Tyler Thornburg for a crap shoot in Davis. Now signing Corey Hart is even more important.

UPDATE: (12/11/13 9:07PM CT)

- Reports have suggested that Doug Melvin has set a noon deadline for Corey Hart on his decision. Haudricourt is very optimistic about Hart returning to the Brewers. But, he notes that all it takes is one team to swoop in to change that optimism. If Hart doesn't return, the Brewers seem to be set on their internal options of Juan Francisco, Sean Halton, and Hunter Morris. They are no longer in talks with the Marlins about Logan Morrison and the Mets about Ike Davis. [via Tom Haudricourt]

Now it appears Morrison/Marlins trade might end up being the backup plan if Hart says no, according to Tom Haudricourt.

- According to Adam Marchand of ESPN, the Brewers are among eight other teams that have checked in on left handed pitcher Johan Santana. Other teams to check in are the Mets, Yankees, Pirates, Twins, Rays, Orioles, and Royals. Not sure the extent of the interest or how much both sides talked, but it makes sense. Johan would be a pretty affordable option to have. He has had injury issues, specifically to his throwing shoulder. Those surgeries have made Johan miss two out of the last three seasons. [via ESPN]

- According to Adam McCalvy, Doug Melvin spoke to James Loney’s agent early Wednesday morning. McCalvy wrote "...there could theoretically be opportunity there if Loney comes down from his reported three-year request." McCalvy added "trades with the Mets for Ike Davis or the Marlins for Logan Morrison are possible, though the Mets’ ask was pretty high for Davis, a player who struggled so mightily in 2013 that he was demoted to Triple-A at one point. New York wants Tyler Thornburg, and sounded firm on it." [via Brewers Beat]

According to multiple reports, Corey Hart is down to two teams...the Brewers and the Mariners. Corey has strong connections with Seattle, as GM Jack Zduriencik drafted him. If the Mariners get Hart, you have to wonder if they'd be willing to trade Justin Smoak. And, since the Brewers are all for trading for Ike Davis or Logan Morrison, I don't see why they wouldn't consider Smoak. [via Multiple Reports]

- Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that Corey Hart is heading to the Mariners on a one year deal. Adam McCalvy also confirmed Hart is going to Seattle. From what it sounds like, Seattle offered him a deal he simply could not turn down. Should be interesting to see the exact details of it.

The Brewers were prepared to sign Hart to a one year deal was worth $4MM guaranteed with $2.5MM in earning incentives, totaling a max of $6.5MM

Seattle's deal is worth $6MM guaranteed with $7MM earning incentives, totaling $13MM.

- Buster Olney of ESPN tweets that the Brewers have been talking to James Loney. He implies that he could be the next target for the Brewers if the team chooses not to trade for Davis, Morrison, etc.

- Moments after the Mariners signed Corey Hart, they also acquired Logan Morrison from the Marlins in exchange for RHP Carter Capps. They really hurts the remaining players available for the Brewers. Ike Davis, Justin Smoak, and Mitch Moreland via trade, or free agent James Loney. Brewers are in talks with James Loney's agent. [via Multiple Sources]

- Adam McCalvy tweets that the Brewers have sincere interest in James Loney, but don't expect to get anything done before they leave Orlando tomorrow. [via Adam McCalvy]

- Doug Melvin hints he may have his eye on someone in the Rule 5 Draft, since the team's 40 man roster sits at 39. Let the speculation begin.

More to come as it becomes available....

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

- Andrew Vrchota (@AndrewVrchota)

Follow us on Twitter (@WISportsBlog) for up to date news on the Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks, and Golden Eagles. We feature live, in-game commentary, breaking news, previews and post game discussions. Follow the entire Wisconsin Sports Blog writing team on Twitter: @AndrewVrchota, @jheldred, @JoeP_Norton, @olewr7, @Stevie2Westside, and @10iskristin.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Brewers Traded Norichika Aoki, Acquire Left Handed Pitcher

Aoki (left), Smith (right). In case you didn't know.
This morning the Milwaukee Brewers agreed to trade outfielder Norichika Aoki to the Kansas City Royals for left handed pitcher Will Smith. With this trade, the Brewers officially announced that Ryan Braun will be making the move from left to right field this spring. I'll get into Will Smith in a bit, but first let's look at what the departure of Nori Aoki does to our outfield depth.

And, by depth, I mean log jam. The Brewers had three solid starting outfielders to start the 2013 season in Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, and Norichika Aoki. Sitting behind them were Khris Davis, Logan Schafer, and Caleb Gindl. Those three are very sound outfielders that could honestly be starters on other baseball teams. Heck, even in the minors the Brewers have Kentrail Davis who we will likely lose in the Rule 5 draft. Moving Aoki allows the Brewers to free up space for the younger class to get Big League playing time.

Becoming a free agent after the 2014 season, this trade should come at now surprise. People will claim we should have gotten more for Nori, but I'll agree to disagree with that. All signs pointed to a downgrade in productivity this season by Aoki. For one, he lost a full point of oWAR between the 2012 and 2013 seasons. In 2012, Aoki attempted 38 stolen bases and converted 30 of them. In 2013, he attempted 32 stolen bases but only converted 20 of them. He was also picked off a total of 7 times in 2013. That's a huge difference and a sign of declining speed.

Defensively, the Royals are getting a premium player. Through two seasons with the Brewers, Aoki carries a .989 Fielding %. In 2013, Aoki had 13 defensive runs saved above average (Rdrs) which is pretty decent for a right fielder. In comparison, Jason Heyward of the Braves had 15 Rdrs, who is considered one of the top defensive right fielders in the game.

So, who is the lead-off hitter now you ask? You have a couple different options.

vs. LHP lineup

1. Jean Segura
2. Carlos Gomez
3. Ryan Braun
4. Aramis Ramirez
5. Jonathan Lucroy
6. Khris Davis
7. Fat Juan/Corey Hart (?)
8. Rickie Weeks
9. Pitcher

vs. RHP lineup

1. Scooter Gennett
2. Jean Segura
3. Ryan Braun
4. Aramis Ramirez
5. Carlos Gomez
6. Jonathan Lucroy
7. Khris Davis
8. Fat Juan/Corey Hart (?)
9. Pitcher

In some cases you could have Carlos Gomez lead off too. But, it won't be hard to figure out or lineup. RRR will likely play around with his lineups in spring to figure that out. I'm looking forward to see how the club sorts out their bench for Opening Day. The team basically has three spots locked up already in Martin Maldonado, Scooter Gennett, and whoever platoons with Juan Francisco. You need to add a back up short stop and then decide between Logan Schafer or Caleb Gindl as your 4th outfielder. In my opinion, you go with speed and defense and stick Logan in there.

Now, onto the pitcher the Brewers acquired.

Will Smith is a 24 year old left handed pitcher who will likely end up in the bullpen for the 2014 season. He has potential to work his way into the rotation, but he has some work to do to get there. He is arbitration eligible in 2016 and a free agent in 2020. Will had an impressive turnaround in 2013 as a reliever from a somewhat disastrous 2012 as a starter. Will increased his K/9 from 5.9 to 11.6 while reducing his BB/9 from 3.3 to 1.9. Will has an insanely good slider. Researched by the great Alec Dopp, Will Smith's slider held batters to .093/.130/.186 line in 2013 and generated 55.6% chase rate, which was the 2nd highest among pitchers with 33 IP or more.

Overlooking the trade, I'd give it a B-. You trade a valuable outfielder who is blatantly getting older and slower. He became expendable with the emergence of Khris Davis and is a free agent after the 2014 season. In return you get a young left handed arm, which is something the Brewers' organization was missing. I'd give it a higher grade because I do believe we could have squeezed out an additional player for Nori. The Brewers have enough dead weight on the 40 man roster where we would be okay to outright someone.

I will miss Nori Aoki. The production he gave the Brewers of both sides of the game were greatly appreciated and recognized. The organization loses a humble, passionate player that brought a lot of excitement to The Keg. From his walk up music to his unforgettable inside the park home run, Nori, you were a fun player to watch. Best of luck to you in Kansas City. Enjoy their barbeque.

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

- Andrew Vrchota (@AndrewVrchota)

Follow us on Twitter (@WISportsBlog) for up to date news on the Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks, and Golden Eagles. We feature live, in-game commentary, breaking news, previews and post game discussions. Follow the entire Wisconsin Sports Blog writing team on Twitter: @AndrewVrchota, @jheldred, @JoeP_Norton, @olewr7, @Stevie2Westside, and @10iskristin.