A pair potential Brewers targets fell off the open market on Day 3 of the Winter Meetings on Wednesday when left-handed relievers Sean Burnett and Randy Choate chose new homes and further shrunk the Brewers’ options for that area of need.
Burnett, who signed for two years with the Angels, and Choate, who got three years from the Cardinals, were among a number of lefty relievers under consideration by the Brewers, who created a need by nontendering Manny Parra last week.
Among the free agent lefties still available are Mike Gonzalez, Tom Gorzelanny, J.P. Howell, Will Ohman and Hideki Okajima.
But general manager Doug Melvin said that as of Wednesday afternoon, he had yet to make any offers.
– Adam McCalvy
Brewers and Mets officials met at the Winter Meetings to discuss New York knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner being dangled in trade talks. But Brewers GM Doug Melvin said there was no match.
“I just talked to them briefly, but there is nothing to that,” said Melvin, who was Rangers GM when that team drafted Dickey in 1996. “We never got into [exchanging names]. It doesn’t appear to be a match.”
The Mets’ asking price for Dickey is said to be high. He pitched for the Brewers’ Triple-A club in 2007 and was Pacific Coast League pitcher of the year while tinkering with his now-famous knuckleball.
– Adam McCalvy
The Brewers have interest in free agent right-hander Ryan Dempster and Dempster has interest in the Brewers. The question as baseball’s Winter Meetings began on Monday was whether the sides could meet in the middle to make a deal.
Dempster’s agent, Craig Landis, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Dempster is seeking at least a three-year deal, a common floor for established starters this early in the offseason.
But the Brewers have a strong preference for shorter-term contracts after being burned in the later seasons of long-term agreements struck in December with veterans Jeff Suppan (a four-year pact signed in 2006) and Randy Wolf (three years plus an option in 2009). They wound up releasing both pitchers during the final season of those contracts, including Wolf this past August.
Adding to the Brewers’ caution with Dempster is his age — 35; four years older than Suppan at the time he signed with Milwaukee and two years older than Wolf — and the fact the team is in the process of paring payroll.
Dempster is particularly intriguing to Milwaukee because of his positive clubhouse reputation and his career success at Miller Park, where he owns a 2.66 ERA in 26 games, including 14 starts.
If the risk is deemed too high for the likes of Dempster, Edwon Jackson or any of the other second-tier free agent starters available on this year’s market, the Brewers may be content to fill their rotation with internal candidates behind top starter Yovani Gallardo. Current options include young right-handers Mike Fiers, Wily Peralta and Mark Rogers, plus the moderately more established Marco Estrada and Chris Narveson.
If the Brewers went young, they would be using last year’s Oakland A’s as a model. General manager Doug Melvin could then funnel his available resources to the bullpen, which is in the process of a total makeover. Among the Brewers’ needs there is a left-hander, and they are already being linked to the top available free agents including 30-year-old former Washington National Sean Burnett.
You can also expect the Brewers and Josh Hamilton to be linked all week, though, logically, that’s still a stretch. If Hamilton doesn’t get any mega-offers on the open market, would the Brewers make sense? Definitely, because of the presence of hitting coach Johnny Narron, who was Hamilton’s “accountability partner” for years in Cincinnati and Texas. But what are the odds Hamilton doesn’t get any monster offers? I’d say slim.
– Adam McCalvy
The Miller Park war room was quiet as Tuesday’s nonwaiver Trade Deadline came and went, but keep an eye on Milwaukee in August. Remember, teams can still swing deals if they pass players through waivers first, and the Brewers have two or three potential candidates in starter Shaun Marcum, reliever Francisco Rodriguez and maybe starter Randy Wolf. Marcum would have to get healthy and Rodriguez and Wolf would need some better results to entice buyers, who would have to acquire a player by Aug. 31 to have him eligible for postseason play.
Marcum is the Brewers’ most attractive chip, assuming he can get over the stiff elbow that has sidelined him since mid-June. Before that injury, Marcum owned a 3.39 ERA in 13 starts and a .227 average against. He is a free agent after the season.
He’s scheduled to throw another bullpen session today or tomorrow, then a simulated game over the weekend in St. Louis before heading out for a rehabilitation assignment. Marcum could be ready to rejoin the Brewers’ rotation after his stint on the 60-day disabled list ends Aug. 14.
– Adam McCalvy
After a winless road trip, it’s no longer a matter of whether the Brewers will trade Zack Greinke. It’s a matter of when and to where.
General manager Doug Melvin stopped short of declaring that the Brewers would swap Greinke before Tuesday’s 3 p.m. CT nonwaiver Trade Deadline, saying instead he was seriously weighing offers for the right-hander and could have a deal any day.
Greinke’s next scheduled start is Sunday against the Nationals.
“If he’s still a Brewer, he’s pitching Sunday,” Melvin said.
Melvin’s comments to MLB.com measured compared to a USA Today report earlier Thursday that said unequivocally that the Brewers planned to trade Greinke before the Deadline.
“I just said there was that possibility,” Melvin said. “I don’t think there’s any secret, with the Trade Deadline, that this is a possibility. Zack knows that. We know that. Other teams know that.
“He’s the best pitcher out there. A guy that could be a difference-maker. There are teams that understand that.”
– Adam McCalvy
The Brewers arrived at Great American Ball Park knowing this could be the weekend to decide their season. Would they make a break for the top of the National League Central? Or would they break the other way?
By Sunday night, they had their answer.
A 2-1 loss loss to the Reds capped a Cincinnati sweep and dealt a crushing blow to the Brewers’ faint hopes of repeating as division champs. You have to wonder whether it was also the team’s last gasp before general manager Doug Melvin starts selling.
“This was the time,” third baseman Aramis Ramirez lamented in the morning, even before the Reds swept the Brewers out of town with a trio of sensational starting pitching performances.
The Brewers fell to 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Reds, capping a 4-5 stretch against the three teams they trail in the division – Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Cincinnati.
Remember how everybody called the first nine games out of the All-Star break a crucial stretch for the Brewers? Well, after promising series wins at home against the Pirates and Cardinals, it turned into a bust.
“We’re a distant fourth right now, and we should be,” left fielder Ryan Braun said. “All three of those teams have played better than us. They just have. The ability is there, we just haven’t executed.”
Meanwhile, Melvin was back in Milwaukee pondering some big questions. Does his team have what it takes to make an improbable climb up the standings? Where does free-agent-to-be Zack Greinke (more on him here) fit into the club’s future? If Greinke’s time in Milwaukee appears short, is it time to press the reset button?
Among the players Melvin could trade are Greinke, reliever Francisco Rodriguez and perhaps Ramirez, who spoke earlier Sunday about the surprising rumors including his name.
The answer to those questions should become clear by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
“We’ll see what happens, but this sure set us back,” manager Ron Roenicke said.
– Adam McCalvy
A report that the Brewers offered right-hander Zack Greinke a five-year contract extension in excess of $100 million was “pretty accurate,” Greinke said Friday.
But Greinke, a free agent after the season, felt uncomfortable revealing more, including whether he and agent Casey Close were receptive to such an offer, or whether talks would continue.
“That’s tricky stuff,” Greinke said. “I don’t want to get involved with telling you guys too much about it.”
CBSSportsline’s Jon Heyman reported the offer and said it was either in the neighborhood of, or equal to, the Giants’ spring extension with right-hander Matt Cain. That deal added five years and $112.5 million of new money to Cain’s contract.
Heyman reported that the Brewers made their offer more than a week ago, and wrote, citing an unnamed source, that, “there’s nothing yet to indicate [Greinke] will sign quickly and give up free agency.”
Greinke would not comment on that. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin declined comment this week about the club’s status with Greinke.
“I don’t know where those guys get that stuff,” Greinke said. “These guys must have their sources really good. It’s pretty interesting how political everything is; I guess with every job.”
We’ll have more on the Greinke situation in a story at MLB.com.
– Adam McCalvy
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin won’t reveal whether he has decided to buy, sell or hold at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, which looms less than two weeks away.
Which way is he leaning?
“Staying prepared,” Melvin said simply.
Like so many Major League teams, the Brewers are somewhere in the middle. On one hand, they have been playing much better — back to within three games of .500 at 44-47, only four games off last year’s pace, when they won 96 regular-season games and the National League Central.
On the other hand, the Brewers seem stuck in fourth place, seven games behind the co-division-leading Reds entering a crucial series in Cincinnati set to begin Friday night. While going 10-5 over their last 15 games, the Brewers have gained one game on first place. They also hold a valuable trade chip in Zack Greinke, a free agent to be who seems determined to test the market.
The outcome of the weekend Cincinnati series could push Melvin one direction or the other.
“It’s a gut feel,” Melvin said.
I laid out Melvin’s three options — buy, sell or hold — in a story today while the Brewers enjoyed an off-day.
Melvin is in a tough spot — the Brewers will draw nearly three million fans to Miller Park this season, have not made a “sell” oriented move since 2006, and players like Ryan Braun still honestly believe the team can make a run for the postseason. But, Melvin made some comments in my story boosting Greinke’s value in a trade, if the Brewers opt to go that way.
It’s going to be an interesting weekend in Cincinnati…
– Adam McCalvy
CINCINNATI – The July 31 nonwaiver Trade Deadline is more than a month away, and teams are probably weeks away from making the first significant swaps, but the Zack Greinke trade rumors are already starting to fly.
FoxSports.com on Tuesday spoke to two rival executives who expect the Brewers to trade Greinke, a free agent-to-be, if they cannot sign him to a long-term contract by the deadline.
The Brewers were in direct talks with Greinke about an extension, but those discussions cooled when Matt Cain signed a $127.5 million extension with the Giants on the same day Greinke re-hired agent Casey Close. Since then, Melvin has not discussed publicly any negotiations, if any exist.
“We’ve got to make a decision on what we’re doing overall,” Melvin told FoxSports.com. “We’re hoping we can put a good week together. If we don’t, we’ve got to be prepared to go both ways. A lot more clubs are starting to call now. Clubs are calling on different players.”
Speaking specifically about the prospect of trading Greinke, Melvin told the website, “I haven’t sat down with ownership. I haven’t talked to any club yet to say, ‘Give names.’ I haven’t had that conversation.”
Greinke is 8-2 with a 2.81 ERA in 15 starts, including a no-decision against the White Sox on Friday in which he pitched nine scoreless innings. Greinke will start again on Wednesday against the Reds.
Keep an eye on the Brewers as the Trade Deadline nears. They entered Tuesday 7 1/2 games behind the National League Central-leading Reds and have some interesting potential pieces to move. Besides Greinke, due to hit the market are starter Shaun Marcum and reliever Francisco Rodriguez, plus starter Randy Wolf if the Brewers decline his $10 million option.
– Adam McCalvy
Day by day, the Brewers are more ready to publicly discuss a future without free agent slugger Prince Fielder.
“I think we’re at a point now where we have to consider moving on,” general manager Doug Melvin said Wednesday.
The Brewers have been a long shot all along for Fielder, the former first-round Draft pick who spent the last six seasons in Milwaukee’s starting lineup and is a free agent for the first time. Since they last had serious discussions with agent Scott Boras about an extension for Fielder in the spring of 2010, the Brewers have allocated their resources to long-term deals for outfielders Ryan Braun and Corey Hart, second baseman Rickie Weeks and right-hander Yovani Gallardo, among others. With raises due those players, it is difficult to see the Brewers signing Fielder without leaving other holes on the roster.
Still, the Brewers will not close the door on Fielder until he signs with another team. They took a meeting late Tuesday with Boras at Boras’ request, and it included Milwaukee principal owner Mark Attanasio.
But Melvin downplayed the significance of that sit-down, saying Attanasio was simply in Dallas to sit-in on planning sessions during the Winter Meetings, as he does every year. The club’s contingent was at dinner when Boras called and asked whether they wanted to meet.
“They were somewhat updating us to where he’s at,” said Melvin, who said the discussion moved on to other Boras free agents.
Among the teams linked to Fielder this winter are the Cubs, Mariners and Orioles. New Cubs manager Dale Sveum is very close with Fielder and said if Chicago makes a run for him, he would participate in the sales pitch.
If Fielder leaves, the Brewers would probably use longtime prospect Mat Gamel at first base. Or, if they sign free agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez, then incumbent third baseman Casey McGehee could shift to first.
– Adam McCalvy