Monday, December 14, 2009

Reviewing a Busy Brewer Week

With the winter meetings amping up free agency in baseball, the pitching-starved Milwaukee Brewers got busy last week.

Knowing they had to fill at least two (maybe up to four?) spots in the starting rotation, general manager Doug Melvin used the decision not to bring back Jason Kendall or Mike Cameron to free up money for pitching.

Though more is expected out of the Brewers before they send pitchers and catchers to Arizona for spring training, here is a quick recap of what they have done so far.

Signed Randy Wolf

Wolf has been a solid starter for a few years. However, he's 33, and he's been known for giving up gopher balls on occasion.

His overall numbers are decent, and the contract is only three years at under $30 million. In today's world, that's not a terrible deal for a potentially overrated pitcher. Wolf is left-handed, and if he can keep the ball in the yard, he should do well in Miller Park. Having him signed up to the age of 36 is a bit disturbing, but this just can't be considered a bad deal. If nothing else, he has more upside for less money than Jeff Suppan had in 2006, when he started stealing money from the Brewers.

However, I understand fans being cautious about this. After all, the Brewers struggled so much with their pitching last year that virtually anyone would make for a good signing.

Signed LaTroy Hawkins

Outside of Todd Coffey, the Brewers were lacking of guys who could help set up Trevor Hoffman, or maybe fill in if the veteran closer needs a day off. As this team has seen plain as day in recent years, you can never have enough short relievers.

Reality is that guys like Coffey can be as durable as can be, but they will break down and struggle if they're asked to log too many innings in a short period of time. That's the reason for signing Hawkins.

Yes, he's a bit old. Hawkins is going on 37 years old, but he's been decent in recent years. He threw in 65 games for Houston last season, posting a very impressive 2.13 ERA, and generally keeping hitters off the bases. He also posted 11 saves, showing the ability to, yes, fill in for the closer if need be.

Non-tendered Seth McClung and Mike Rivera

Rivera wasn't a surprise. He's a replaceable backup catcher who can hit a little bit and isn't a high-value player. Not only that, but he's 33, so he has virtually no hope of getting better.

McClung, on the other hand, was. It seemed like he was the kind of guy who would do anything the coaches told him to. He pitched as a starter, a long-relief guy, and even a setup man. While he was inconsistent in 2009, he has a big arm, was a popular player, and seemed to have a future as a utility pitcher in Milwaukee.

There were issues between McClung and manager Ken Macha. Without placing blame, it's clear that McClung didn't get along with the skipper, and he would have every right to think that frosty relationship cost him any chance of returning.

The Brewers could have forced the two to make nice. Instead, they got rid of the guy they may have perceived as a problem.

The real problem, however, will come when it's time to fill his role.

The team still needs a couple starting pitchers, and they could use a bat or two to come off the bench. All in all, though, it's been a good start to the winter for Melvin.

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