Brewers Hot Stove Roundup

>> Saturday

I have a few things rattling around in my head right now, so I thought I'd throw them together for a single post, since I doubt any are really relevant enough to warrant their own.

Brewers Close to Gagne Deal

As of writing this late Saturday, the Brewers have apparently come to terms for a one year deal with free agent reliever Eric Gagne, or as Massholes everywhere know him "That retahd pitchah!" Although Doug Melvin hasn't been able to explicitly disclose the intricacies of the deal per MLB regulations, he has confirmed the groundwork of the deal.

On its face, it looks like a good move for the Brewers, as they're taking advantage of a classic buy low situation for a guy who still may very well have some life in his arm. For those that point to his disastrous half season with the Red Sox last year, I recommend taking a peek at his game log from last year. His few really bad games were enough to really skew his numbers, and we've discussed ad nauseum before how people tend to focus on the negatives when recalling player experience. Also, to the asshole Brewers fans that think it's cool to boo one of your own - take a look at Turnbow's game log from 2007. Again, not as terrible as you'd like to remember.

My only concern about the deal comes from rumors that the Brewers went as high as $10 million for the one year deal to avoid having to commit to multiple years. While the financials haven't been confirmed, it's possible, since Scott Boras represents Gagne. To me, it just seems a little high to pay for any relief pitcher, but since it's a one year deal, it's not that terrible of a financial burden. I guess in the end it just boils down to how much faith you've got in the adage that it's fine to overpay for free agents because you're not forced to give up any players. Regardless, I think Gagne will turn out to be a really savvy signing by Doug Melvin. It gives Gagne a chance to claim a closer job in an environment significantly less intense than the pressure cooker of Boston and brings him back to his comfort zone of pitching in the National League.

State of the Bullpen

For those scoring at home, the Brewers have made four significant moves this off-season and three of them were focused on the bullpen with the trades for Guillermo Mota and Salomon Torres and the signings of free agents Gagne and David Riske. It's pretty clear now that Doug Melvin felt that poor performance in late inning situations played a large enough role in Milwaukee's collapse down the stretch last year to warrant a significant overhaul. While I'm not totally convinced that all of the blame should rest on the pen, (breakdowns in the rotation caused an overtaxing of the bullpen which led to its poor performance) I'm impressed with the way in which Melvin has aggressively moved to address a perceived weakness in last year's team.

I'm of the opinion that when constructing a bullpen, one should abide by the strategy of throwing a bunch of shit against the wall to see what sticks. It seems that with the moves he's made, Melvin has done exactly that in acquiring a bevy of relatively (a term used loosely here with the possibility of Gagne making $10 million) low cost options and allowing the wheat to separate from the chaff during the course of the season. For those interested, here's a list of pitchers that all have a legitimate shot of making the Brewers' opening day roster in the bullpen:

Derrick Turnbow
Eric Gagne
David Riske
Salomon Torres
Brian Shouse (LH)
Seth McClung
Matt Wise
Mitch Stetter (LH)
Manny Parra (LH)
Chris Capuano (LH)
David Bush
Guillermo Mota
Greg Aquino

A lot dependsv - specifically with Parra, Capuano and Bush - on who ends up taking the 5th spot in the rotation, but at first glance, it looks like the Brewers have a really solid amount of talent to choose from for the '08 bullpen.

Future Moves

Now the Melvin has got the Brewers' bullpen situation pretty well shored up with the acquisitions of Gagne, Salomon Torres, Guillermo Mota and David Riske, attention turns now to the everyday lineup, where the Brewers still must answer the question of what to do about Ryan Braun. Fans, I think, are still pretty split on what to do with him and there's at least some merit in both schools of thought. On the one hand, there's a chance he'll mature into at least a competent defender at third base, a la the progression of Rickie Weeks at second. However, there is legitimate concern about how many growing pains a contending team like Milwaukee can afford to suffer while competing for a division title.

I'm not totally sold either way. My opinion on the whole situation hinges on what kind of market's availble as a replacement. So, if presented with the opportunity to acquire a truly above-average third baseman, I think the Crew should jump on it. If they get a player who's just a guy, like the rumored possible acquisition of Tadihito Iguchi, I'm not a big fan. Alternately, if the Brewers can get their hands on a really plus outfielder, I have no issues with sticking with Ryan Braun at third, because I think he's showed enough flashes to think that he'll eventually be at least a passable defender at the hot corner (though I could be totally off base here - a lot of people with more scouting experience than I say he's got some natural inclinations that make success there a real unlikely scenario).

With that in mind, here's my opinion on some of the rumors floating around about what the Brewers will do for the 3B/LF vacancy:

Trade with the Dodgers for OF Andre Etheir/Matt Kemp
Rumors are that the Brewers could deal a starting pitcher (possibly even Ben Sheets) for one of the Dodgers' uber prospects in the outfield. The scenario got more likely this week with Los Angeles' signing of Andruw Jones, and it's true that LA needs starting pitching. With a right handed-heavy lineup, Ethier would seem to make more sense as a lefty, but I'm hoping that it wouldn't take either Sheets or Bill Hall to pry him loose. Were they able to get him without giving up any of the two I just mentioned, I'd be all for it.

Sign Free Agent Tadihito Iguchi
This one's a bit of risk, in that Iguchi's never played third in the majors. He did play some there in Japan, but it's been over three years since his last appearance there in a live game. Iguchi would be a fit because the Brewers have publicly stated a desire to improve their on-base percentage, but Iguchi, while a plus bat at second base, has power deficiencies that wouldn't make him an ideal player at third. It's worth noting, though, that the Brewers might be able to deal with those limitations more than most clubs because of their plus bats at premium positions up the middle with Bill Hall, JJ Hardy and Rickie Weeks.

Trade for Cardinals 3B Scott Rolen
Though the popular belief seems to be that this deal is dead, numerous outlets (specifically JS columnist Tom Haudricourt) think that the recent ugly display of the rift between Rolen and manager Tony LaRussa leaves the door open because St. Louis desperately needs to unload Rolen. Also, the Dodgers, long considered a leading contender for Rolen are probably now out of the running because of their signing of Andruw Jones. If the remaining teams rumored to have interest in Rolen (such as the Giants) pull back on the deal, St. Louis could be forced to come back to the Brewers with reduced demands (rumored to originally be both Chris Capuano and Bill Hall, a price Doug Melvin deemed too steep for the risk/price of Rolen). I'm not really qualified to offer an unbiased opinion on Rolen, since he's one of my favorite players, but I'll say this - if the Brewers can get him in a low ball deal where they only give up Capuano and the Cards pick up a good amount of his salary, I'd be all for it.

While there may be other rumors floating around, those are probably the only ones discussed enough to merit serious discussion. However, it's important to note that with a rare surplus in starting pitching (the rotation now has the following candidates: Ben Sheets, Yovani Gallardo, Jeff Suppan, Carlos Villanueva, Chris Capuano, Dave Bush, Manny Parra), there will be plenty of teams contacting the Brewers in the coming weeks looking to make a deal. It's a safe bet then that despite a flurry of action thus far, the Brewers aren't yet done.


Patrick 10:53 AM  

I have been pretty impressed with the Brewers offseason moves with the exception of Jason Kendall, but what are you going to do? I think signing Gagne for one year is a fantastic move, as long as he is a middle relief guy and not a closer. Iguichi was a great move also, although I would like to see the Brewers keep him at second (maybe SS) and either try someone else there or just live with Braun average glove (kind of like A-Rod at third). Although I would have liked to see the Brewers upgrade over JJ Hardy, they shoould be okay with him. But dont expect him to touch 26 HR's again as he needs to vastly improve that career .323 OBP.

Overall, I think the Brewers have had the best offseason in baseball with the exception of the Tigers and soon to be Santana - bound Beaners. Great job Doug Melvin...It will be a great baseball race if the Cubs can get one more pitcher.

Matt 10:59 AM  

They haven't signed Iguchi yet - they were expected to, but it didn't happen.

As for moving Hardy, I doubt it. He's a plus defender at a premium defensive position with a solid bat for a middle infielder. They won't be moving Weeks, either, I don't think. That's why they're unlikely to add anyone but a true 3B/LF type.

Vinnie 12:36 PM  

Even though I favor moving Braun to left instead of keeping him at third, Kemp would be a pretty sweet score if the Rolen deal falls through, even if it means giving up Sheets.

And I agree, J.J. Hardy is no weak link, even if that that homer binge last spring was fluky.

As for Gagne, you know how I feel about spending big on relievers. But for one year, it's not such a big deal, especially compared to the ridiculous deal the Reds gave Cordero, a guy whom Gagne could very well outperform next year.

And Pat, I'm not sure why you'd say "as long he's not a closer." As little credeence as I give to the closer title, Gagne was arguably the all-time best for a three-year stretch before getting hurt, and he was having an excellent season last year until he went to the Red Sox and became a non-closer. So yes, I say if you're gonna make anyone a closer on that roster, make it him.

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