2007 Milwaukee Brewers

Let’s give the Brew Crew some attention in our next 2007 Team Outlook.  I have to give a nod to Brew Crew Ball, the best blog for this club. I definitely read up there before working on this post.

Doug Melvin’s contract obligations:

C – Damian Miller – $2.75MM
C – Mike Rivera – $0.38MM
1B – Prince Fielder – $0.38MM
2B – Rickie Weeks – $2MM
SS – J.J. Hardy – $3.5MM
3B – Corey Koskie – $2MM
IF –
LF – Bill Hall – $0.42MM
CF – Tony Gwynn Jr. – $0.38MM/Gabe Gross – $0.38MM
RF – Corey Hart – $0.38MM/Geoff Jenkins – $7MM
OF – Kevin Mench – $2.8MM
OF – Brady Clark – $3.8MM

SP – Ben Sheets – $10MM
SP – Chris Capuano – $0.45MM
SP – Dave Bush – $0.38MM
SP – Doug Davis – $2.7MM
SP – Carlos Villanueva – $0.38MM
SP – Dana Eveland – $0.38MM
SP – Yovani Gallardo – $0.38MM

RP – Francisco Cordero – $5.4MM
RP – Jose Capellan – $0.38MM
RP – Derrick Turnbow – $2.3MM
RP – Brian Shouse – $0.775MM
RP – Matt Wise – $1MM
RP – Chris Spurling – $0.38MM
RP – Grant Balfour – $0.38MM

The Brewers have roughly $54MM committed before arbitration raises go to Mench, Davis, Capuano, Hall, and Shouse.  Word is that the team will push payroll past the $60MM mark.  Hopefully that means $70MM, because they could reach $60 mil with the raises.  Of course, guys like Mench, Davis, and Jenkins could be traded this winter to free up money.  Team owner Mark Attanasio is looking for a "$10 million puzzle piece."

The catching situation looks set.  Yes, Miller slipped drastically in the second half, but Rivera was a capable backup in ’06. 

Don’t forget that Fielder will be just 23 next year.  There’s a good chance he will improve on his solid rookie showing of .271/.347/.483.  Similarly, Weeks will be 24 and more power should develop. 

One key to success will be healthy years from Weeks, Koskie, and Hardy.  When one is hurt, Hall must move back to the infield and a lesser player will occupy a corner.  Hardy is still young and his ankle should be fine for spring.  Koskie hit pretty well before his concussion in July.

Another fun situation is that Milwaukee has seven outfielders.  Seriously.  Seven.  However, three of those guys are overpaid and/or undesirable: Jenkins, Mench, and Clark.  Clark should stay on as a fourth outfielder.  Melvin will do everything he can to trade Jenkins this winter.  Just eat half his salary and get him out of there. 

Do you even offer Mench arbitration?  A major piece of the Carlos Lee trade, Mench was terrible after joining the Brewers.  He still stands to make $3MM or more next year.  Tough call here.  If Hart and Hall are to occupy the corners, there’s no room for Mench.

Gross, Gwynn Jr., Hall, Hart, and Laynce Nix all saw time in CF in 2006.  It appears that Gwynn is the favorite after hitting .300/.360/.396 in 112 Triple A games.  I’d prefer Gross, personally, if his defense would hold up.

The pitching rotation is deep, though if I had to guess that’s where this "$10 million puzzle piece" would come into play.  Davis is after a three-year deal to compensate for his better years, which are behind him. 

If Davis stays and Sheets remains healthy, only one spot is available.  That will initially go to a fifth-starterish guy like Villanueva.  Maybe Eveland joins the ‘pen in that case. 

The fifth starter would just be a placeholder for Gallardo, who took a huge leap to eat Double A for breakfast.  Baseball Prospectus’s Kevin Goldstein named Gallardo the sixth-best right-handed starting pitching prospect in the game, citing three plus pitches.  Will Inman is also very promising.

The back end of the bullpen will again be assembled from minor league free agents and whatever spare parts Melvin can dig up.  He’s adept at this, so it should be a solid group.

Brew Crew Ball names some minor league free agents that Melvin could pursue for the bullpen or perhaps a bench spot.

It’s going to be a fun offseason of trading in Milwaukee. This is a team with a lot of promise that could easily take the Central Division if they can keep guys healthy and expel some veterans.  Despite the promise of more spending, I don’t really see a glaring need with this club.

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