Offseason Outlook: Milwaukee Brewers

Next up in our Offseason Outlook series, the Brewers.  Their likely 2009 commitments:

C – Jason Kendall – $4.6MM
C – Mike Rivera – $400K
1B – Prince Fielder – $670K+
2B – Rickie Weeks – $1.057MM+
SS – J.J. Hardy – $2.65MM+
3B – Bill Hall – $6.8MM
IF – Joe Dillon – $400K
IF – Alcides Escobar – $400K
LF – Ryan Braun – $745K
CF – Mike Cameron – $10MM (club option)
RF – Corey Hart – $444K+
OF – Tony Gwynn Jr. – $400K
OF –

SP – Yovani Gallardo – $404K
SP – Dave Bush – $2.55MM+
SP – Manny Parra – $400K
SP – Jeff Suppan – $12.5MM
SP – Seth McClung – $750K+

RP – David Riske – $4.25MM
RP – Salomon Torres – $3.75MM (club option)
RP – Carlos Villanueva – $413K
RP – Mitch Stetter – $400K
RP – Mark DiFelice – $400K
RP – Tim Dillard – $400K
RP – Todd Coffey – $925K+

Other commitments: Craig Counsell – $400K buyout, Chris Capuano – $3.75MM+

That’s about $60MM committed before arbitration raises to Fielder, Weeks, Hardy, Hart, Bush, McClung, Coffey, and Capuano.  The last two could be non-tendered (and maybe re-signed after that).  Those raises will still add up, so I’ll say roughly $75MM committed.  The Brewers entered the season at $80.9MM and added several million more for C.C. Sabathia and Ray Durham midseason.  The Brewers set a team record with more than three million fans in ’08, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see payroll reach $100MM.

Another reason I say that is the Brewers are seriously entertaining re-signing Sabathia.  He and Gallardo would make a fine 1-2 punch next year; otherwise GM Doug Melvin will probably explore other free agent options.  The cost-effective alternative would be to shop Fielder.

Fielder seems more expendable than Hardy for a couple of reasons.  One, the Brewers have a powerful prospect in Mat Gamel.  Two, Hardy is strong both offensively and defensively at a key position.  If Escobar is ready, Hardy could move to third.  If he’s not ready, a one-year offer to Joe Crede could make sense.

The Brewers could also use a late-inning reliever.  Perhaps the failure of last year’s free agent signings will prompt Melvin to focus on the trade market.  Huston Street, B.J. Ryan, and Kevin Gregg may be available.

Busy offseason for Melvin – he has to address the rotation, find a closer, decide on Cameron, figure out third base, and decide whether to trade Fielder or Hardy.

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