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As a former player, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly can relate to what Cubs prospects Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara are going through, writes David Just of the Chicago Sun-Times. “It’s just a time factor with the young guys,” Mattingly said. “They can look good right away, and the next year they come out and it doesn’t look good. Or they can look kind of shaky and figure a lot of it out. So time is going to tell.” As a youngster, Mattingly got off to a slow start with the Yankees, hitting .278 with a .326 on-base percentage in his first 98 games during the 1982 and ’83 seasons. He then led the American League in hits, doubles, and batting average in 1984.
Here’s the latest from the NL Central:
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington says re-signing catcher Russell Martin is a priority for the franchise, tweets Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We are going to try to do everything we can to keep Russ,” said Huntington. “We’d love nothing more than to have (Martin) in a Pirates uniform.“
- Huntington, however, reiterated the Pirates will not veer from their financial philosophy. “We’re going to continue to have to pay guys for what we believe they’re going to do, and not what they’ve done,” said Huntington (as quoted by MLB.com’s Stephen Pianovich). “The bigger markets certainly have luxury to be able to extend much beyond comfort levels to pay an extra year or two, to pave over prior mistakes with more money.“
- Brewers GM Doug Melvin does not “think there’s a need to go out and try to get another starter” and will instead focus on offense this offseason, reports MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. The Brewers are all but certain to pick up the $13MM option on Yovani Gallardo, McCalvy opines.
- The Brewers‘ biggest offseason decisions will be the infield corners and whether to exercise Gallardo’s option, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in a recent chat. The Brewers will consider both internal and external options at first base, but Haudricourt notes finding productive first basemen is easier said than done.
- In a separate piece, Haudricourt writes Rickie Weeks is nearing the end of his tenure with the Brewers (his $11.5MM option isn’t expected to be exercised), but the team’s senior member in terms of service time is not thinking about 2015. “I’ll worry about that when the time comes,” Weeks said. “I’m still with the Brewers right now. That’s the way I look at it.“
- “What we’d really like is to have a bunch of really good baserunners,” is what Cubs manager Rick Renteria told reporters, including MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat, when asked about the club’s 2015 wish list.
The Brewers enter play today with the most wins in baseball and a 6.5 game lead over the Cardinals in the NL Central. With Milwaukee’s success to date and the Trade Deadline looming, will GM Doug Melvin pull off a major acquisition like he did the last two times the Brewers made the playoffs (CC Sabathia in 2008 and Francisco Rodriguez in 2011)? Melvin told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he’s “always open for anything,” but there isn’t a lot of holes needing to be filled. “You have to ask, where are you going to play a guy?” said Melvin. “We have a pretty good lineup. I’m not going to trade for a catcher or a second baseman or shortstop or left fielder or center fielder or right fielder.”
In other Brewers’ news and notes from Haudricourt:
- One position Melvin did not mention was first base with the platoon of Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay producing a .683 OPS, which ranks 26th in the majors. Melvin says the duo has “done a nice job for us,” and “there’s not a big offensive first baseman available anyway.“
- The Brewers could be in the market for relievers with Jim Henderson and Tyler Thornburg still on the disabled list. “We’ve talked about bullpen help,” Melvin said. “Over the course of the year, your bullpen gets worn down pretty good. A lot of teams are going to be looking for bullpen help.“
- Melvin, however, will not sacrifice the future for short-term gain in any trade. “We’re not going to deal the young impact player to help our big club now. It’s going to be tough to do that. I think we do have a lot of players in our system that will play in the big leagues.“
- Melvin acknowledged other teams have called about second baseman Rickie Weeks, but no specific proposals have been made. Weeks is earning $11MM this season with a $11.5MM vesting option for 2015. MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently noted the option isn’t likely to be triggered.
Today is Father’s Day and to celebrate MLB.com has profiled the father-son bond for one player on each of the 30 clubs. Carlos Gomez, who signed his first professional contract on Father’s Day, is featured in the Brewers’ vignette telling Adam McCalvy he wouldn’t be where he is today without his dad, Carlos Sr. “He’s the guy I owe everything,” the younger Gomez said. “He’s an example to [get an] education, be a good father, respect — and give everything I have right now. I remember the words they told me. ‘If you’re going to play ball, you’re going to play right, or not play.’” Carlos Sr. was a well-regarded second baseman and center fielder in the Dominican Republic. So, who is the better player? With the younger Gomez translating, the elder Gomez told McCalvy, “When we were the same age, 16-21, I used to be better. I used to be faster. I knew the game more than him.” Gomez, with a wide smile, retorted, “I have more tools, more ability to play. Every time we joke around, play around like that, ‘Who’s better? Who’s better?’ I say, ‘I’m the one who has almost eight years in the big leagues!’” Fathers and sons.
In other Brewers news and notes:
- The franchise has reaped substantial dividends from their decision to sign Jonathan Lucroy to a five-year, $11MM contract extension two years ago, writes Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Lucroy, owner of baseball’s second-best batting average and slashing .333/.396/.504 entering play today, is under team control through 2017.
- The Brewers are resisting the temptation to recall top prospect Jimmy Nelson and insert him into the rotation in place of Marco Estrada, Haudricourt reports. “Some people say bring Jimmy Nelson up and put him in the bullpen,” GM Doug Melvin told Haudricourt. “But out there you don’t know how much he’ll pitch. We want him to stay sharp down there (Triple-A Nashville) in the event we need him.” The need is fast approaching as Estrada was rocked for three home runs against the Reds this afternoon and has given up 23 gopher balls – most in the Majors – ballooning his HR/9 to 2.46 (84 innings). Haudricourt notes on Twitter 35 of the 45 earned runs allowed this year by Estrada, a non-tender candidate entering his second arbitration year this winter, have come on home runs. MLB.com’s McCalvy tweets Estrada will remain in the rotation until manager Ron Roenicke speaks with Melvin.
- It would be too big of a gamble for the Brewers to exercise their half of Aramis Ramirez‘s 2015 mutual option ($14MM with a $4MM buyout) because he’s at the age where players, even reliable and productive ones like the soon-to-be 36-year-old third baseman, start to break down physically, opines Haudricourt’s colleague, Todd Rosiak, in a recent chat. Ramirez played only 92 games last season with knee issues and has missed more than three weeks this year due to a hamstring pull.
- The Brewers are satisfied with the first base tandem of Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay and, barring an unexpected trade, what you see is what you’re likely going to get at that position, according to Rosiak.
- If the first-place Brewers are inclined to make any Trade Deadline deals, they could focus on strengthening their bullpen and bench, Rosiak writes.
Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio opened Brewers On Deck, the team's annual winter fan festival, earlier today by announcing the signing of right-hander Matt Garza (#7 on MLBTR's 2014 Top 50 Free Agents list). The four-year, $50MM contract also includes deferred money, $1MM per year in incentives, and a $13MM vesting option for 2018. The total take for Garza could total $67MM over five years. In other Brewers news and notes coming out of Milwaukee today:
- "I was expecting an open market, and that’s what I got. I’m really happy I’m a Milwaukee Brewer," Garza told reporters, including MLB.com's Adam McCalvy (Twitter link), in an impromptu news conference. Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel provides a transcript of Garza's comments including this tidbit: Brewers fans heard about the deal before he did because he was attending his son's basketball game.
- GM Doug Melvin said the Brewers' interest in Garza dates back to the Winter Meetings and his addition provides rotation depth, but will wait until Spring Training to see how the starting five shakes out, Rosiak reports (Twitter links).
- Melvin told WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee the lack of draft pick compensation attached to Garza was a very important factor in the signing (h/t Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Twitter).
- Ryan Braun was in attendance at the fan event and continues to be apologetic for his actions which led to his 65-game suspension, writes Rosiak. "I don’t ever know if I could apologize enough for what’s occurred, you know?" said Braun. "I just continue to move forward and obviously I’ll be apologetic. I wish I could go back and do things differently, but I can’t. All I can do is move forward and make the best of the opportunities presented to me." Braun refused to divulge further details of why he was suspended saying he addressed everything last November at a team-sponsored food drive and "I think I addressed it pretty specifically in the statement that we gave (in August)."
- Braun also offered praise for his newest teammate, Garza, according to McCalvy. "I’m excited about it," Braun said. "I think he could be a difference-maker. Facing him over the last few years, I think he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball. One of the toughest at-bats. Great stuff. Very competitive — a fiery competitor, which is something I think could benefit the whole pitching staff and our whole team."
- Mark Reynolds says he signed with the Brewers because of the starting opportunity at first base, playing in the NL, and the fan support in Milwaukee, Rosiak tweets.
- Left-hander Tom Gorzelanny, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, has yet to begin a throwing program, but he expects to be ready for Opening Day, tweets McCalvy.
- In response to a fan's question about payroll, Melvin said (as tweeted by Rosiak), "Ask Mark." To which the principal owner replied, "Wallet is a lot lighter now."
- Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets his approval of what Melvin and the Brewers have been able to accomplish this offseason: spent money on a starting pitcher, filled the hole at first base with a solid combinaton of Reynolds and Lyle Overbay, kept right-hander Tyler Thornburg (the Mets' reported price for Ike Davis), and their draft picks.
The trade of Norichika Aoki to the Royals for southpaw Will Smith was "was coaxed primarily by Aoki's agent to assure more playing time," Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. Khris Davis' impressive rookie season put him in line for a starting job in 2014, and with Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez locked into the other two starting outfield spots, Aoki was looking at a reduced role with the Brewers next season.
Here's some more Brewers news from Haudricourt's chat with Brewers GM Doug Melvin…
- Melvin reiterated his stance that the Brewers' lack of major offseason moves is due to the belief that the team will improve simply with the continued development of young players and the returns of suspended or injured stars like Braun or Aramis Ramirez.
- The Brewers pursued James Loney, who instead re-signed with the Rays for a three-year, $21MM contract. "We knew if he had the same deal he was probably going to go back to Tampa," Melvin said. Indeed, Loney said that he chose the Rays' contract over similar offers from not just the Brewers, but also the Pirates and Astros.
- Melvin cited some interest in Justin Morneau, who signed with the Rockies last month, but the GM sounded as if he wasn't particularly enamored with the free agent options at first base. "The list wasn't very good. It's one of those years where the position we needed, there were fewer opportunities to get someone," Melvin said.
- In also noting that the trade market for first baseman was thin, Melvin acknowledged he had at least had discussions with the Rangers and Mariners. "There just aren't available guys. Texas, at this point, is not willing to talk about [Mitch] Moreland. Seattle is not interested in moving their guys. So, there aren't a lot of choices."
- The Brewers didn't have much available payroll space this offseason but extra money would've been there if the situation warranted. "We haven't increased it that much, but if the right player was there I would go to (team owner) Mark (Attanasio) and say it's the right player," Melvin said. "When it comes to payroll, we're always guarded to make sure that we don't put ourselves in a hole or a bind that we can't get out of two years from now or three years from now. Our payroll will be in a much better position next year in that regard." The Brewers have only $39.1MM committed for 2015 as Ramirez, Yovani Gallardo and Tom Gorzelanny all come off the books next winter, plus Rickie Weeks seems unlikely to receive the 600 PA he needs this season to trigger his $11.5MM vesting option for 2015.
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin spoke to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy about the team's relatively quiet offseason thus far and some other hot stove items…
- The Brewers are the only team who has yet to sign a free agent to a Major League contract, as MLBTR's Tim Dierkes recently examined. Melvin said the Brewers haven't delved into the free agent market is due to both the team's plan to "go with our young guys" and an overall lack of suitable fits for Milwaukee's payroll. “If you look at a lot of the teams that got involved in free agency in the past few years, it hasn’t been that successful for them — and then there are the players whose price range isn’t even close to what we could consider. We’re putting a lot of faith into our system," Melvin said. “We weren’t going to get [Shin-Soo] Choo. We weren’t going to get Robinson Cano,” Melvin said. “We can look at $5-$6MM, but if we think our guys are better or as good at $500K, why would we make a move just to make a move?”
- Melvin is open to adding a veteran reliever to the young arms in the Milwaukee bullpen, implying that such an addition would come in a trade. "Our bullpen is an area that we’ve talked about maybe whether we would add an experienced piece or not," the GM said.
- The Mets have discussed Ike Davis in trade talks with the Brewers (as well as the Pirates and Orioles) and Melvin confirmed that some talks had taken place. "First base, I’ve had ongoing discussions with Sandy Alderson, but we haven’t gotten to anything where we’re comfortable with the deal from our side, and he’s not been comfortable with the deal from his side.”
- While Melvin declined to say whether he found the Mets' asking price too high, Melvin did say that “I think we’ve pretty well stood by — the one thing we’ve done is we do not want to give up pitching.” The Mets reportedly asked for promising young right-hander Tyler Thornburg in exchange for Davis last month.
The GM Meetings begin tomorrow in Orlando and run through Wednesday, but it could be a very quiet three days for the Brewers. "I don't anticipate us being overly active at this point but things could change," GM Doug Melvin told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "There's not a lot of openings in the regular lineup." Budget constraints will also play a role in the Brewers' level of activity, according to Haudricourt, as the club is approximately $14MM under its 2013 Opening Day payroll (not including arbitration and pre-arbitration salaries). Here's more from Haudricourt's piece:
- "There's nothing major on the free-agent market we'll probably get involved with," Melvin said. "Maybe we'll do something with the bullpen, make an addition or two."
- Melvin sees first base as the one position the Brewers need to fill. Re-signing Corey Hart, who is drawing interest from the Mets and a handful of other teams, is the coventional wisdom, but Melvin has only committed to speaking with agent Jeff Berry about Hart's status at some point.
- The Brewers are not believed to have interest in Justin Morneau, James Loney, and/or Mike Napoli at this stage.
- If Hart doesn't re-sign with Milwaukee, one internal option is Juan Francisco, who is showing improvement offensively during Dominican Winter League play (.338/.437/.568 with 18 RBIs – second in the DWL – in 74 at-bats including a .404/.462/.702 slash with 14 RBIs versus left-handers in 47 at-bats, per MLB.com). At the least, Haudricourt sees Francisco providing depth at both infield corners (Francisco has split his time with Licey between third base and DH while appearing in just three games at first).
- Providing middle infield depth will be Elian Herrera, who the Brewers claimed off waivers from the Dodgers on Monday. "He's somebody who can play all over the field, including shortstop if we need it," said Melvin.
Francisco Rodriguez's trade to the Orioles may be the first of several moves for the Brewers before the trade deadline, though Brewers GM Doug Melvin hinted that further moves (if any) would require a very high return. Here are the highlights of Melvin's conference call with reporters, including Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal…
- As many as six teams had interest in Rodriguez but the field narrowed to three bidders, Melvin said. The other two finalists, besides the O's, were also from the American League. The Tigers and Red Sox were known to have interest in Rodriguez, though it's just speculation on my part that they could have been the two mystery AL teams.
- Melvin spoke highly of Nick Delmonico, the infield prospect acquired from Baltimore. Melvin said he asked the Orioles about Delmonico three weeks ago and were turned down, so the deep trade market for Rodriguez helped the Brewers eventually get the prospect they wanted.
- The Brewers are "not shopping" other bullpen pieces like John Axford or Jim Henderson "but if teams have interest, I have to listen," Melvin said. "We've still got a lot of good young players here. People talk about our pitching but if you trade pitching, you're going to need pitching back for this year, next year and the following years."
- Teams have called about Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse but Melvin said he's "not motivated" to move either starter. Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link) reported earlier today that the Brewers "need to be blown away" to consider moving Lohse, and the Giants weren't a fit as a trade partner.
- Melvin made it clear that he isn't under any pressure to move veterans just for the sake of rebuilding the roster. "This isn't where we're selling. I'm not a believer in buyers and sellers; I'm a believer in making a good deal," Melvin said. "Deals that help both ball clubs are the best deals to work. When you're selling, you're just moving players because of salary and we don't have to do that."
- Some teams have called about the Brewers' position players though Melvin declined to provide details.
The Brewers have lost four in a row, used 57 different lineups in 80 games this season, and own the third-worst record in all of baseball. The Brewers are expected to be sellers at the Trade Deadline, a fate further cemented with the news of Corey Hart missing the rest of the year with his third knee surgery in 16 months and Ryan Braun out, at least, until after the All-Star break (per MLB.com's Adam McCalvy) with an irritated nerve in his right hand. Milwaukee's best trade chips are a quartet of relievers (John Axford, Michael Gonzalez, Jim Henderson, and Francisco Rodriguez), who have closer experience. Here's the latest Trade Deadline news involving the Brewers:
- GM Doug Melvin admits to receiving calls about his bullpen, but he isn't quite sure what to expect in return, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Teams have to determine what is important to them and how they value relief pitchers," Melvin said. "Sometimes they don't want to give up a lot to acquire them. They think teams will give up guys just to get rid of their contracts. We're not really looking to do that."
- Axford, the Brewers' highest-paid reliever at $5MM in his first year of arbitration eligibility as a Super Two, is aware his name is being floated in trade rumors. "I'm sure there will be talk about it as we get closer to the trade deadline," Axford told Haudricourt. "Teams probably will test the waters and see what the Brewers' response is. I'll be fine with it. You have to block that out and focus on your job here."
- Manager Ron Roenicke has re-inserted Rodriguez into the closer's role, reports Haudricourt's colleague Michael Hunt. Did the idea of showcasing Rodriguez for a Trade Deadline deal have any role in this decision? "None, not to me," said Roenicke. "Not until I meet with (GM) Doug (Melvin) and Doug tells me something different."
- Teams also are reported to have shown interest in Brewers' starting pitchers Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse, but Melvin told Haudricourt trading either one "is not something we have to do. We're not necessarily looking to sell. But if somebody steps up (with a big offer), I'd have to listen."
Brewers GM Doug Melvin indirectly shed some light on the philosophical differences which led to trading Brett Lawrie to the Blue Jays. Lawrie's name came up when Melvin told Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the plan is to keep second base prospect Scooter Gennett in Triple-A for the full season instead of being promoted because of the struggles of Rickie Weeks. "The plan worked for (Prince) Fielder and Corey Hart and all those guys," Melvin said. "Spend your time at each level. That's the part I couldn't get through with Brett Lawrie. He wanted to go past everybody. That model works if you're a freak like Ryan Braun, but he did play at every level. I always say to go out and prove you're too good for the league. If you do that, we'll consider moving you up." Instead Melvin, moved Lawrie out to Toronto. In other news from the the NL Central:
- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke told reporters, including MLB.com's Adam McCalvy, there is no plan to send Corey Hart, recovering from right knee surgery, on a minor league rehab assignment before June 1. This means Hart, who is eligible to be activated from the 60-day disabled list on May 30, will not join the Brewers until mid-June, at the earliest.
- The number of years and not money will be the issue for the Reds in trying to re-sign Shin-Soo Choo, tweets John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Choo ranks second on MLBTR's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings.
- If Choo does re-sign with Cincinnati, a payroll casualty could be Bronson Arroyo. In a second tweet, Fay says the Reds' payroll is a big puzzle and there are lots of factors involved in trying to retain both Choo and Arroyo.
- Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch opines merit is not behind the Cardinals' decision to replace the injured Jaime Garcia with fellow left-hander Tyler Lyons, but a desire to delay the service clock of their top pitching prospect, Michael Wacha. This is the second time Wacha, owner of an 1.89 ERA in eight Triple-A starts, has been bypassed to fill a rotation opening. Miklasz further believes the Cardinals, owners of the best record in the National League, don't have the best 25 players in their system on the active roster citing top prospect Oscar Taveras toiling away in Triple-A while Shane Robinson and Ty Wigginton are struggling offensively.
- Cardinals GM John Mozeliak disagrees with Miklasz's assessment. "I’m not worried about the clock," Mozeliak was quoted as saying by the Post-Dispatch's Derrick Goold (via Sulia). "The media is making a lot of the clock. Other people who read the media are making more of it. To me it’s like that’s not what is making our decisions. It’s managing our decisions for what’s best for the club and what’s best for the individuals in their own silo of development."
- Chris Carpenter is continuing to make progress in his recovery from nerve trouble in his neck and back soreness and could make a rehab start in early June, Goold reports. "I’m not going to push myself back," Carpenter said (as quoted by Goold on Sulia). "I’m going to make sure that I’m healthy and that I know everything is going to work and that I can go out there and take that grind of the amount of pitches and innings it takes to go the rest of the year." Carpenter threw three simulated innings Saturday, will throw a side session Monday, and throw another four simulated innings Thursday, according to MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch and Chad Thornburg.