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- Brewers Decline Rickie Weeks’ Option
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Milwaukee Brewers Rumors
The Brewers have announced the decision to decline their $11.5MM club option on Rickie Weeks, making him a free agent. Additionally, the team officially announced that it will exercise Yovani Gallardo‘s option as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reported yesterday.
Weeks, 32, was the No. 2 overall selection of the 2003 draft by the Brewers. He’s spent his entire career with Milwaukee. He emerged as one of baseball’s best second basemen from 2007-11, hitting .255/.357/.448 with an average of 18 homers, 13 steals, 2.5 rWAR and 3.1 fWAR per season in that stretch. However, his production has declined steadily since that time, as he’s batted .233/.327/.398 since that time and eventually fell into the short end of a platoon role with the left-handed hitting Scooter Gennett.
Weeks inked a four-year, $38.5MM contract extension prior to the 2011 season. He will now hit the open market in a thin class for second basemen. Because of the lack of free agent competition, some clubs figure to have interest in Weeks in a full-time capacity despite lackluster performances against right-handed pitching in recent years. It should be noted, of course, that Weeks did hit .294/.351/.395 in a small sample of 131 plate appearances against righties this year and .274/.357/.452 overall, giving interested clubs reason for optimism.
Gallardo, 29 in February, has spent his entire career with the Brewers after being selected in the second round of the 2004 draft. In 2014 he totaled 192 1/3 innings of 3.51 ERA ball with 6.8 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. Though he no longer averages a strikeout per inning as he did from 2009-12 (perhaps, in part, due to slightly diminished fastball velocity), the option was still a relatively easy call for the Brewers. Gallardo’s option contained a $600K buyout, essentially making this a $12.4MM decision for the Brewers.
In parts of eight Major League seasons with Milwaukee, Gallardo has a 3.69 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 and a 46.3 percent ground-ball rate. He signed a five-year, $30.1MM contract prior to the 2010 season, and by virtue of this option being exercised, will see that guarantee rise to $43.1MM over a six-year term.
The Braves are expected to make a qualifying offer to Ervin Santana, reports David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In the event that Santana leaves, the team may pursue a top-of-the-rotation type of arm, O’Brien writes, but their lack of financial flexibility would make the trade market a more likely avenue than free agency. O’Brien adds that he finds it unlikely that Santana would accept the QO — a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree. He also notes that should the club lose Santana, it might be more motivated to try to retain Aaron Harang, even though he is in line for a sizable raise from the $2MM he earned in 2014 (including incentives). MLBTR’s Zach Links recently profiled Harang, pegging him for a two-year, $14MM contract. Santana was also profiled by MLBTR, with Tim Dierkes projecting a four-year pact worth $56MM.
Elsewhere in baseball’s Eastern divisions…
- The Red Sox are prioritizing Pablo Sandoval and Chase Headley as the look toward the offseason, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The team may also look at Aramis Ramirez, though he’s not believed to be as coveted as Sandoval or Headley and is said to prefer a return to Milwaukee, per Heyman, who adds that the Yankees would like to re-sign Headley. Red Sox third basemen combined to hit just .245/.305/.351 in 2014.
- Red Sox people strongly denied a previous report that Yoenis Cespedes is hated by the team’s coaching staff, Heyman writes in a second piece. One source called the report “totally untrue,” and manager John Farrell added on MLB Network Radio that the notion was “completely unfounded,” Heyman adds. He goes on to write that a trade of Cespedes is unlikely (though not impossible), given Boston’s overall need for power.
- The Phillies announced today that their entire coaching staff has agreed to return to the club for the 2015 season.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post looks at the second round of changes coming to the dimensions of Citi Field and writes that the new dimensions may give some type of hint as to which players are most likely to be traded by the Mets this offseason. The Mets are planning to make Citi Field more homer-friendly and build the pitching staff around arms that emphasize strikeouts and ground-balls. Names like Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler fit that description, but Bartolo Colon, Dillon Gee and, to a lesser extent, Rafael Montero are all more prone to fly-balls, making them more likely to be dealt.
Here are the latest minor moves from around the league…
- The Reds have outrighted corner infielder Neftali Soto, per the MLB.com transactions page. Soto, 25, has had two brief big league stints but has spent most of his time since 2011 at the Triple-A level. The third-round pick out of Puerto Rico owns a .270/.323/.410 slash over 1,328 plate appearances at that level.
- In his latest Minor League Transactions roundup, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy reports that the Reds have outrighted Trevor Bell to Triple-A Louisville, and the right-hander rejected the assignment in favor of free agency. The 28-year-old Bell allowed five runs in two-thirds of an inning at the Major League level this season and has a 5.57 ERA in 116 1/3 big league innings between the Reds and Angels. Bell has a lifetime 4.93 ERA in 199 Triple-A frames.
- Perhaps of greater note to Reds fans is that Eddy also notes the signing of Australian catcher Jake Turnbull. As Steve Butler of the West Australian reports, Turnbull, 16, signed for a six-figure bonus and fielded offers from six MLB clubs before signing with Cincinnati. He will play in a pair of Australian leagues this winter, including the professional Australian Baseball League, where he’ll join the Perth Heat — the reigning league champions. Turnbull will then head to the U.S. to begin his pro career next spring.
- Among the other notable names mentioned by Eddy is right-hander Clayton Mortensen, who re-signed with the Royals after posting a 4.74 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 76 innings with Triple-A Omaha this season.
- MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports (via Twitter) that the Brewers will re-sign Taylor Green to a minor league deal. Green, 27, has been with the Brewers since the 2005 draft but hasn’t reached the Majors since receiving a look in 2011-12. He batted .207/.266/.343 in 154 plate appearances with the big league club and owns a career .299/.371/.485 batting line at the Triple-A level.
The Brewers have claimed corner infielder Luis Jimenez off waivers from the Angels, Los Angeles announced via Twitter. Jimenez, 26, had been with the Halos organization since signing as an amateur out of the Dominican Republic back in 2005.
Jimenez has seen scant big league playing time, and owns a .234/.268/.291 slash with no home runs or steals over 151 plate appearances in 2013-14. He has, however, established himself in the upper minors. Since reaching Triple-A in 2012, Jimenez has slashed a healthy .295/.327/.485 while hitting between 16 and 20 long balls and swiping double-digit bases each year.
The Diamondbacks expect new assistant GM Bryan Minniti to focus on the administrative side of baseball operations while also contributing to the organization’s analytical development, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. “I won’t say [administration is] a weakness for me, but it’s part of my job that I don’t necessarily want to embrace on a day-to-day basis,” said GM Dave Stewart. “He picks me up in that area and is very knowledgeable in that area. People in the industry say he’s one of the best in the business at that position.” Minniti said he is not an “analytics guy,” though he does have a statistical background and is said to have played an important role in that regard with the Nationals. Here are more notes out of the National League.
- As Minniti settles into his new job, the Nationals have begun the process of replacing him, as Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports. They made a variety of moves in their front office, including promoting director of baseball operations Adam Cromie to assistant general manager and hiring two analysts.
- Braves president John Schuerholz says that he never approached Royals GM Dayton Moore about a return to Atlanta and would not have done so since Moore has two years left on his contract, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on Twitter. Reports had suggested that the Braves were considering making a run at bringing back Moore as general manager, but the team ultimately convinced John Hart to take over baseball operations and says it has no plans of hiring a new GM under him.
- The Mets have hired Kevin Long as their hitting coach, the club announced via Twitter. Long had served as the Yankees’ hitting coach before his recent firing after eight years with the team.
- The Brewers have named a new hitting coach as well, hiring Darnell Coles to replace Johnny Narron, as Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports on Twitter. Coles served as the Tigers’ assistant hitting coach in 2014 and managed the Brewers’ Double-A Huntsville affiliate in 2012 and 2013.
- As the Pirates look forward to 2015, the club faces a number of complicated arbitration decisions, as Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review discusses. Two of those were seemingly resolved this morning when the Bucs designated John Axford and Jeanmar Gomez for assignment, but the Pirates still have 11 arbitration-eligible players, including three first basemen (or likely first basemen) in Pedro Alvarez, Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez.
After spending much of the 2014 season in first place and then collapsing down the stretch, the Brewers will try to regroup for 2015, perhaps hoping for the best with a talented but flawed core and a marginal, though improving, farm system.
- Ryan Braun, OF: $117MM through 2020
- Matt Garza, SP: $37.5MM through 2017
- Carlos Gomez, OF: $17MM through 2016
- Kyle Lohse, SP: $11MM through 2015
- Jonathan Broxton, RP: $11MM through 2015
- Jonathan Lucroy, C: $7.25MM through 2016
Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; projections via Matt Swartz)
- Gerardo Parra, OF (5.145): $6.4MM
- Marco Estrada, P (5.035): $4.7MM
- Brandon Kintzler, RP (3.101): $900K
- Martin Maldonado, C (2.156): $1M
- Non-tender candidates: Estrada, Parra, Kintzler
- Aramis Ramirez, 3B: $14MM mutual option, $4MM buyout
- Yovani Gallardo, SP: $13MM club option, $600K buyout
- Rickie Weeks, 2B: $11.5MM club/vesting option
The Brewers unexpectedly got off to a great start in 2014 and continued that hot start into the summer, with a 51-32 record as of June 28. As the first half of the season became the second, however, the 6 1/2-game lead they had held over the Cardinals evaporated, and in the end they missed the playoffs and barely finished above .500.
The Brewers retained manager Ron Roenicke following their collapse, although they dismissed hitting coach Johnny Narron and first base/infield coach Garth Iorg. Despite any lingering frustrations, it appears unlikely they’ll make many huge moves this offseason.
One position they will likely upgrade is first base, where they’ve struggled to find a reliable contributor since Corey Hart‘s last healthy season with the team in 2012. Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay platooned at the position in 2014 and, unsurprisingly, neither of them helped much. Reynolds hit 22 home runs in 433 plate appearances, but with his usual very low batting average and a .287 OBP. Both are free agents; Overbay appears likely to retire. Adam LaRoche (whose mutual option the Nationals are likely to decline) looks like the prize of this year’s free agent class, with the injury-prone Michael Cuddyer and the defensively challenged Michael Morse close behind. The Brewers could also lean on rookies Matt Clark and Jason Rogers, who both hit well with Triple-A Nashville, although both are minor league veterans who might not have much to offer at the big-league level.
The Brewers will also need to figure out what to do with Aramis Ramirez. Given his $4MM buyout, Ramirez’ $14MM mutual option is effectively $10MM for the Brewers. They would be wise to exercise their end, given that Ramirez produced a reasonable 2.1 fWAR while hitting .285/.330/.427 last season. Ramirez would not get the buyout if he were to decline his end, so it might make sense for him to accept his end of the option, particularly if he intends to retire after 2015. He could also decline the option and seek a multi-year deal, however. Ramirez said in July that he planned to reach 2,500 games for his career, which would take at least three more seasons, but he also said in September that he was not sure whether he would play 2015. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicts that Ramirez will ultimately re-sign with the Brewers for two years and $26MM.
The middle infield is mostly set with Scooter Gennett and Jean Segura, although Segura took a big step backward after a strong rookie season in 2013. The Brewers will surely decline their $11.5MM option on Rickie Weeks, who didn’t get enough plate appearances for his option to vest. The 2003 No. 2 overall pick doesn’t expect to be back in Milwaukee in 2015. If he isn’t, the Brewers could pursue a cheap right-handed infielder to platoon with Gennett, or have Hector Gomez, who had a good season at Nashville and is out of options, occupy that role.
The Brewers could also continue with Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez and Khris Davis in the outfield. Gomez continues to produce at an extremely high level and is a bargain at just $17MM total through the next two seasons. Braun, though, struggled in 2014 (hitting .266/.324/.453, not a good figure for a player with little defensive value), and the $117MM he’s owed through 2020 looks like it could become a problem. Perhaps a healthier Braun (he suffered from a thumb injury this season and has already had unusual surgery to freeze a nerve) can rebound in 2015.
The Brewers could retain Gerardo Parra as an outfield backup — it’s hard to pass on an average hitter and elite defender (although defensive metrics weren’t keen on his 2014 performance). Still, Parra is coming off a disappointing season and will get a modest raise on his $4.85MM 2013 salary, making him an expensive backup. Dealing or non-tendering him might be a way for the Brewers to free up salary. Another possibility might be to move Braun to first base and have Parra start in right field.
Behind the plate, of course, there’s Jonathan Lucroy, who is, like Gomez, an elite, prime-age player signed to a bargain contract. Lucroy’s five-year deal is among the most team-friendly in baseball — it guarantees an MVP-caliber player a mere $11MM and gives the Brewers an option on what would have been Lucroy’s first free agent season (2017) for just $5.25MM.
In the rotation, the Brewers have already decided to exercise their $13MM option on Yovani Gallardo, and they also have Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse under contract and a reasonable collection of pre-free agency pitchers in Wily Peralta, Mike Fiers and promising newcomer Jimmy Nelson. Marco Estrada could be a non-tender candidate after allowing 29 homers in 150 2/3 innings in 2014, although he’ll still be fairly cheap and his other peripherals were reasonable. The Brewers don’t figure to be big players for free agent starting pitching.
Their bullpen will be trickier. Closer Francisco Rodriguez and lefties Zach Duke and Tom Gorzelanny will all be eligible for free agency. Duke emerged from oblivion to become the Brewers’ best reliever in 2014, posting a 2.45 ERA with a remarkable 11.4 K/9 in 58 2/3 innings, and his production will be difficult to replace if he departs.
The bullpen’s season demonstrated how crucial a good relief corps can be. Rodriguez, Duke, Tyler Thornburg and Will Smith dominated in the early going, leading the Brewers as they jumped to the division lead. During that time, however, those relievers piled up appearances as little-used Rule 5 pick Wei-Chung Wang occupied a bullpen spot that could have gone to someone capable of soaking up innings. Rodriguez couldn’t keep up his early pace, Smith imploded in July, and Thornburg faded in May and eventually ended up on the DL with an elbow injury. The team also lost Jim Henderson to shoulder problems. Finally, they acquired Jonathan Broxton — and his entire $9MM 2015 salary, plus a $2MM buyout — from the Reds in an attempt to stop the bleeding.
In March and April, the Brewers had the fourth-best bullpen ERA in baseball, at 2.45; in the second half, it was more than a run higher, at 3.62. While variance in bullpen performance is normal, and the team did get some good work from second-tier relievers like Gorzelanny and Jeremy Jeffress, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Brewers attempt to avoid last season’s struggles by pursuing bullpen depth this winter. Re-signing or replacing Rodriguez at closer could also be a priority.
Despite the trajectory of their 2014 season, the Brewers’ 82-80 record was about what they should have expected, given their talent. The question is what they’ll do from here. Having two excellent and cheap players in Gomez and Lucroy is a strong place for any franchise to start, but the Brewers’ complementary pieces aren’t nearly as valuable, and it’s unclear where their next group of stars will come from. Including Gallardo’s option, the Brewers already have about $70MM on the books for 2015. Retaining Ramirez will add to that total, as will arbitration raises for Parra, Estrada and catcher Martin Maldonado (assuming Parra and Estrada are retained). The Brewers will need to address first base as well, which should leave them without much money to make a big splash this offseason, given that their highest ever Opening Day payroll was their 2014 total of about $103MM. Perhaps their best shot at an attention-grabbing signing would be if they acquired someone like Chase Headley to play third base, and that would only happen if Ramirez left.
An infusion of star talent doesn’t appear imminent from the minors, either. The Brewers’ farm system has improved after a strong 2014 draft, but they don’t currently have anyone in MLB.com’s list of the top 100 prospects in the game, and their best talents (Tyrone Taylor, Orlando Arcia, and top 2014 draftees Kodi Medeiros, Jacob Gatewood and Monte Harrison) have little or no experience in the high minors.
The Brewers are therefore in a tight spot. They don’t appear to be as good as the Cardinals or Pirates, and perhaps they soon won’t be as good as the rapidly improving Cubs. But given the state of their farm system, a rebuild would potentially be long and painful. And as the team’s outstanding 2014 first half suggested, the Brewers are still probably good enough to win an NL Central title or a Wild Card if everything breaks right. If Gomez and Lucroy were to maintain their production in 2015, if Braun and possibly Segura were to return to form, and if a couple more players (Davis and Nelson, say) were to break out, it wouldn’t be a shock if the team won 88 games or so and made the playoffs.
Given that possibility, rebuilding can wait. But if the Brewers get off to a poor start in 2015, expect to hear plenty of rumors about their veterans. In particular, Gallardo, Lohse and Broxton, who can all become free agents after 2015, would likely be fair game.
Here are Sunday’s minor moves from around MLB:
- Diamondbacks outfielder Nolan Reimold has elected free agency, per the club’s transactions page. After spending the first half of 2014 on the disabled list, Reimold, who turns 31 today, was released by the Orioles in July and promptly claimed by the Blue Jays where he batted .212/.283/.404. in 60 plate appearances. Reimold was then designated for assignment by Toronto in August and claimed by the Diamondbacks. The former top-100 prospect, who has been injury-plagued undergoing a pair of neck surgeries and an ankle operation, fared much better in Arizona, albeit in a smaller sample size, slashing .294/.278/.529 in 17 plate appearances.
- Catcher Bobby Wilson and infielder Ronny Cedeno have opted for free agency rather accept their outright assignment by the Diamondbacks to Triple-A Reno, according to the Pacific Coast League’s transactions page.
- Infielder Jeff Bianchi and catcher Matt Pagnozzi have declared their free agency by refusing their outright assignment to Triple-A Colorado Springs by the Brewers, reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Other players declaring free agency who saw MLB action in 2014, per the PCL and International League transactions page, are: Ian Stewart (Angels), Justin Germano (Dodgers), Clint Robinson (Dodgers), Mark Lowe (Indians), Greg Dobbs (Nationals), Jason Pridie (Rockies), and Danny Worth (Tigers).
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Arizona Diamondbacks | Bobby Wilson | Cleveland Indians | Clint Robinson | Colorado Rockies | Danny Worth | Detroit Tigers | Greg Dobbs | Ian Stewart | Jason Pridie | Jeff Bianchi | Justin Germano | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Los Angeles Dodgers | Mark Lowe | Milwaukee Brewers | Nolan Reimold | Ronny Cedeno | Transactions | Washington Nationals
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that Jake Peavy has gone from a likely minimal contract in free agency to a possible three-year deal. The Giants are interested in re-signing him because they need him, and manager Bruce Bochy has gotten great work out of him. For his part, the 33-year-old appears to enjoy being back with Bochy, his manager during his glory years in San Diego. Here’s more from today’s column..
- A major league source tells Cafardo that Victor Martinez‘s preference is to stay with the Tigers and, therefore, Detroit will get the first crack at him. The interest is mutual and the Tigers would like to get something done sooner rather than later.
- If A’s GM Billy Beane listens to offers on Jeff Samardzija this offseason, you can count the Red Sox as one of the possible interested parties. The Sox inquired with the Cubs about him before the trade deadline, and they would not give up a package that included lefthanded pitching prospect Henry Owens.
- Orioles outfielder/DH Nelson Cruz enjoys Baltimore and wants to stay, but Cafardo expects the Yankees, Rangers, and Mariners to be in on the bidding. No matter what, the 34-year-old looks like he’ll make a bundle somewhere on a three- or four-year deal.
- First baseman Adam LaRoche likely won’t re-signed by the Nationals, who could move Ryan Zimmerman to first base. However, LaRoche lines up nicely as a target for the Brewers, who have toyed with the idea of Ryan Braun moving to first but will likely keep him in the outfield. He could draw interest from the Orioles if they lose Cruz.
- While there’s intrigue over Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang, there’s still some pushback from scouts who have seen him play on whether he can translate well to MLB. Some are worried about the pronounced leg kick in his stance that lasts deep into his swing. There also has always been skepticism over his defensive ability, even though he won the Korean version of the Gold Glove.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke will remain in his position with the team for 2015, the team announced in a press release. This puts an end to speculation that Roenicke could be fired in the wake of the team’s late-season collapse.
Roenicke led the Crew to the 2011 NL Central title and a berth in the NLCS in his first year as manager in 2011, and he has a 335-313 overall record in four seasons running the club. The Brewers have yet to return to the postseason since 2011, however, and went 9-17 last September to fall out of playoff contention despite leading the NL Central for much of the year.
Back in March, the Brewers exercised their team option on Roenicke’s services for 2015 while also adding another option year for the 2016 campaign. With no job security beyond next season, it’s fair to speculate that Roenicke could be on the hot seat if the Brewers get off to a slow start next season.
The team also announced that hitting coach Johnny Narron and first base/infield coach Garth Iorg will not be offered contracts for 2015. The Brewers have posted a collective 93 wRC+ over the last two seasons (ranking 17th in baseball), and posted only an 85 wRC+ (fifth-worst in baseball) after the All-Star break last season, which likely led to Narron’s departure. The rest of Milwaukee’s coaching staff will remain intact.
“Over the course of the last few weeks, we have evaluated the work of Ron and his coaches and believe that this is the best course of action to take,” general manager Doug Melvin said in the press release. “We appreciate the work that Johnny and Garth did for us through the years, and moves like these are never easy to make. We have already started reviewing our player personnel and will continue to address the factors that led to our disappointing finish to the season.”