Next up in our Offseason Outlook series, the Brewers. Their likely commitments for 2010:
C – Mike Rivera – $415K+
1B – Prince Fielder – $10.5MM
2B – Rickie Weeks – $2.45MM+
SS – Alcides Escobar – $400K
3B – Casey McGehee – $400K
IF – J.J. Hardy – $4.65MM+
IF – Mat Gamel – $400K
LF – Ryan Braun – $1MM
CF – Jody Gerut – $1.775MM+
RF – Corey Hart – $3.25MM+
SP – Yovani Gallardo – $414K
SP – Dave Bush – $4MM+
SP – Manny Parra – $426K
SP – Jeff Suppan – $12.5MM
SP – Chris Narveson – $400K
Braden Looper – $6.5MM mutual option, $750K buyout if club declines
RP – Trevor Hoffman – $7.5MM
RP – Seth McClung – $1.6625MM+
RP – Todd Coffey – $800K+
RP – Carlos Villanueva – $447K+
RP – Mitch Stetter – $408K
RP – Mark DiFelice – $403K
RP – Chris Smith – $400K
Other commitments: Bill Hall – $7.15MM, David Riske – $4.5MM, David Weathers – $400K buyout
Non-tender candidates: Jody Gerut, Seth McClung
Let's say the Brewers non-tender Gerut and McClung and decline options on Looper and Weathers. That'd put them at $64MM before arbitration raises to Rivera, Weeks, Hardy, Hart, Bush, Coffey, and Villanueva. Many of these players had off years but we still have to put the team in the $70MM range. $4.5MM would be trimmed if Hardy is traded for a minimum-salary player. The Brewers entered 2009 with a $80.2MM payroll, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts.
GM Doug Melvin could have $10MM+ to spend, with holes to fill at catcher, center field, and in the rotation. Melvin must shoulder some of the blame for the team's limited payroll flexibility – the Brewers have $11.65MM in dead money for Riske and Hall in 2010, plus $12.5MM for Suppan to conclude that dubious signing.
The Brewers could fill the catching spot internally, if they allow Jason Kendall to leave as a free agent. The candidate is 23-year-old prospect Angel Salome. Salome hit .286/.334/.413 in 314 Triple A plate appearances this year. His defense is a question mark, and the Brewers did not give him a September audition. Starting Salome would be a risky move, and Kendall does want to stay.
Weeks is strongly opposed to moving to center field, and incumbent Mike Cameron is a free agent. Cameron is willing to take a pay cut to stay, and the Brewers should strongly consider re-signing him. Gerut may be cut loose after a .230/.279/.376 performance. Internally, Lorenzo Cain (.214/.277/.338 at Double A, missed time with a ligament tear) can't be ruled out. Note that Melvin said in September that "we cannot be distracted" by holes in the field due to the need to focus on pitching.
On to the rotation, Melvin would like to add two starting pitchers. MLB.com's Adam McCalvy wrote on September 10th that "the Brewers will almost certainly pick up" Looper's option. I've written before that I don't think that's a good idea. For that same price the Brewers could sign a free agent with significantly more upside.
The Brewers will not trade Braun or Fielder, but it seems very likely that they'll make Hardy and/or Gamel available for starting pitching. Today at U.S.S. Mariner Dave Cameron proposed a Hardy-Brandon Morrow swap, which seems reasonable. The Twins, Red Sox, and Blue Jays could be other potential fits for the shortstop.
Even before considering a possible long-term deal for Fielder, Melvin has his work cut out for him this winter. He's already re-signed Hoffman and added Rick Peterson as the new pitching coach. Now he must take a limited budget to find two starting pitchers, a catcher, and a center fielder. He has to decide on Looper's option, entertain offers for Hardy, and deal with at least five significant arbitration cases. Should be an action-packed hot stove season for Brewers fans.