The prospects the Brewers have acquired during their rebuild have drawn plenty of attention, but the work general manager David Stearns did buying low on veterans during his first offseason at the helm shouldn’t be overlooked, as Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes. The two biggest success stories resulting from Stearns’ offseason dumpster diving are shortstop/third baseman Jonathan Villar and right-hander Junior Guerra, while reliever Carlos Torres has also been a quality addition. Villar, whom the Brewers acquired from Houston in November for pitching prospect Cy Sneed, has stolen the second-most bases in the league (50) and hit .297/.378/.434 with 10 home runs in 546 trips to the plate. The 31-year-old Guerra, a waiver claim from the White Sox, has been among the top rookies in baseball this year, having logged a 2.93 ERA, 7.55 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and 46.1 percent ground-ball rate across 107 1/3 innings. “Some of the most rewarding moments you get in this job stem from challenging processes,” Stearns told Haudricourt. “Finding players who can contribute at the major-league level through some of the unconventional means, whether it’s waiver claims or minor-league free-agent signings, Rule 5 picks, lower-level trades, those are transactions that don’t generate a lot of public notoriety but can still have a positive effect on the organization.”
Here’s more from the NL Central:
- Corner infielder David Freese accepted a two-year extension offer from the Pirates earlier this week because he likes their players and coaching staff, expects the club to keep contending, and didn’t want to risk encountering a tepid market for his services as a free agent, per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Despite a handful of solid seasons with the Cardinals and Angels, Freese went unsigned until March last year before finally settling for a $3MM deal. He has since earned another $11MM in guarantees from Pittsburgh through 2018 by slashing .273/.351/.427 with 12 homers in 407 plate appearances. “I’ve made a lot of money in this game to begin with,” stated the 33-year-old Freese. “This contract helps a little more. Where I play and who I’m around is more important to me.”
- The Cardinals are unsure how much longer shingles will keep righty Mike Leake out, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We’re not seeing great progress,” manager Mike Matheny said. “So he’s just been wiped out. There’s obviously pain involved. We’re obviously just trying to give him the best opportunity to get better. It’s been pretty slow.” Aside from visiting Cardinals physicians, the 28-year-old Leake has been away from the team since Monday because shingles is contagious. With Leake unable to go Saturday, the Cards turned to phenom Alex Reyes for his first career major league start. Reyes threw 4 2/3 innings and allowed a run on two hits and four walks in a 3-2 loss to the A’s. Leake, whom the Redbirds signed to a five-year, $80MM deal in the offseason, has compiled a 4.56 ERA, 6.39 K/9, 1.42 BB/9 and 54 percent grounder rate over 152 frames.
- Right-hander Chad Kuhl will likely be in line for a spot in the Pirates’ rotation next season, observes Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Not only has the 23-year-old pitched well in 43 2/3 innings (3.50 ERA, 5.56 K/9, 2.27 BB/9), but the Pirates could have a few vacancies to fill in their rotation during the offseason. Righties Ivan Nova and Ryan Vogelsong are impending free agents, and southpaw Jeff Locke is a non-tender candidate. Plus, the Bucs are currently bracing for news on ace Gerrit Cole, who will undergo an examination on his elbow Sunday.