Brewers GM David Stearns spoke today about his team’s much-discussed offseason pitching decisions, as Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writes. Explaining that the organization believes it has ample rotation depth on hand, Stearns explained that his focus was on evaluating “the extent of the upgrade” that could be achieved in any particular transactions. Clearly, the team felt it could do more by adding two high-quality outfielders than by putting veteran hurlers in front of a group of youngsters that, in Stearns’s view, “have the ability to make an impact on the major-league level” in the near future. That said, Stearns acknowledges that his front office was involved with several free agents and also “were close a couple of times” to trades for pitching.
Here’s more from the central divisions:
- Mike Napoli is expected to decide shortly whether he’ll return to the Indians on another minor league contract, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports (Twitter link). The presumption seemingly remains that he’ll return and open the year at Triple-A, as manager Terry Francona tells reporters including MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter link). But nothing has been formalized at this point, with Napoli evidently still holding out hope of finding a big league opportunity elsewhere. The veteran first baseman, who was released yesterday from a minors deal with Cleveland, has struggled to generate interest at the MLB level all winter long after a middling 2017 season.
- Meanwhile, the Indians got a bit more clarity in their pitching plans with the decision to place Ryan Merritt on the DL to open the season, as Bastian reports. A combination of knee problems to open camp and a “tired arm” as it draws to a close have conspired to hold him back. The news also prevents the Cleveland organization from making a tough call on Merritt, an out-of-options hurler that the team would prefer not to expose to waivers.
- The Twins are likely to look for a right-handed hitter with some pop, Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes, as teams make their final Spring Training cuts and veteran players can opt out of minor league contracts. Robbie Grossman, Zack Granite, and Ryan LaMarre are competing for two of Minnesota’s remaining bench spots, though none of that trio has much power. The Minnesota organization was connected previously with Napoli, though after signing Logan Morrison as the primary DH it seems reasonable to anticipate that the club would prefer any new addition be capable of spending time in the outfield.
- In other news out of Minnesota, the Twins have renewed young center fielder Byron Buxton at a $570K rate, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press reports on Twitter. The 24-year-old entered the winter as a 2+ service-class player who was under consideration for an extension, but the sides have thus far failed to see eye to eye on both a near-term and long-term arrangement. From the outside, at least, it still seems possible that the Twins could strike a deal with a player who finally showed the output to match the hype in an outstanding second half of the 2017 season. Of course, his less-than-smooth transition to the majors could also create divergent opinions on value.
- Long-time Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer acknowledges that this could be his last campaign in Pittsburgh, as Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic writes (subscription link). He also says he’s content to allow the situation to “play out” as it will. As Biertempfel explains, the 31-year-old does not appear likely to be in the team’s long-term plans with a variety of interesting middle-infield prospects moving up the ranks behind him.