How can the Brewers get better at the Winter Meetings?
The 2011 baseball season is still months away, but another season is already underway—free agency. For one brief period, every team has the same record (though Pittsburgh is somehow still in last place), and the upcoming season begins to take shape. With the Winter Meetings—the All-Star Game of the baseball transaction season—taking place in Lake Buena Vista, Florida this week, the Brewers could pull off a sizable trade, plant the seed of a significant free agent acquisition, or do absolutely nothing.
A.V. Club contributors and Brewers bloggers Tyler Maas and Miller Park Drunk Vince Morales stopped talking about the somewhat disappointing third season of Sons Of Anarchy to put on their GM caps and touch on Milwaukee’s off-season, the team’s biggest needs, and players they’d like to see donning the Brewers barley sprig in 2011.
Tyler Maas: Probably the most discussed topic heading into Winter Meetings is the uncertain fate of Prince Fielder. Entering the final year of his contract, it seems less a matter of if he departs than of when. Sure, there’s a slight chance Fielder re-signs, but with mid-market Milwaukee’s obvious lack of payroll and domes (only three!), it can almost be guaranteed that the hefty slugger will chase the money to New York, Los Angeles, or some other sexy and conservatory dome-rich locale when left to his own contractual devices next off-season.
Personally, I think the Crew should deal Fielder immediately for an upper-tier prospect and/or MLB-ready pitching, while stopgap first base replacements are still on the market, and every team (except the Royals, of course) views itself to be a contender. A trade this winter would also give a member of our crowded outfield (Hart, Gamel, Braun) time to learn to man first, if needed. What do you think should be done?
Vince Morales: With Christmas mere shopping days away, it’s hard for me not to notice the parallels between the potential trade of Fielder and our holiest of holidays. As a child I spent much of my time wondering exactly what Santa Claus would bring me—a Super Nintendo? A puppy? A puppy that plays Super Nintendo?—only to find myself inevitably disappointed by books, clothes, and Family Matters action figures. I feel like many Brewers fans are setting themselves up for the same disappointment if and when Prince is traded. Visions of top-level prospects and MLB-ready pitching may be dancing in our heads, but a player like Prince doesn’t seem to have the value he ought to—especially following the Year Of The Pitcher. And if the Marlins’ take for Dan Uggla is any indicator, it’s going to be a blue (balls) Christmas without Prince.
Of course, if Doug Melvin can get a fellow GM drunk enough at the Winter Meetings (that’s what they do there, right?) to trade some sexy, young pitching prospects for Prince Fielder, he should do it. Immediately. I’m just not counting on it.
The team really needs pitching. Trading Fielder is one way to get it. Another is signing a free agent, and there is one pitcher who is surely on every baseball fan’s wish list, a playoff-tested All-Star who could single-handedly transform the Brewers’ rotation. Tell me, Tyler, is there any chance the Brewers could sign Carl Pavano?
TM: Though Pavano had a definite bounce-back year with the Twins last season, I’d put the level of any such single-handed transformation he’d bring to Milwaukee’s rotation just behind that of former one-handed Brewers pitcher Jim Abbott, who went 2-8 with a 6.91 ERA for Milwaukee in 1999. Calloused remarks about people missing appendages aside, I think a player with the resume—albeit shaky—and present worth of Pavano is a tad out of Milwaukee’s reach, and smells faintly of Jeff Suppan (money, Wisconsinite tears, and sticky GOP pamphlets).
Instead, I think (trade failing, of course) the Brewers brass will try and find next season’s Carl Pavano—an affordable, high-ceiling option to offer a one-year deal brimming with incentives and performance bonuses. As Pavano, Cliff Lee, Andy Pettitte, and even mid-level hurlers like Jon Garland, Erik Bedard, and former Brewer Jorge De La Rosa ink deals elsewhere, I’d expect an arm more along the lines of Colorado’s Jeff Francis (to satiate Doug Melvin’s Canada boner), Padres pitcher Kevin Correia (who’d been repeatedly connected to Milwaukee in trade rumors in the past), Wisconsin’s own Jarrod Washburn, or a return of Chris Capuano to round out the rotation. I’d personally like to see Correia, and not just for the pun possibilities.
But the starting rotation isn’t the only organizational hole. It seems like the bench needs to be filled in, too. This Menasha High graduate recently had his dreams dashed when fellow MHS alumnus Eric Hinske re-signed with the Braves. To be honest, I’m still inconsolable about the whole thing.
You take this one, Morales. I can’t even bear to think about the bench at a time like this. What do you think should be done there?
VM: Though your Hinske dream, again, didn’t come true, another marginal big-leaguer with Wisconsin ties, Craig Counsell, is likely to re-sign. Frankly, I think the higher-ups should do whatever it takes to fill out the rest of the bench with other Wisconsin-bred players. Why bother with players with the upside of Chris Dickerson and Carlos Gomez when we can get a nice young man from Hayward? Who needs Joe Inglett when there’s a second baseman in Koshkonong just waiting for his chance at the big time? I think Damian Miller is available.
Short of Team Badger State becoming a reality, I think the bench is pretty well set, and whether he deserves it or not (he doesn’t), Carlos Gomez looks poised for another shot starting in center field in 2011. He’s fast, you know, and our new manager likes to run. That has to count for something. How big of a difference do you see Ron Roenicke making over Ken Macha—50, 60 wins?
TM: If this were one of my Talkin’ Baseball columns, here would be the part where I’d work in potshots about Macha being some sort of creaky, wooden, robotic stepfather mishmash, whose spineless frame is held together solely by the gum he incessantly chomps. And this column is no different. There’s at least one reason Roenicke is an upgrade from the Weekend At Bernie’s-like regime that was Ken Macha’s two-year Brewers stint: He has a pulse. What little else I know of the rookie skipper, I like. He seems to usher in a fiery managerial mentality that’s sure to resonate with a young Brewers team. Maybe he’ll even yell at reporters during the postgame presser. Oh, God, how I miss that. Plus, dude’s ear lobes are huge. That’ll play well here.
New skipper and low position-turnover rate aside, the Brewers enter the off-season with numerous questions and almost as many needs left to address between now and the first Rickie Weeks injury of spring training. Who knows what groundwork will be laid during this week’s meetings? Maybe a high profile trade will go down. Possibly a key signing will take place. The game’s next star could even find his way onto Milwaukee’s roster this week. We can hope, right?