What should the Brewers do in the Winter Meetings?
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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 Houston 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 Dallas, Texas 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 Vince Morales of Miller Park Drunk stopped Photoshopping things next to Ryan Braun long enough to put on their GM caps and discuss 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: Last December, Brewers fans were treated to an assortment of great gifts. A December 6 trade with Toronto gave Milwaukee above-average starter and playoff whipping boy Shaun Marcum in exchange for noted Canadian douche Brett Lawrie. Not a fortnight later, the Crew marked another present off the list when the club obtained former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke from the Royals. Kansas City even threw in Yuniesky Betancourt, a less desirable item who proved useful at times—the roadside emergency kit of players. And if that haul of new toys obtained last offseason wasn’t already staggering enough for a traditionally frugal Brewers front office, the team brought on Takashi Saito, Nyjer Morgan, and (for some reason) Mark Kotsay in subsequent months.
One year later, the promise and excitement of last winter is replaced by loss and dread. The team is still great on paper, and looks to compete for a second straight division crown, but there are definitely more holes in the lineup now. The largest of those likely holes (both statistically and literally) comes in the shape of Prince Fielder. Early indications by Doug Melvin seem to suggest can’t-miss (excluding all those times he missed) prospect Mat Gamel could be the one tasked with filling Fielder’s corner of the infield. Given Gamel’s atrocious glovework at third base, his inexperience at first, and the fact that he’s only stepped to a Major League plate 194 times, I hope this doesn’t happen. Fortunately, Melvin is a liar. Unless Braun (who was quite Gamel-like in his time at third base) or Corey Hart is brought in to occupy the vacant spot in the infield, I expect Mr. Melvin to look elsewhere for first base help.
What do you think should/will happen at first base, Vince? What are some other holes Melvin needs to fill?
Vince Morales: Tyler, have you been smoking the drugs at one of the Occupy Milwaukee rallies or what? Mat Gamel is a hero! Mat Gamel is our savior! Mat Gamel is YOUR 2012 first-base person! Sure, he hasn’t looked good in his previous trips to the majors, and sure, he isn’t much of a “defender,” and, yeah, he only has one “T” in his name, but Gamel is going to be good! He should be about the same as the jabronis you mentioned, and a heck of a lot cheaper. Plus, who could forget his legendary Facebook profile pic? We are going to have a lot of good times with this guy as our first baseman. I just know it.
With apologies to Front Row Amy, there is only one hole that needs filling, and that’s the big, glaring one at shortstop. Betancourt—while great for punch lines and clubhouse eating contests—is simply not the right man for the job, and there might be a riot if he returns next season. The Brewers need to look into replacing him. Unfortunately, the free agent crop leaves a lot to be desired. Jimmy Rollins is old, Rafael Furcal’s back is made of paper mache, and Jamey Carroll is clearly just Craig Counsell in a disguise. Could the Brewers be looking to make a trade? I say we send Greinke to the Red Sox for Marco Scutaro and some hot, young pitching prospects. It’ll be fun and everyone will call us stupid for doing it, but it’s not like Zack’s going to re-sign in 2013 anyways. Plus, the odds of his head exploding during a game are a lot higher than you’d expect. What do you think, T?
TM: I hate to say it, but compared to the names, ages, and salaries of the shortstops you named, I’m beginning to think the Crew is best served keeping its pitching staff intact and, instead, re-upping Yunie B—assuming they can land the chubby-cheeked pop-up machine for well under his $5M 2011 price tag. Of course, Betancourt would need a worthwhile backup in case of injury and (more often) slump. The team is reportedly kicking the tires of Japanese import Hiroyuki Nakajima, but I hadn’t even heard of this dude until a couple minutes ago. So, keeping with the return theme, I’d love to see Jerry Hairston come back to Milwaukee. Reportedly, Milwaukee has already extended an offer. Ancient as he is, his ability to play second, third, short, and outfield would give the team extra space on the bench or a spot for another arm in the bullpen.
Oh yeah, bullpen. Aside from John Axford and Kameron Loe, Milwaukee doesn’t really have one of those anymore. K-Rod, Saito, and LaTroy Hawkins are all free agents. Of those, I’d love to see Saito brought back; Hawkins, too, for the right price (volunteering to play for free after fucking Milwaukee in 2010). Boring, I know, but the ’pen was great last season. Why not try to keep some pieces from it?
Real quick, before we eclipse the 50,000-word mark, any thoughts on relievers? And after news of now-Royal skipper Ned Yost winning Jonathan Broxton over by taking him hunting, do you have any idea for outings that Ron Roenicke could take prospective relief candidates on to sway them to sign the dotted line? Judging by his mishandling of Kotsay, I have to think Ron would just set free agents out of their comfort zone and leave them there to fail.
VM: The way I imagine Ron Roenicke impressing possible relief candidates is by taking them into the clubhouse and introducing them to the rest of the pitching staff. For most teams, this would be an ideal way to attract potential free agent signings, but for the Brewers, it’s a complete nightmare. Axford would keep saying, “Bro, where’s your mustache, bro?” over and over until the candidate walked away. Greinke wouldn’t talk to him, and Randy Wolf wouldn’t have time to talk because he’d be looking out the window waiting for George Kottaras to arrive. Worst of all, Shaun Marcum would be huddled in a corner, shaking and holding his arm (that now looks like Dumbledore’s in The Half Blood Prince). Nobody is signing with us if they can help it. Re-sign Saito, give Braddock another chance, and try to get a set-up man in the Greinke trade. These free agents want too much money anyways. Who do they think they are, teacher’s union employees? *ducks*