Posted by Steve
A few months ago the main question the Brewers faced was: How do we replace Prince Fielder? Now, unfortunately, it seems the question is how to replace the replacement. Mat Gamel injured his knee on a frustratingly unimportant play last night in San Diego. The latest news is that he needs surgery, although there has not yet been any detail as far as what the injury is/what type of surgery he’ll need. Safe to say he’ll have a lengthy DL stint; the question at this point is whether he’ll be back at all this year.
So, what should the Brewers do? They have a number of options, but I’ll say right away that playing Travis Ishikawa at first base for the rest of the season should not be an option. His career OPS is .724, which is just not cutting it at first base. Even a platoon of Ishikawa and Brooks Conrad isn’t idea; Ishikawa has a career OPS of .740 against righties–still not cutting it. I’m still not sure why he’s on the team, to be honest.
If the Brewers want to go in house, they have two pretty decent options. The first is to move Aramis Ramirez to first base and call up Taylor Green to play third. While I’d love to see this, I’m almost sure the Brewers wouldn’t do it.
Another option, which seems more likely, is to move Corey Hart to first base, at least on a semi-regular basis. This does a few things. First, it keeps solid offense at the first base position. Secondly, it opens up some playing time for the glut of outfielders on the roster. Nori Aoki or Nyjer Morgan can play right when Hart plays first. While neither has the ideal arm for right field, the outstanding outfield range in center and right would make up for it.
This option seems more likely, simply because the Brewers already worked out Hart at first in spring. Although Hart is likely to be shaky defensively at first (not that Gamel was great himself), his height is an advantage there. It’s still likely that the Brewers’ defense would improve at both first and right, possibly enough to make up for the offensive drop-off.
There are other options as well. The Brewers would probably love to get George Kotarras’ bat into the lineup more often, so I wouldn’t at all mind seeing get occasional playing time at first base.
There are some free agents available. I have no real interest in Jorge Cantu, but Derek Lee is still available. I’m not thrilled at all with Lee, but it’s possible he could still be productive in a semi-platoon role.
My personal preference would be one of the first two suggestions. Since the Brewers aren’t going to move A-Ram to first, I prefer to see Hart there–at least more than Ishikawa/Conrad. I imagine this is what we’ll see pretty regularly. I don’t think they should explore signing someone like Lee unless Gamel is out for the year, and even then, it won’t be some magic solution.