Tag Archives: Rafael Furcal

Winter Meetings Preview (Just Say No to A-Ram)

Posted by Steve

It’s once again time for the greatest event of the greatest off-season in sports: Baseball’s Winter Meetings.

The Brewers should have one big thing atop their wish list: a shortstop. I’d love to see them come away with a substantial upgrade over Yuni Betancourt (any upgrade wouldn’t be hard, but I’m holding out hope for a big one). I’ve been over many of the options already, but I’ll reiterate that of the remaining free agents, I’d say Rafael Furcal would be the best fit considering he’ll make less than Jimmy Rollins. It sounds like the Marlins landed Jose Reyes for six years tonight, so the Brewers missed out/dodged a bullet, depending on your perspective.

I am concerned, though. I don’t think the Brewers have shortstop atop their wishlist at the moment. There are multiple reports that the Brewers are very interested in Aramis Ramirez, the Brewer killer himself, and the person who made me swear I wouldn’t go back to Wrigley for a few years.

I’m expecting the Brewers to sign Ramirez, and I’m really not happy about it. I’m expecting it because Ramirez lives in Chicago and seemingly wants to stay there–he vetoed trades at the end of last season so his family could stay. He could easily live around Chicago if he played in Milwaukee, which is surely why he’s interested in playing for the Brewers..

I’m not happy about it, because I’m not convinced it’s even close to the best use of the money they’ll end up giving him. I’m guessing Ramirez is likely to get about 10 mil a year. I’d much, much rather have Taylor Green at 400k, for a number of reasons.

Even besides the money, Ramirez is 34. His defense has been decidedly below average for a few years now, and it’s definitely not going to get better as he moves through his 30s. Plus, he’s been somewhat injury prone.

I can admit that his bat is still solid, and he’s likely to be an offensive upgrade (certainly to McGehee, and likely to Green, next year anyway), but that’s not worth the hefty price tag. I’d much, much rather pay Rafael Furcal, turn over third to Green, first to Gamel, and go from there.

I could maybe stomach a two-year contract for Ramirez, but anything more than two and I’ll absolutely hate it. It would point to the Brewers A) once again refusing to go with promising, cheap young players, B) once again disregarding defense, and C) once again giving multi-year free agent deals to an aging player. You’d think they’d have learned from this by now. Also, something longer than two years would make it much more difficult to extend Zack Greinke.

I’ve been over why the Brewers are on a much more limited budget than people realize. Spending their limited resources on a defensively poor third baseman whose best years are behind him is not a smart allocation of those resources.

Just say NO to A-Ram (or any free agent third baseman) and YES to Taylor Green. Do it Doug. Do it.

The off-season plan: Replacing the value of Prince Fielder

Posted by Steve

The requisite amount of time has passed; I am now ready to discuss the off-season and next year. In fact,  I actually sat down to write this post a few different times, but it’s lengthy, and I’m just finally getting around to it.

When I first started to write this post, the Brewers were being linked to Jose Reyes pretty heavily, so I had this titled, “The Case Against Jose Reyes.” Thankfully, that chatter has died down in recent days.

In short, Reyes would be a bad idea for the Brewers. Before we even get into salary, locking up Reyes long term is a huge risk. He has had fairly serious durability issues: his games played in each of the last three years are 126, 133, and 36. The Brewers’ biggest problem by far this season was infield defense, yet for all the money Reyes is going to command, Fangraphs has him below average defensively each of the last three seasons.

That’s before you even get into salary. Even if having Reyes long term was a good idea, the Brewers can’t afford him. It would also close the book on a Zack Greinke extension, which I think should be priority number 1 this off-season if at all possible.

I keep reading/hearing that the Brewers have all this money to spend–even national writers are mentioning it. People seem to be assuming the $15.5 million that Fielder got last year will be free to be spent on new players, but that simply isn’t the case.

A number of players, like Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, and Yovani Gallardo are due raises, and others are entering arbitration for the first time. The Brewers’ payroll last season was $85 million. MLB Trade Rumors has a good breakdown of the Brewers’ salary situation. In short, it says the Brewers have $58.58 million locked in for players next year; all that money is guaranteed. After that, a handful of players are arbitration eligible. The following are arbitration-eligible players with MLBTR’s arbitration guess in parentheses:

Casey McGehee ($3.1 mil, first year arby)
Nyjer Morgan ($1.9 mil, first year arby)
Carlos Gomez ($1.8 mil, third year arby)
Shaun Marcum ($6.8 mil, third year arby)
Kameron Loe ($2.8 mil, second year arby)

Arbitration Total: $16.4 mil

Other arbitration-eligible players: George Kottaras, Manny Parra, Josh Wilson, and Mitch Stetter.

Of course those are just estimates, but they at least give us something to work with. Total, that puts the Brewers at about $75 million, meaning they have only $10 million until they reach last year’s payroll. When you consider that they will need to add at least two relievers (KROD, Saito, Hawkins are all gone), two backup middle infielders, and a starting shortstop, first baseman, and third baseman, you realize it’s pretty dire.

So much for Prince Fielder’s money.

Getting Creative

So, what can be done?

In honor of the Moneyball movie, we can look at this the exact way the A’s looked at replacing Jason Giambi. The Brewers don’t need to replace Prince Fielder at first base. They need to replace his value over the entire team. This can be done with three or four players.

According to Fangraphs, Prince Fielder was worth 5.5 wins above replacement last season. That means that to adequately replace Fielder’s production, they need to find 5.5 wins–and they need to do it fairly cheaply.

My Plan

Not that I expect people to fully care what my plan would be, but this is my blog, so I might as well create one anyway.

First of all, I need to clear some of that non-guaranteed salary. That means the non-tender hammer is coming down. Kottaras, Parra, Wilson, and Stetter will probably need to be non-tendered. I like Kottaras, but business is business, and he’s no longer a cheap commodity. If he’s open to coming back and a lower price, great–otherwise the Brewers have a fine defensive catcher Martin Maldonado who could get his shot as the backup.

Even after this, that still doesn’t cut into that $16.4 million. Going to have to shed some more.

There’s no better place to start than with Casey McGehee and that appalling projected salary of $3.1 million. There’s no way he should be brought back after last season, especially now that his cheap years are over with. Turning third base over to Taylor Green will not only save money, but it will improve production from 2011.

Kameron Loe is effective if he’s used correctly, but $2.8 mil is a bit high. I’d non-tender him while leaving open the possibility of bringing him back at a lower rate.

There. That cuts off an additional $5.9 million in salary, dropping the payroll to about $69 million. That leaves us $16 million shy of last year’s payroll. I’m going out on a limb and guessing that with the additional revenue from the playoff run and raised ticket prices next year, payroll will jump to about $90 million next season. If that’s the case, that means we have $21 million to fill shortstop, third base, first base, backup catcher, two backup infielders, and about four relievers. Yikes.

When you need to fill that many spots on a limited budget, you’re going to need a lot of league minimum players. That means Mat Gamel is your first baseman pretty much by default. If there’s one thing I want to know after the 2012 season, it is what the Brewers have in Mat Gamel and Taylor Green. Give these guys a full season to show what they’ve got. They’re cheap, and if they produce it will bring real value for years.

So how many wins will Gamel bring? That’s obviously tough to say. Bill James projects Gamel for an .818 OPS and a wOBA of .357. Looking at first basemen in 2011, that wOBA would put Gamel in the territory of Carlos Pena/Ryan Howard/Michael Cuddyer. It would certainly be hard to be disappointed with that. Those players checked in around 1.6 to 3.1 wins. Howard was 1.6, because his defense is so bad (how’s that contract looking, Philly?). It’s probably fair to assume Gamel will be a bit below average defensively, so I’ll give him 2 wins above replacement next season.

2 down, 3.5 wins to go to reach that magic number of 5.5.

Let’s look at third base. Like Gamel at first, the solution here needs to be Green out of necessity. He’s shown promise in the minors, and he’s cheap. That’s plenty for me. Green is even more difficult to project, because for whatever reason, James has no projection for him. He shredded AAA to the tune of .336/.413/.583 last season, albeit in a hitter friendly PCL. There’s a stat called Major League Equivalency, which attempts to project a minor league performance across a Major League level. Green’s last year was .291/.357/.476. Considering I’d be thrilled with a full season at that level, I’d be happy to drop that projection to .275/.345/.450. Players with similar offensive production tended to have WARs around 2, depending on their defense. I’ll give Green a WAR of 2 as well, with the grain of salt that this is nothing more than an attempt at an educated guess.

While we could just add Gamel’s WAR to the 0 left by a vacant first base position, we have to subtract last year’s third base WAR. Luckily, Casey McGehee was so bad that anyone else will result in an upgrade, and that’s no exception with Green. McGehee mustered only a 0.3 WAR last year, giving Green an edge by 1.7 wins.

Adding Gamel and Green, we’re now already up to 3.7 wins of the magic number of 5.5. And we wouldn’t even need to spend a million bucks between the two players to get those 3.7 wins. You can see the immense value of pre-arbitration players.

So where are we going to make up that final 1.8? At shortstop, mostly.

This is where it gets trickier. There is no cheap option in the minors that is Major League ready like at first and third. You’ll have to spend some money here. Yuni Betancourt managed just a 0.5 WAR, so fortunately, there is plenty of room for improvement.

My first choice for shortstop is already off the market: Clint Barmes. I love Barmes’ defense, and watching him at short would have been infinitely more enjoyable than watching Betancourt “defend.” I was bummed when I heard about him going to Pittsburgh.

Free agents who would provide the biggest upgrade, like Jimmy Rollins and Jose Reyes, are too expensive and too risky. The only other free agent that could be a fit is Rafael Furcal, but even he will be risky and more expensive than Barmes, who got 2 years/$10.5 million.

It’s entirely possible the next shortstop could come via trade; in fact, I’d argue that a trade is starting to look like the best route. Trade candidates include Marco Scutaro/Jed Lowrie, Jason Bartlett, Brendan Ryan or Ian Desmond. All those players will cost a few million except Desmond, and none would take a blue chip package to acquire. Fallback options could include free agents Alex Gonzalez, Edgar Renteria or Ronny Cedeno. All three will be cheap and were more valuable than Betancourt last year by about one win.

I’m going to say that Jed Lowrie will be the easiest to acquire, though I’d be even happier with Marco Scutaro. Boston will probably trade one of the two, especially with hotshot prospect Jose Iglesia nearing the big leagues. Lowrie is projected to hit .271/.348/.437 next year by Bill James, which is miles ahead of Yuni. He’s also a better defender. He was hurt last season, and that is definitely a question mark with him, but he should be a safe bet to put up at least a 1.5-2 WAR, and possibly higher.

If that doesn’t make up the final 1.8 needed to effectively replace Prince Fielder, it comes pretty darn close. This plan also leaves over $15 million to fill out the team. Jerry Hairston Jr. should be brought back for a few million, and his value as the top utility infielder over Craig Counsell last year would provide a significant upgrade as well. I’d like to bring back Takashi Saito at a salary similar to last year (around $2 mil after incentives). You’ll likely see someone like Michael Fiers, Brandon Kintzler or Mike McClendon in the bullpen, as they’re cheap as well. I’d like to add a right-handed hitter who for a bench or platoon spot, and a left-handed reliever would be nice next year as well.

So, there you have it. It certainly isn’t flashy, but it’s cost-effective, and it greatly improves team defense from 2011. If the Brewers managed to pull of these moves (easier said that done, of course), I’d feel good again about their chances in 2012.

Trade deadline flop

Posted by Steve

I’ve taken a little heat for being so negative considering the Brewers are winning, but it’s only because of the situation. They made some bold moves to win this season, which means they should absolutely be doing all that they can to make the team as good as possible. They have not–hence my criticism.

It’s great that they’ve won six in a row. Even though they were against terrible teams, you still can’t expect two sweeps in a row. So, yes, it’s great. Problem is, they aren’t going to be playing the Cubs or Astros tomorrow anymore.

I’ve been over and over the deficiencies of third base and shortstop all year, so there’s no need to harp on that anymore except to say this team had huge holes to fill there. And Doug Melvin’s answer was… Jerry Hairston Jr. And nobody else.

You can’t count Felipe Lopez, because he’s not an upgrade. He’s an emergency fill-in for Rickie Weeks, so he very likely wouldn’t have even been acquired had Weeks not gone down. So they only thing they’ve added to the team from a week ago has ben… Jerry Hairston Jr.

Don’t get me wrong. Hairston is a nice upgrade to their bench. He can play several positions at a level ranging from somewhat above to somewhat below average, which means he’s an upgrade from most of the defenders on this team. But what he is not is a full-time shortstop, something the Brewers need desperately.

The entire Yuniesky Betancourt debacle, which includes the decisions to A. Not cut him immediately after the Greinke trade in December, B. Enter the season with him as the starter with no other real option, and C. Still do nothing about it after he’s killed the team for four months, is the worst decision of the Doug Melvin Era in Milwaukee.

It’s even worse when you compare it to what the Cardinals, their chief competition for the division, pulled off. Trading Colby Rasmus was a dumb move for their franchise, but it did make them a better team right now. Edwin Jackson is a big improvement to what they previously had in their rotation. Then, the salt in the wound came today when they acquired Rafael Furcal, a name associated with the Brewers for a few weeks.

Looking at shortstop WAR, Betancourt is the worst in the Majors at -0.4. Second-worst on that list? Ryan Theriot of the Cardinals, at 0.1. The Cardinals realized they had a bad shortstop and upgraded the position. The Brewers did not. Right now, that’s the main difference.

A week ago, I’d have picked the Brewers to win the division. Now, I’m not so sure. Amazingly, they’re a weaker team after the trade deadline than they were a week before it. It’s likely to be close the rest of the way, and the Cards still look pretty shaky in their bullpen, but the fact is the Brewers didn’t do as much as they could have to improve. It’s very frustrating.

At this point, if the Brewers miss the playoffs, Melvin has nowhere to look but himself. He mortgaged the future (a move I agreed with), and he’s the one who left Betancourt and McGehee alone to suck all season. I doubt he survives if those decisions end up costing them a playoff spot.

Infield Emergency

Posted by Steve

I was at the game Wednesday night, so I saw Rickie Weeks’ injury live. I couldn’t even get excited about the game or the win after seeing that. Then I went to a friend’s, where MLB Network was on in the background. They showed the injury. Then they showed it again. Then they showed in from a different, zoomed-in angle. Then, they took to their in-studio diamond where Larry Bowa was apparently showing the right way to step on a base or something. In other words, it was inescapable, and it kept reminding me how doomed the Brewers might be.

Unless something significant happens, that injury may spell the end of the Brewers’ season. The need for infield depth just became an emergency.

The Brewers quickly added Felipe Lopez today in a cash trade, who has the potential to be a decent fill-in. They still need more, though–much more. Eric Farris sure won’t be the answer. More on this after my rant.


What on God’s Green Earth does Taylor Green have to do to get called up? At the time of Farris’ call-up, Green had an .957 OPS. Farris’ was .665. What in tarnation?!

There are a few explanations for this, and they’re all dumb. The first is a nightmare scenario: that Green is on the PTBNL list for the K-Rod trade. If that’s the case, I go from liking the deal to hating it. Bullpen help was a ways down the list of the Brewers’ biggest needs, so if they gave up someone who could have helped more than K-Rod this year (and the next six!), I’ll be furious.

Another scenario is that the Brewers dont’ see Green as a second baseman, which Ron Roenicke said today. To that I say: NOW they’re worried about infield defense? They already have the worst infield defense in baseball. Weeks is not a great defender, so even though Green’s natural position is third, it’s worth it to get his bat in the lineup. The offense is a serious concern moving forward without Weeks.

The final scenario is that Green is not on the 40-man roster, so they called up Farris, who was. Again, who cares? Green will be on the 40-man soon enough anyway. He’s their best option at third in the entire organization for the last few months, yet they’re worried about finding a spot on the 40-man. Unreal.

By the way, in case you were wondering how Green responded to once again being snubbed out of a call-up, he had two homers, two walks, a single and a double in last night’s game. It is beyond absurd that he isn’t in Milwaukee at this point.


Anywho. Lopez is likely the best option of the ugly, four-headed monster of Craig Counsell/Josh Wilson/Felipe Lopez/Eric Farris, so I’d just as soon give him the majority of starts at second base. But he won’t be nearly enough. They absolutely need one more middle infielder, and really could use two.

They still need a full-time shortstop, and I’m still holding out hope on someone like Clint Barmes, Brendan Ryan, Rafael Furcal, etc. Then, after that, they need a utility infielder who can back up at least 2B/3B, and preferably a SS/2B/3B backup. Barmes and Carroll is ideal, though that will be tough to do and is unlikely.

All I know is the Brewers’ infield needs to look drastically different on Monday than it does right now if I’m going to feel good about their chances to make the playoffs. If I had my druthers (+1), Betancourt, Farris, and one of Wilson/Counsell would be gone by next week.

Doug Melvin will do something, but I’m expecting to be underwhelmed. He’s in a very tough position, but everything he’s said and done to this point in his acceptance of Betancourt and McGehee tells me that he doesn’t see the situation as nearly as dire as it truly is.

Trade deadline: Shortstop targets

Posted by Steve

The deadline is quickly approaching, and the one position the Brewers need to upgrade through trade is shortstop. Virtually anyone will be an upgrade over Yuniesky Betancourt, but who is the right balance of talented and available?

Jason Bartlett

Bartlett was a great player just a few years ago, which likely inflates his price. He’s having a poor season overall, although he’s turned it on offensively the last couple weeks. Fangraphs is even down on his defense the last few years, which had been a big strength for him in years past. For the money he’s making ($5.5 million each of the next two years), I’ll pass on Bartlett.

Rafael Furcal

Furcal has been a huge injury risk in recent years, but until this year, he’s been a good player when healthy. Not this year, though. In just 122 ABs, he has a .469 OPS. He’s 33 years old and no guarantee to stay healthy. In fact, you could call him a long shot to stay healthy. He also had a $12 million salary this year. For all these reasons, I prefer other options to Furcal.

Jamey Carroll

This seems to be the most likely player for the Brewers, as multiple rumors have the Brewers interested in him. He’s got a nice eye at the plate, with an OBP of .356. What a massive upgrade that’d be from Betancourt’s .272. Thing is, there are problems with Carroll, namely in his age. He’s 37, which means he really shouldn’t be a full time player. Likely because of his age, fangraphs has him as a fairly poor defender at short. Certainly nowhere near as bad as Yuni, but not good. I would not be comfortable with him as an everyday shortstop. I’d welcome him as a utility infielder, but would hope they’d acquire more of an everyday shortstop. He can replace Counsell or Wilson; let someone better replace Betancourt.

Ian Desmond

Now here’s an interesting option. Desmond was a pretty good prospect a few years ago. He’s now 25 years old and hasn’t hit a lick in the majors. He is unlikely to be an offensive improvement from Betancourt this season, which is why he may not be the best target. He is, however, a good defender, which means he’s still a fairly significant upgrade. Add in the fact that he’s only 25 and has a ceiling left, and the fact that he has several years of team control, and he becomes more appealing. Of course, that means he’s still likely to come with a high price tag. Still, his name is coming up in rumors because of a shortstop prospect in the Nats system who’s hitting. He’s worth looking in to.

Still, what makes a player an attractive candidate, like I said, is the right balance of talent and availability. The guys I have mentioned are lacking a bit in one area or another. That brings us to these next two, who seem to have the right balance, and are therefore my preferred targets.

Clint Barmes/Brendan Ryan

Both of these guys are unexciting. They’re also cheap, solid defenders, and playing on bad teams who will be looking to sell.

Barmes is a plus defender according to fangraphs, and he has been for years. He has a .323 OBP, which is a massive 51-point increase over Betancourt. He’s still young enough to play every day at 32, makes just under $4 million this season, and is a free agent after the year. For that reason, the Astros shouldn’t have any qualms about parting with him.

Ryan is a very similar case. He’s somewhere in the good to elite defensive category at short. He carries a .324 OBP, which again is not great, but not terrible for a shortstop–and definitely much better than Betancourt. Ryan makes $1.75 mil this year, so his contract is no issue. He’s arbitration eligible as well, so it would make sense for the Brewers to keep him unless they find something else in the offseason.

Neither guy is a world beater until you compare them to Betancourt. Both players have been worth over two wins more than Yuni so far this season, which is a huge amount. Neither would be expensive in terms of money or prospects.

My ideal deadline would be one of Barmes/Ryan and then Jamey Carroll for a utility infielder. This would not break the bank, yet would help the defense and offense.

Then, just call up Taylor Green and you’re ready for the stretch run.