Winter Meetings 2009

Posted by Steve

The Winter Meetings are underway, which equals wonderful. Seems about time for a Winter Hot Stove cornucopia.

There is more news on the CC Sabathia front, or at least rumblings. Doug Melvin is meeting with CC’s agent today, and he will reportedly consider upping his offer. The figure being cited is six years/110 million. First of all, I don’t really see why 6/110 is better than 5/100. Secondly, I already thought five years was too much, so I would definitely not be pleased with a six year contract.

There is encouraging news, though. Multiple sources are also reporting the Brewers may consider adding an opt-out clause after two or three years, which would allow Sabathia the choice to either stay with his long-term deal with Milwaukee or become a free agent early (Alex Rodriguez last year and A.J. Burnett this year are examples of players opting out of contracts early).

This is pretty similar to what I suggested a few posts ago, which was offering fewer years but more money per year. It’s good for Sabathia because if he stays healthy, he’ll be a free agent again at the age of 30 or 31 in a better economy and at a time when California teams are not more focused on offense (Barry Zito’s albatross of a contract will also be ending at that time, which would make the San Francisco a more realistic destination).

It’s good for the Brewers because it lowers the risk. Despite having no serious injury history, injury should be a big concern of the Brewers. Sabathia has been worked a ton in the last two season, and that should be a red flag when considering a six-year deal. With an opt-out clause after two years, the Brewers only truly need Sabathia to stay healthy for two years. If he’s healthy at that time, he’ll almost surely opt out.

Meanwhile, we keep hearing reports of other teams being interested or even of making offers, but the only two confirmed offers to this point are the Brewers and Yankees.

The Brewers’ arbitration-eligible cases developed as I expected. Sabathia, Sheets and Shouse were all offered arbitration and Gagne was not. Each of the three pitchers offered arbitration declined, which means the Brewers will get five high draft picks if they lose all three players. Not bad at all.

While the Brewers’ cases went as expected, I was surprised by many others around the league. Adam Dunn, Pat Burrell, Kerry Wood and Trevor Hoffman were among arbitration-eligible players who were not given an offer. I would have interest in any of those players, particularly Dunn and Burrell. I’m pretty shocked by those two. They are truly elite hitters, and their teams didn’t want to “risk” one year deals in order to get draft compensation for them. The Dunn one is truly mind-boggling when you consider the terrible value Arizona got for him. They traded three players for 44 games of Adam Dunn and now won’t even get compensation picks for him. Their reasoning was they didn’t want to get stuck paying Dunn around $15 million if he accepted. Absurd! Any team should love to be “stuck” with Adam Dunn on a one-year contract. Even if Arizona truly couldn’t afford him, it’s not as if Adam Freaking Dunn wouldn’t have trade value.

Dunn or Burrell, despite their defensive deficiencies, would help the Brewers immensely. The Brewers’ team on-base percentage of .325 was probably their biggest weakness last season. Dunn’s career OBP is .381; Burrell’s career OBP is .367. Burrell would be an improvement, but Dunn is the best fit in my opinion. He’s left-handed, and based strictly on offense, is probably better than Burrell. I’m thinking a bit outside the box here, but rather than get Dunn or Burrell to play left field, I’d try to sign Dunn to play first base. That would allow the Brewers to trade Prince Fielder for pitching, a third baseman or whatever else without skipping a beat with first base production. Dunn has played most of his career in left, but he has played 117 games at first base. Frankly, I wouldn’t be too worried because nobody could really be worse defensively than Prince Fielder.

The Brewers recently signed Jorge Julio and Todd Coffey to one year deals each less than a million bucks. Coffey is probably below league average but happened to throw a handful of good innings for the Brewers last year. Julio has been up and down throughout his career. Obviously both are low-risk, so not much to worry about either way.

While I’m at it, I might as well leave you with a trade idea of my own: Mike Cameron to the Yankees for Nick Swisher. The Yankees are openly interested in trading for Mike Cameron to play center field for them next season. When it became apparent that the White Sox would trade Swisher, I was hoping the Brewers would make a push for him—it seemed like a good buy-low target—but then they sent him to New York.

Obviously the outfield defense would take a yuuuge hit without Cameron, but there is enough in Swisher’s favor to more than offset the loss of Cameron’s great defense. Swisher will be 28 this year and under contract through at least 2011 at a fairly reasonable price (about $23 mil remaining). Cameron will be 36 and will cost $10 mil this year, or twice as much as Swisher this season.

Swisher is coming off a disappointing year, but his version of a disappointing year ended with a .332 OBP, which was still higher than the Brewers’ team total. His OBP in 2007 was .381 and in 2006 it was .372, so 2008 could have very well been a fluke. Swisher is a switch hitter and can play all three outfield positions along with a very good first base. He’s an extremely patient hitter. Finally, and not that this should have any bearing on whether the Brewers acquire him, he rules pretty hard.

Swisher could play center in a pinch, but I would definitely support finding another center fielder if this were to happen. Obviously it wouldn’t be one as good as Cameron, but someone good enough to split time with Swisher and/or Hart in center. Perhaps expand the deal to include Melky Cabrera, who the Yankees were already dangling in a package for Cameron.

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2 responses to “Winter Meetings 2009

  1. Dirty 30 in Milwaukee!

  2. Pingback: A magic cornucopia « Brewers! Brewers! Keep Turnin’ Up the Heat!

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