Tag Archives: Dan Haren

Winter Meetings Preview

Posted by Steve

First things first. I am still alive, and I still like baseball. I thought that might need to be said, given the huge time lapse since my last post.
It’s no excuse, but I have in fact been pretty busy. I had been meaning to post after the Brewers were officially eliminated, and again when the Cardinals lost (at least we have that). I have also been meaning to post off-season stuff. This is perhaps my favorite time to write about the Brewers, and I have no one to blame but myself for missing out on it.

Still, I can get this one in before the Winter Meetings really get underway. This year they’re in Nashville, at the Grand Opryland Hotel. The last time the meetings took place there, I was in attendance. Seems like forever ago, but fun memories nonetheless. I look forward to all the tweets and articles about how massive and over-the-top that place is (edit: This one from two minutes ago from Jay Jaffe).

Anywho. Let’s get to it, shall we? There’s plenty to talk about, especially since I haven’t posted in so long. Let’s look at each area and figure out where the Brewers should be looking to improve for next season. Before we do, let’s keep something in mind: The Brewers’ payroll is going to drop this year, possibly considerably. That means no top-tier free agents.

Starting Rotation
A year ago we were discussing how the Brewers would return all five starters to the rotation from the year before, a rarity in baseball. This year is almost as rare on the opposite end of the spectrum: Most likely the only starter returning from the Opening Day 2012 rotation is Yovani Gallardo. Greinke, Marcum and Wolf will all be with other teams (or maybe retired, in Wolf’s case?). Narveson I suppose could be back, but I highly doubt the Brewers currently view him as a lock for the starting rotation in April.

After Gallardo, there are plenty of names in the mix. Narveson, Marco Estrada, Wily Peralta, Mark Rogers, Mike Fiers, Tyler Thornburg, and maybe even Taylor Jungmann, Hiram Burgos, Johnny Hellweg, or Ariel Pena.

That’s a pretty nice collection of young arms, certainly better than the Brewers have had in a handful of years. But does that mean they should be satisfied going with Yo and then four of those guys who stick after being thrown against the wall?

Not if they want to contend. They need to add one established, 2/3 type starting pitcher. The Brewers have made big trades to acquire pitchers in the past with pretty solid luck, and they have made free agent signings with less luck (Wolf was solid enough until his last season). Still, I am taking a bit of an unusual stance here, considering I normally want to stay away from big free agent deals. I would rather the Brewers sign a free agent than trade for one, mainly because I don’t want them to keep dipping into the farm system. There are actually plenty of solid starters available this season.

Zack Greinke is the main prize, but that ship has long sailed. The Dodgers seem prepared to offer him eleventy billion dollars. Anibal Sanchez is probably number two, but I imagine he’ll be priced out of the Brewers’ range as well. The Brewers have been mentioned as potential suitors for Kyle Lohse (STAY AWAY) and Ryan Dempster. Given Dempster’s age, I’d only be open to it if it’s a two-year deal at most, and even then, I wouldn’t be thrilled. Here are some other starters I’d like to see them pursue:

Dan Haren
He’s long been one of my favorite pitchers. While his strikeout rate has declined each of the last four seasons, one thing has kept him as an above average starter: His crazy low walk totals. Last year was his worst season in years, but he still had an xFIP of 4.00 because of his great command.

The question with Haren is health. His velocity has come down, he’s into his 30s, and both the Angels and Cubs have balked at bringing him in for what is essentially a one-year, $12 million deal. He seems like a good bounceback target, but I also sort of expect him to stay near the West Coast.

Brandon McCarthy
Here’s another one of my favorites, half for his solid pitching/low walk totals, half for his awesome sense of humor, twitter account and taste in television shows. He sounds like he’s a full go to return from the scary line drive he took off his head. I would have no qualms about giving him a two-year deal. He was good last season and phenomenal in 2011. Given Haren’s health question marks, I actually think I’d rank McCarthy at the top of my wishlist for starting pitchers attainable for the Brewers.

Edwin Jackson
A very different pitcher than Haren or McCarthy, Jackson doesn’t have the tiny walk rate (although it’s much better than earlier in his career). What makes him a solid option is his solid K and home run rates along with his durability: He’s thrown over 183 innings each of the last five years. He’s never gotten a multi-year deal, but he’s an above average starting pitcher who I would be fine giving a two-year deal.

Joe Blanton
A very unexciting option, but he would provide stability. He is a durable pitcher with a nice low walk rate, although he doesn’t get many whiffs at all. He likely shouldn’t be too expensive, and might only warrant a one-year deal.

Joe Saunders
We’re getting progressively less exciting, as Saunders is more or less a left-handed Blanton, maybe a bit worse. But again, he’s a durable pitcher who won’t break the bank.

And finally, two familiar faces.

Shaun Marcum
Yes, his health is a question mark, but there’s little doubt that when he’s healthy, he’s a good pitcher. Last year his walks were up, which brought him back to around league average, but he would be a good option that could possibly be had on just a one-year deal.

Carlos Villanueva
The numbers weren’t great last year, but xFIP liked him. He’d be a decent bet to give league average numbers. Certainly not exciting, but also not expensive in the least.

Other Options: Kevin Correia, Kevin Millwood, Erick Bedard.

I’d be surprised if the Brewers didn’t land one of those starting pitchers listed above. In terms of likelihood, I’d rank them: Dempster, Marcum, Blanton, Lohse (ugh), McCarthy, Saunders.

BullpenThis is obviously a glaring need after last season. The transformation is already underway. Jose Veras, Manny Parra and Kameron Loe are already gone. The only guys who should feel safe at this point are John Axford and probably Jim Henderson. The Brewers just picked up groundballing specialist Burke Badenhop in a trade a couple days ago, who is a decent option at an affordable price.

They need to get at least one solid LOOGY, and they’ve been rumored to be in contact with Randy Choate, Sean Burnett, Mike Gonzalez and Tom Gorzelanny. Any of those would fit.
My preference on relievers is the same: short-term deals, absolutely no more than two years unless it’s someone who’s very good. Other names who interest me: Mike Adams, Jason Grilli, Koji Uehara, Kyle Farnsworth, Chad Durbin, and LaTroy Hawkins. Most of these guys could be had for one-year deals. They can fill in the rest of the spots with the Brandon Kintzlers and Mike McClendons of the world, along with a couple of the young pitchers who don’t make the rotation.

Honestly, the Brewers are set here. Nyjer Morgan is gone, but with Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, Corey Hart, Nori Aoki, Logan Schaefer and depending on what they do with him, Mat Gamel, the Brewers are just fine. They had a very productive outfield last year, and it’s the one area they don’t need to spend much time on this off-season.

So then why do we keep hearing about Josh Hamilton?
It makes zero sense. The Brewers have talked about wanting to keep their payroll down, and about not wanting long-term free agent contracts. They also don’t have a need anywhere in the outfield. How does Josh Hamilton fit anywhere into that? Yet, we keep hearing that the Brewers are interested. Even today there’s rumblings about it from Ken Rosenthal.

Signing Josh Hamilton to a large deal does not even accomplish much. They have a much bigger need in the rotation, and then they’d have to trade Corey Hart more than likely. So then you’ve pretty much just gone in circles.

I just want Hamilton to sign somewhere so I don’t have to keep hearing rumors about him with the Brewers.

The starting positions are set, assuming Corey Hart stays at first base. If they don’t, I suppose Mat Gamel would be the other option (if he doesn’t get traded). The one need they have right now is a backup at middle infield. I refuse to be forced to watch several hundred Cody Ransom/Cesar Izturis/Edwin Maysonet plate appearances this season. With Jean Segura being so young, and with Rickie Weeks’ durability issues the last few seasons, a backup SS/2B is a big need.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much there. Unless someone like Alex Gonzalez or Marco Scutaro is willing to sign as a backup, the best MI options would be Ronny Cedeno, Jason Bartlett, or… ? This might have to come through a trade. It could be a difficult spot to fill.

Final WishlistSo, this off-season, my wishlist for the Brewers includes: One starting pitcher, two more relievers, and a solid middle infielder. That’s doable, right?

Hart signs extension

Posted by Steve

The Brewers made an interesting move for sure, as they signed Corey Hart to a three year deal reportedly worth $26.5 million. Headlines are calling it a three-year extension, but really it’s a three year deal and only a two year extension. Hart was under contract next season, and the deal includes next year, so it buys out two years of free agency.

This is a calculated risk. I love the fact that it’s only two more years. I was terrified it would be like a five year contract or something. Short term contracts are generally the way to go, as it minimizes risk. If Hart reverts to his 2008/2009 self, it would hurt–but it won’t be a franchise crippler the way Jeff Suppan’s contract was.

This is an interesting twist after the last few weeks of trade rumors surrounding Hart. The Brewers were strangely silent at the deadline. On one hand, it’s frustrating, but on the other, at least the didn’t make a trade just to make a trade, a la the Diamondbacks with Dan Haren. That deal was widely and almost unanimously panned as soon as it occurred. Do yourself a quick favor and check out GM Jerry DiPoto’s comments on the deal. An MLB GM using not only wins to justify a move, but minor league wins? I continue to be astounded by some of the people put in charge of teams.

So, yeah. If the Brewers weren’t going to get what they wanted for Hart, this is probably the best alternative. It would have been tough to replace both Fielder and Hart after 2011, and now they don’t have to. I don’t love it, because in essence the Brewers are buying fairly high on on of their own players. The writing is on the wall with Fielder, though; he’s as good as gone in the off-season. It sounds like the Brewers are interested in re-signing Rickie Weeks as well. Finally, they are sounding like they’ll move Mat Gamel around and try Brett Lawrie at third.

The question is who will replace Fielder at first? I’m not sure Gamel will hit enough to play there. Same goes for McGehee, who is a terrible defender at third. His days here should be numbered. Hart was a 1B in the minors, but that’s quite a long time ago now.

What I’d like to see will probably not happen, but I’ll throw it out there anyway: give Gamel a longer leash at third and move Ryan Braun to first. Braun was awful at third base, so they moved him to an easier position. Now, he’s still awful in left field. There’s only one easier position left, but they should give it a try. They need to do something to improve team defense. Replacing McGehee at third, Fielder at first, and Braun in left would go a long way towards accomplishing that.

Might as well talk about Roy Halladay

Posted by Steve

I don’t feel like saying much about yesterday’s game, except that if Seth McClung is still on the roster in a month I’ll be convinced that the Brewers aren’t interested in contending this year.  Instead, let’s go for something more exciting.

The trade deadline is suddenly just a couple weeks away, and talks of where Mega-Ace Roy Halladay might end up is the hot issue in baseball.  The Brewers are one of a handful of teams who have confirmed interest in Halladay.

This is interesting, because it conflicts with the reports a couple weeks ago that Doug Melvin considers Alcides Escobar and Mat Gamel untouchable.  If that’s the case, the Brewers don’t have a shot at Halladay–any trade talks for Halladay will start with at least one of them.

This must mean that the Brewers are at least entertaining the idea of moving one or even both of their top two prospects.  Melvin changed his tune just a bit the other day, instead saying that they are “as close to untouchable as you can get.”  That implies that there could be exceptions to that rule.  That’s a good thing, because Halladay definitely qualifies as an exception.

When it was first revealed a few weeks ago that the Blue Jays would entertain offers for Halladay, I didn’t expect the Brewers to be involved.  The asking price is unquestionably sky high, and I assumed the Brewers wouldn’t be willing to meet it.

Naturally, the topic of Halladay came up a lot at work, and the more I talked about it, the more I started to come around to the idea of meeting that price.

There are definitely good reasons to keep their top guys.  Gamel should be the full time third baseman by next season, and despite his unimpressive numbers so far, I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen from him both offensively and defensively.  Escobar would likely be the shortstop by 2011 at the latest, and possibly by next season if the team decides to move J.J. Hardy before then.  That’s two players who profile as above average starters who’d be under team control for six years each.  Obviously, that’s a very valuable asset.

There are also very good reasons for giving up a lot for Halladay, though.  We saw firsthand how much acquiring an ace can tip the scales in a playoff race.  Halladay is actually a better pitcher than CC Sabathia (not that anyone should be expected to match what CC did in Milwaukee last year, but Halladay is the better pitcher overall).  The key here, though, is that Halladay is not a rental pitcher.  He’s under contract for next season as well.  Acquiring Halladay would be as much about 2010 as it would be about this year.  That extra year of service adds a ton of value, and it’s why the Jays can (and should) expect a lot more than what the Brewers gave up for Sabathia last season.

The key is Alcides Escobar.  I see no way of acquiring Halladay without trading Escobar.  The Blue Jays are looking for a long-term solution at short, and from what I’ve read, they love Escobar.  I personally am not crazy about giving up both Gamel and Escobar for Halladay, but I’m not convinced the Brewers would need to.  With my usual disclaimer that I generally don’t make a lot of trade proposals, here’s what I’ve come up with for Halladay.

Brewers receive Roy Halladay

Blue Jays receive SS Alcides Escobar, 2B Brett Lawrie, SP Wily Peralta

That’s pretty much as high as I’d be willing to go.  That’s the number 1 (Escobar), 3 (Lawrie) and probably 10 or so (Peralta) prospects in the Brewers’ system.  Escobar’s praises are well known, and Lawrie was the team’s first round pick just last year, so obviously that’s a big package in itself.  Peralta is a 20 year old pitcher who’s throwing very well this year, though he’s only in A ball.

That may not be completely ideal for Toronto, as they reportedly want more pitching, but I don’t believe many teams could top that offer.  One may be the Phillies, who I see as the favorite to get Halladay if he is even traded this year.  Although Escobar is a higher rated prospect than anyone in their system, they have higher level pitching than the Brewers.  An offer of SPs Carlos Carrasco and Kyle Drabek along with OF Dominic Brown would probably top my offer, as both Carrasco and Drabek are pretty close to the majors.  I also think the Phillies are more willing to part with their top prospects than the Brewers since they’re more of a playoff team at this point.

I’ll also throw out another off the wall idea as long as we’re shooting for the moon.  If the Blue Jays didn’t take that offer, I’d take that same offer to Arizona for Dan Haren.  I see no reason for Arizona to be shopping Haren, as he’s under control long-term and I don’t think the Diamondbacks think they’ll be bad team for the next few years.  Yet, Ken Rosenthal reported a few weeks ago that Arizona might be willing to trade Haren if they received an “overwhelming” offer.  Is this offer overwhelming?  I guess I’m not sure.  It’s certainly more than what they sent to the A’s to acquire him a couple years ago, but with as good as he’s been, it might not be.

Giving up Escobar+ for an ace like Halladay or Haren would be mortgaging the future quite a bit, but it greatly increases the odds of a championship this season and next.  The Brewers would instantly become the favorites in the NL Central this year, and they’d once again be able to go for broke next season with the base of Braun, Fielder, Hardy, and Gallardo still intact.