With teams having to tender contracts to players before December 1st, the Brewers have some interesting decisions to make over the next five days.
Following the Great Outright Roster Purge of Early November, the Brewers have five arbitration-eligible players remaining on their roster: Carlos Gomez, Manny Parra, John Axford, Chris Narveson and Marco Estrada.
Gomez, Axford and Estrada are the easy calls. Gomez and Estrada were valuable in 2012, providing 3.5 and 2.7 fWAR, respectively. Axford had his struggles, but finished the season looking like his old self. Even with the higher walk numbers and flukey home run rates, he’s one of the few members of last year’s bullpen guaranteed a spot on the roster.
Things get a little more cloudy, however, when it comes to Parra and Narveson.
Narveson was a solid back-end starter for the Brewers in 2010 and 2011 before tearing his left rotator cuff in his second start of 2012. Narveson held down that #5 starter job at a time when the Brewers had a shortage of starting pitching in the high levels of the organization. The bad news for Narveson as he continues to work his way back is that there is a lot more competition for those back-end rotation spots than there was when he went down.
Estrada and Mike Fiers did extremely well for much of the season. Wily Peralta came on strong after a late-season promotion. Mark Rogers was piling up strikeouts before his shutdown. The organization still believes in Tyler Thornburg as a starter. Hiram Burgos was just added to the 40-man roster after being named the Brewers’ minor league pitcher of the year. That’s five guys Narveson would have to overtake to get his job back, and that’s before you consider the fact that the track record for guys coming back from rotator cuff injuries isn’t great. Narveson likely wouldn’t fetch a ton in an arbitration hearing, but non-tendering Narveson would be an opportunity to save a few hundred grand while giving an opportunity to someone younger with more upside.
Then there’s the matter of what to do with Manny Parra. Save for maybe Randy Wolf or Francisco Rodriguez, no Brewers pitcher seemed to generate more venom in 2012 than Parra. Since breaking into the majors in 2007, few Brewers pitchers have been more frustrating to watch. He has the stuff to dominate when he’s on — he’s put up K/9s of 9.52 and 9.36 the past two seasons he’s played — but it’s nearly impossible to predict how a Parra outing will go as he jogs out from the bullpen. With a career opponent BABIP of .337, Parra’s been the posterboy for bullpen bad luck, but at this point it’s fair to ask if he’s simply that hittable.
MLB Trade Rumors projects Parra’s post-arbitration salary for 2013 at $1.6 million. It’s not a terribly high number, but if Ron Roenicke is going to treat him as a lefty specialist (and it seems clear Roenicke doesn’t trust Parra much in close situations), it may be another opportunity for the Brewers to pare down costs as they look to reduce payroll. One thing that could save Parra, though, is a lack of left-handers currently on the roster. Outside of Parra and Narveson, the only other lefty on the 40-man roster is Miguel De Los Santos.