The purging of would-be-arbitration-eligible players continued for the Brewers on Friday, as Travis Ishikawa was outrighted to the minors and Kameron Loe elected free agency after his own outright assignment.
Ishikawa hit .257/.329/.428 for the Brewers in 2012 as the team’s primary backup at first place. He was also Ron Roenicke’s go-to pinch hitter, making 54 of his 174 plate appearances in that role. Ishikawa figured to get more playing time when Mat Gamel tore his ACL in May, but Corey Hart’s transition to first went better than expected and Ishikawa was once again stuck on the bench. With Hart likely sticking at first next season and Gamel back from injury, there just wasn’t room for Ishikawa on the roster. His glovework should make him a solid bench option for someone else in the big leagues.
Loe likely ends his Brewers tenure after three largely successful seasons out of the bullpen (Gord Ash says Loe could come back “at the right price,” but you should probably read that as “at a lower price.”). He was a classic Doug Melvin Scrapheap Special, a minor league free agent signing after a year in Japan who Melvin knew from their days in Texas.
A failed starter with the Rangers, Loe excelled out of the pen as a groundball specialist. He posted groundball rates of 59.4%, 63.3% and 57.3% as a Brewer, and before 2012, he was keeping flyballs in the park. This past season, his HR/FB rate jumped from 10% to 18%. His BB/9 also rose from 2.00 to 2.63. More of his groundballs also snuck through the infield, as opponents had a .319 BABIP against him, and his H/9 spiked to 10.3. Fans seemed to turn on Loe a bit at the end of his Brewers career, but if you were to make a list of departing Brewers most likely to find success somewhere else next season, Loe would be near the top of the list — especially if he finds his way to a team that plays in a less homer-happy park or understands lefty/righty splits.
Loe joins Francisco Rodriguez, Livan Hernandez and Jose Veras as memebers of the 2012 bullpen to be let go. A fifth — Manny Parra — could still join them.