Every year, the UW-Madison Dugout Club – boosters of the former University of Wisconsin baseball team which also help out with the UW-Madison Baseball Club (of which I am a member) – hosts a banquet in which a couple (or more) members of the Brewers are present. This year, those Brewers were Craig Counsell and Assistant GM Gord Ash. Ash gave a “Brewer Preview” talk and also answered some questions. Here are some of Ash’s more interesting quotes.
The payroll budget initially submitted by Ash and GM Doug Melvin was “nowhere close to where it will end up.” The Brewers appear to be extending themselves for this year and possibly even next year in their attempt to win a title. Ash acknowledged that the Brewers window of contention is closing, and also mentioned that Attanasio “stepped up” in terms of paying for the influx of talent.
Ash talked about the starters at each position. He said definitively that center field would be “manned by Carlos Gomez,” but later in the talk he noted that center field may have a “rotation situation,” which may mean the Chris Dickerson/Gomez platoon that has massive potential to me. On his first mention of the shortstop situation, Ash failed to mention Yuniesky Betancourt at all, but that may have been due to Craig Counsell’s presence at the event and his reception of the “Favorite Son Award” from the Dugout Club. He later said that Betancourt would get an “opportunity to play a lot of SS” and that Luis Cruz “will get some playing time,” which may suggest that Cruz has an inside track at a 25-man roster spot. The Brewers may also look for free agent help in the middle infield. The outfield appears to be set with Chris Dickerson and Brandon Boggs backing up Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, and Gomez. There wasn’t much to say in terms of the pitching, outside of a “guarantee” that Zack Greinke will start on opening day.
Mat Gamel’s situation was mentioned, and Ash noted that Gamel’s plans will depend on his recovery from foot surgery. The plan for Gamel is exceptionally vague; he could “battle” for playing time at 1B, 3B, or OF but will not start anywhere. If he does make the team, it will be in a bench role. Ash declared that “we think he’s going to hit,” so clearly the Brewers are not satisfied with his defense. There’s a possibility that Gamel starts the season at AAA, which, given the prior statement on Luis Cruz, would be my personal bet at this point.
Ash talked about Rule V pick Pat Egan, a 6’8″ ground-balling RHP who throws with a low arm slot but “not a true sidearm.” Egan probably won’t make the team out of camp, but as Baltimore took Adam Rosario from the Brewers in the Rule V draft, there’s a possibility that the teams simply agree to let each other keep their Rule V picks.
There wasn’t much discussion of ongoing contract discussions, but Ash did mention the two most compelling situations: Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder. There wasn’t much to say on Rickie aside from the fact that the team is in discussions with Weeks’s agent, although Weeks was mentioned as a reason why Brett Lawrie was expendable. Ash said that he “doesn’t think a multi-year deal is possible” with Prince Fielder, although the two sides are working on a one-year deal.
Ash talked more about Brett Lawrie, mostly centering on the concerns around his defense. He claimed that Lawrie is more of an “AL player,” and is “more hitter than fielder.” The makeup concerns were clear as well. Ash said that Lawrie carries himself in a “very aggressive” fashion, and said that how good he will be is “up to him,” which suggests a lack of confidence in Lawrie’s ability to realize his potential. Eric Farris’s name also came up as a reason why the Brewers felt Lawries was expendable, as the Brewers “like Farris a lot.”
Favorite of the blog Manny Parra was brought up as well. Ash talked about how the organization “expects so much out of up” and how Parra constantly “teases us with excellence,” which I can ceratinly understand. The Brewers still “expect big things” out of Parra, but Ash also noted that Parra will be “job one” for new pitching coach Rick Kravitz. Manny Parra has constantly been a trade target for other teams according to Ash – “the first name that comes up” – but teams simply haven’t been willing to part with value for him. That’s unsurprising right now, particularly given that Parra will be headed towards “longer relief.”
Mark Rogers is slated to start the season in AAA barring an injury. According to Ash, Rogers will be the “first insurance option” and “would have competed for the rotation” before the Greinke and Marcum acquisitions. Ash also mentioned Wily Peralta and Amaury Rivas (or somebody that sounded like Amaury Rivas) as insurance options beyond Rogers.
Finally, Ash relayed a very interesting quote from new manager Ron Roenicke’s interview process. When asked about his lack of experience, Roenicke replied “I haven’t managed before, but I’ve experienced a lot.”