Winter Meetings, Day Three: Dempster, Hart, Relievers | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

While Doug Melvin and the Brewers haven’t involved themselves in any major-league acquisition or transaction in Nashville, the news surfacing throughout the day on Wednesday has certainly clarified the Brewers’ blueprint for the offseason.


Milwaukee has repeatedly been connected to right-hander Ryan Dempster throughout the week. Reportedly, the two sides remain at odds, as Dempster desires a three-year deal while Doug Melvin and the Brewers currently refuse to go more than two years. Dempster believes a third year will come from someone once Zack Greinke signs and teams become more desperate for starting pitching.

Considering a free agent market that guaranteed three years to Jeff Keppinger, he’s wise to wait patiently for that third year. It will be interesting to see if Doug Melvin is willing to offer that third year if nothing else materializes on the market.

Brewers rumors connected to starting pitchers have largely been limited to Dempster. This is due to (1) the rising cost of free agency, and (2) a plan to cut back the payroll to roughly $80M. The organization does not project to have enough wiggle room in the payroll to pursue any of the higher-tier starters they would otherwise consider — such as Anibal Sanchez or Kyle Lohse.

(Side note: On Monday, I discussed my confusion regarding the Brewers significantly cutting payroll and reports of increased television revenue from a new agreement. Doug Melvin told Tom Haudricourt on Tuesday the new contract will bring approximately $21M per year to Milwaukee, which represents an $11M jump.)

One solution floated out by CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler says the Brewers have discussed trading Corey Hart to free up some money to become more aggressive on the pitching market. David O’Brien, however, notes that a team would need to overwhelm the Brewers to inspire such a deal.

Without ample resources to acquire pitching via the free agent market, Milwaukee could cobble together some prospects for a trade. They inquired on left-hander Derek Holland of the Texas Rangers, according to FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi. If Texas acquires Zack Greinke or another starting pitcher this winter, Holland could become superfluous and made available by the Rangers.

Holland was one of the hottest young pitchers in the league after the 2011 season after a strong second half and postseason. He posted a 3.95 ERA and subsequently signed a five-year contract extension. With high expectations heading into 2012, the 27-year-old underperformed, limping to a 4.67 ERA (4.75 FIP) and jeopardizing his place in the Rangers’ starting rotation next season.

He represents an interesting buy-low move for the organization. The vast majority of his struggles came at home. Holland actually compiled a 3.65 ERA away from Arlington. Granted, Miller Park certainly won’t suppress home run rates for pitchers, but couple that road success with a move to the National League and the southpaw could find success with the Brewers.

As of now, though, Holland does not appear to be available. Milwaukee seems content to sit on the sidelines and wait out the spending spree in hopes someone’s market crashes, allowing them to swoop in and ink a reasonable deal for a starting pitcher.


The Brewers arrived in Nashville with hopes of significantly improving their bullpen. Two of the top relievers on the market are no longer options.

Add in the fact that left-hander Randy Choate coaxed a three-year deal out of the St. Louis Cardinals, and it appears the inflated free agent market has even trickled down to the relievers. It will be interesting to see what the Brewers will do to upgrade their bullpen. As of now, though, they are mirroring their strategy on starting pitchers: wait out the market and hope something reasonable floats to them.

As a frame of reference, here is a list of some top free agent relievers available, sorted by “shutdowns” as defined by FanGraphs. It’s a context-driven statistics that attempts to determine whether a reliever added or subtracted from their team’s chance of victory. [More information on shutdowns and meltdowns.]

Pitcher SD MD
Francisco Rodriguez 30 14
Mike Adams 27 6
Jason Grilli 27 9
Vicente Padilla 23 11
Sean Burnett 20 9
Jose Veras 19 9
Chad Durbin 17 8
Jon Rauch 15 13
Kameron Loe 15 12
Juan Cruz 14 6
Tom Gorzelanny 13 7
Randy Choate 13 11
Jason Frasor 13 6
Brandon Lyon 12 7
Manny Parra 12 12
Jamey Wright 11 8
Matt Lindstrom 10 7
Mike Gonzalez 9 5

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Tell us what do you think.

  1. Bob Hale says: December 5, 2012

    Isn’t it possible that the Brewers feel they have enough arms and don’t want to spend money on an “iffy” starter or reliever? With no changes, their payroll will be well under $80M and they can sort it out in spring training. Personally, I think they should sign/trade for a bull pen left hander and sit tight with the roster they have now.

    • J.P. Breen says: December 5, 2012

      The issue isn’t having enough arms. The issue the Brewers are trying to address is predictability with performance and innings. The young arms have such a small track record of success. Most young pitchers have significant hiccups early in their career. Doug Melvin and the Brewers simply want to have another proven starter, from whom they feel confident they can get 200 innings, to pair with Yovani Gallardo atop the rotation.

      With that said, if they don’t get the pitcher they want at what they feel is a reasonable price, Milwaukee does appear content to simply cruise into spring training with minimal changes to the rotation.

      • SecondHandStore says: December 5, 2012

        They could try Narveson and Rogers out of pen as super relievers, each giving them 140 innings or so. Would mitigate a lot of problems. Still need another starter though, but this way not necessarily an innings eater.

  2. SecondHandStore says: December 5, 2012

    I can sort of understand wanting to reduce spending if they lost money last year. I say “sort of” because the market is significantly changing and it’s only going to get worse. They can still put together a good club this year at $85M, but they’re certainly playing with fire. I don’t like 3 yr deals for older starters or relievers anymore than the next guy, but it appears that 3 yrs is the new 2 yrs. I’m a little worried if the Brewers don’t adapt to that, as much as it sucks. If we lost out on Burnett because we didn’t want to match or slightly beat 2/8 w/option(and not because he prefered LA) I’m not sure that’s excusable. Same goes if we lose out on Grilli for similar reasons. It’s a sick feeling where the League signing might become market value, but looking around that seems likely, or not too far off. Also, I have to imagine whatever starter they sign would be willing to defer some of 2013′s salary to help with the payroll restraints. I know Sanchez is out of reach, considering the Brewers outlook, but if you take the long view the $17-19M AAV he’s going to get doesn’t seem outrageous. With the young pitching we have coming up I think it’s unwise to not consider a guy like that. I mean, we’re seeing all these crazy contracts and the new national TV deals haven’t even kicked in yet.

    So like I said, if they want to cut back and get back some of their losses this year I get it. But, if they don’t significantly increase spending in 2014 I’m calling bulls**t. They’ve got the approximately $9M increase in local money this year, which could increase(or not) in 2014. Then they have the $11M extra coming in from the ESPN deal and probably close to double that from the combined FOX/TBS/MLBNetwork deals. That could end up totaling as much as $42 million extra. If you look at the payrolls for 2012(before all these new TV deals became a thing) only a handfull of teams operated at under $70M so you have to imagine the Brewers could comfortable operate at that figure. Add the $42M and one would have to imagine $100-110 is not unreasonable. Right?

  3. Jason says: December 5, 2012

    What is the market looking like for MIke Adams? He would be a really solid addition but I feel like he might be priced out of Milwaukee too.

    • SecondHandStore says: December 5, 2012

      That’s a really good question. I haven’t heard much about him as far as rumors go. If Grilli signs somewhere else tonight, I’d put Adams at or near the top of my list.

  4. Ross B says: December 6, 2012

    I really think that the best chance the Brewers have of getting one of the better arms in this FA class is to have the market just not develop for a guy and get him on a 1yr deal, kind of like Edwin Jackson to the Nationals last year.

  5. Vijay says: December 9, 2012

    Why not Cappy??? He’s a cheap, quality 12 game winner and the Dodgers will be looking to unload him with Greinke signing. Plus, he’s a fan favorite and I’m assuming a solid locker room presence. The Brewers should be focused on finding the most devastating 7th, 8th and 9th inning guys to shorten the game and put us back on top in the central. Then make one splash trade at the deadline to carry us through the playoffs! Go Crew!!


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