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.
BREWERS WANT STARTER, BUT MAY LACK FUNDS
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.
WHAT’S THE PLAN IN THE BULLPEN?
The Brewers arrived in Nashville with hopes of significantly improving their bullpen. Two of the top relievers on the market are no longer options.
Also didn’t sound like #Brewers were in hot pursuit of Jason Grilli. Haven’t talked with his agent, Gary Sheffield, this week.
— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) December 5, 2012
#Angels have signed LH RP Sean Burnett to a 2-year deal with a club option, source said. Pending physical.
— Alden Gonzalez (@Alden_Gonzalez) December 5, 2012
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.]