Friday, January 30, 2009


I recently purchased 2KSports' MLB Front Office Manager for the Xbox 360 and I now have a new path for the Brewers to make (and win) the World Series.

First move as GM: trim the fat off the roster (and I'm not talking about Prince Fielder). This was a painstaking process, but it leads to less headaches down the road. So I cleaned out unnecessary minor leaguers, since I have no use for 30+ year old players struggling at A+ Brevard County and set lineups and rotations to include players with the highest potential, not necessarily highest rating. After all, the minors are about developing that young talent. After getting that boring, but necessary, issue dealt with, on to contract negotiations.

Second move as GM: Offer arbitration to Type A and B free agents. The game does not take our current tough economic times into account and it assumes that every player wants to get paid, so what better way to get a slew of high draft picks? So long Cameron, Kendall, Sabathia, Sheets, Gagne, Mota, Shouse (for now) and Torres (for now).

Third move as GM: Offer contracts to players you want back. All players that are NOT eligible for arbitration, will accept the minimum $400K salary (Gallardo, Parra, Escobar etc...) . Arbitration eligibles are a little trickier. Bush ($3.3), Hardy ($4), Weeks ($4 don't ask me how they evaluated his talent as being worth $4 mil), Fielder ($11.7), Hart ($4) and McClung ($600K) were all worth bringing back in my opinion. So I offer the one year deal to all those players except Prince, who actually accepts a 3 year deal for $12 mil/year. Good deal, and no more arby. Capuano, Coffey, and other non-Type A or B free agents just aren't worth it.

So as it stands, I've got a lineup that goes (in no particular order) Braun at LF, Gwynn at CF, Hart at RF, Prince at 1B, Weeks at 2B, Hardy at SS, Hall at 3B and Angel Salome behind the plate (he's got more upside than Rivera or Rottino). The rotation is a little rough with Gallardo, Parra, Bush, Suppan and Villanueva. The Bullpen even rougher with McClung as closer and Dillard, Riske, DiFelice and Stetter filling the gap.

Fourth move as GM: Sign free agents. Other than CC, Sheets and Lackey (who was asking for CC money) there wasn't much on the FA starting pitcher market. And with K-Rod out of my price range, no closer caught my eye either. So I decided I'd bite the bullet and give McClung a chance to close games, but I needed an experienced backup in case he faltered. So I went back to the well and offered contracts to Shouse and Torres which they took. Also, with Lamb and Rivera as my only real bench players, I offered $400K contracts to Jose Cruz (utility outfielder) and Callix Crabbe (middle infielder).

Fifth move as GM: Address the rotation. With Suppan sucking up $11 million in payroll, a no-trade clause in his contract, and five years MLB experience blocking a minor league assignment, my hands are tied. I'm not going to pay him $11 million to release him, but I don't want him taking the ball every fifth day. So I look to the trade market. With a capable backup behind him, Hardy was my centerpiece. So after failed attempts at acquiring Matt Cain, Scott Kazmir, James Shields and Paul Maholm, I figured I'd give Detroit's Armando Galarraga a go. Throwing in Weeks to sweeten the deal, I was now $8 million lighter in payroll and I had a good young pitcher to replace Suppan with. And he's not eligible for arby for two years... sweet.

Now I have Alcides Escobar at SS and Hernan Iribarren at 2B. Season results: NL Central division title, Playoff series victories over the Mets, D-backs and Yankees to win the World Series. NLCS MVP: Gallardo. WS MVP: Iribarren. Dave Bush finish 18-4 with a 3.60 ERA, Gallardo 19-5 with a 4.10 ERA. Villanueva had lowest ERA for a starter at 3.24 but a record of 10-9. McClung got 35 saves with a 1.71 ERA and won reliever of the year. Salome, Fielder, Braun, Hall and Hart all had 20+ HRs and 90+ RBI.

Could this be foreshadowing for great things to come for our young Brewers? Time will tell. Tonight I begin my quest to defend my title.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Busy couple of days...

Big Red is under contract for 2009 as the Brewers and Seth McClung agreed to a one year deal for 1.6625 million. This is a bit higher than the 1.5 million I pegged for him, but nothing egregious. Based off of the contracts that have already been signed, the Brewers are still 1.187 million ahead of the arbitration process. Three players remain...

Rickie Weeks: Arbitration numbers have been exchanged and Rickie is asking for $2.8 million, the Brewers have countered with a $2 million offer. What is Rickie thinking asking for $2.8 million? With a career .245 BA, .352 OBP averaging 13 HR and 39 RBI a year. Not to mention a career .965 fielding percentage. He's shown an ability to steal bases, and when he gets on base, he's got a knack for scoring. Last year, 46% of the time Rickie got on base, he came around to score. But if you can't get on base, what does that matter? I anticipate this getting settled before arbitration, because that's the Doug Melvin way, but I think the number will be closer to the Brewers $2 million.

Corey Hart: Corey submitted $3.8 million as his arbitration number, the Brewers offered $2.7 million. Corey was the MVP last year... from April to the All-Star Break. His struggles down the stretch are well documented, but I believe Corey is worth a long-term investment. However, some news broke today that should be used when negotiating with Corey. Jayson Werth just signed a two-year deal worth $10 million; $3 million this year, $7 million next year. Arguments can be made that Corey Hart and Jayson Werth are the same player, but last year, Werth pulled through for the Phillis when it mattered most, in my opinion, making him more valuable. This contract also buys out one year of Werth's free agency. What I propose is sitting down with Corey and hammering out a four-year deal worth $27 million. $3 million this year (meeting the Brewers' salary requirement for 2009), $5 million in 2010, $8 million in 2011, $11 million in 2012. This buys out all of his arbitration years plus one year of free agency. You can't put a price on financial security either, just ask Ryan Braun.

Now the big fish, Prince Fielder: The Boras client submitted a number that everyone was talking about... because it was so low. With all the comparisons made to Ryan Howard and his record $10 million awarded in arbitration last year, Fielder submitted a number of $8 million compared to $6 million by the Brewers. Either number is defensible, Fielder's offensive prowess far exceed his defensive short-comings. On the other hand, Fielder's increasing weight is a major concern. Now comes word that Fielder and the Brewers are working on a two year deal. Early estimates say it is for between $18-$20 million. Also, the fact that Fielder was recently added to the Brewers On-Deck event, leads to speculation that it's to announce the deal. My hopes are that it's for $7 million this year, and $12-13 million in 2010. Ideally I'd like about $15 million to be guaranteed with an additional $5 million in performance based incentives (with a weight clause maybe?). Obviously not going to happen, but a two year deal would be excellent, would give some buzz to the upcoming season.

I'm sure a lot is coming in the next few weeks...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Baseball America's Outlook on the Brewers

Every year, Baseball America releases an article outlining each team's top ten prospects, along with who has the best tools, projected major league lineup in 4 years and a tracker of past top picks and prospects. Today they released the 2009 Brewers edition. While I found the information interesting and, for the most part, accurate, there were a few things I took issue with.

First let me start off with their top 10 ranking of Brewers prospects. While I have no problem with Alcides Escobar at number 1 and Mat Gamel at 2, I find it hard to believe they put Brett Lawrie at 3. The Brewers' number 1 draft choice in 2008 has yet to play an inning of professional ball and is making the transition to full-time catcher. Do I think he's a top 10 in terms of potential? From what I've heard about him, yes. But 3 sounds a little high. Let's wait and see how he adjusts to life behind the plate and professional pitching before we get too crazy. My top 10 is as follows.

1. Alcides Escobar (SS)
2. Mat Gamel (3B)
3. Jeremy Jeffress (RHP)
4. Lorenzo Cain (OF)
5. Angel Salome (C)
6. Taylor Green (3B)
7. Brett Lawrie (C)
8. Zach Braddock (LHP)
9. Cole Gillespie (OF)
10. Caleb Gindl (OF)

My list puts a little more emphasis on ability to help the big league club in the next two years, and a little less on overall talent ceiling. Braddock is a big lefty (6'4" 230) who had some issues with ERA last year, but his peripheral stats (OBA, K/BB ratio, K/9) all lead to a solid pitcher who just needs a little seasoning against professional hitters. I substituted Caleb Gindl for Cutter Dykstra solely off of my "wait and see" approach. Last year was Cutter's first year of professional ball, and I'll admit that he adjusted nicely but Gindl has been solid. .307 BA, .388 OBP, 13 HRs and 81 RBI are hard to ignore at any level. I look for him to start in Brevard County and be in Huntsville in no time.

Next, I'll tackle BA's 2012 projected lineup of...
Catcher - Brett Lawrie
1B - Prince Fielder
2B - JJ Hardy
3B - Mat Gamel
SS - Alcides Escobar
LF - Ryan Braun
CF - Rickie Weeks
RF - Corey Hart
SP1 - Yovani Gallardo
SP2 - Manny Parra
SP3 - Jake Odorizzi
SP4 - Carlos Villanueva
SP5 - Zach Braddock
Closer - Jeremy Jeffress

While I would love for this to be true, let's face facts. In 2012 Fielder, Hardy, Weeks and Hart will all be eligible for free agency and Gallardo, Parra, Villanueva and Escobar (most likely) will be deep into arbitration, not to mention the built in salary boost Braun is getting. This lineup would push the Brewers' payroll over $125 million easy. Fielder has shown no signs of wanting to play in Milwaukee and will demand big bucks, Weeks will play his way out of the big leagues and I haven't seen a lot out of the organization in terms of wanting to retain Villanueva for the long haul. I can see Hardy, Hart, Gallardo and Parra as the main targets for long term deals that will keep them here through 2012. I wouldn't be surprised if Doug wants to keep Bush around as well, the next two years will be vital to Bush's continued career in Milwaukee. I offer you my 2012 projected lineup.

C - Brett Lawrie
1B - Mat Gamel
2B - JJ Hardy
3B - Taylor Green
SS - Alcides Escobar
LF - Ryan Braun
CF - Lorenzo Cain
RF - Corey Hart
SP1 - Yovani Gallardo
SP2 - Manny Parra
SP3 - Jake Odorizzi
SP4 - Zach Braddock
SP5 - Dave Bush
Closer - Jeremy Jeffress

I see Gamel's defensive shortcomings forcing a move to 1st, and with Taylor Green behind him, there won't be much reason NOT to. Lorenzo Cain had a monster Fall League and continues to shoot through the system. As the organization's "Best Defensive Outfield" there's no reason to believe he can't man center in Miller Park. I know what some of you are saying, "Angel Salome is your 5th best prospect and you don't have him on the big league club?" I see Angel as a major trade chip to try and bridge the gap in the starting rotation until Odorizzi and Braddock are ready. Catchers with offensive talent like Salome are hard to come by and he will be heavily sought after if he proves he can handle pitchers with the bat AND glove.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bushy Avoids Arbitration, Melvin Coming Out Ahead

Dave Bush avoided arbitration by agreeing to a 1 year, $4 million contract with the Brewers. Bush has been the most reliable starter the Brewers have had over the past three years. He may not be the most talented, or have the greatest stuff, but the guy knows how to take the mound every five days and get the job done. He has pitched 180+ innings in each of his three years as a Brewer, for a guy who's been considered a fifth starter for most of that time, that's pretty good. Bush posted his best full season ERA of his career in 2008, mainly due to a red-hot second half. Bush also posted the only postseason victory for the Brewers against an exceptionally talented Phillies lineup which features 3 MVP candidates (Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard).
While I don't anticipate Bush being an ace by any stretch of the imagination, I am going to set some goals (and Dave should consider using these). 15 wins, less than 10 losses, 200+ innings and an ERA under 4.25. There are some signs that show that Bush can get it done. His WHIP of 1.14 last year was 5th best in the NL. His strikeout to walk ratio in 2006 was the NL best and in 2007 he finished 7th in that category. In his first three seasons in the majors, Bush averaged 2 complete games a season. What this tells me is that Bush is able to limit baserunners (which is key for a pitcher that gives up HRs), he's able to miss bats and strikeout batters when need be, and he's shown the ability to pitch deep into games and eat up innings.
I've got big things in mind for Dave but what I want him to focus on from now until Spring Training, is bringing back the 'stache (pictured above). So even if he sucks it up, at least he looks bad ass.
Sidenote: Based off of my arbitration raise projections, Doug Melvin is up $1.35 million between the Bush and Hardy signings. I predicted both would have salaries of $5 million and Doug has settled both with contracts under that number. Way to go Doug, let's get the rest of these contracts taken care of so you can make a move that'll silence the doubters.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

J.J. Avoids Arbitration

Doug Melvin is one step ahead of the game as per usual. J.J. Hardy and the Brewers avoid arbitration and agree to a one year $4.65 million contract for 2009. J.J. is the first of a group of Brewers due for a hefty pay raise to sign a contract for 2009. In past blogs, I have tried to estimate these raises for the sake of figuring payroll numbers and I had J.J. pegged for $5 million. So in my estimation, Doug is coming out ahead so far. Granted it's only $350,000 ahead, but when you're a mall market team like the Brewers, every penny counts. 

Over the past two seasons, J.J. has shed the label of "injury-prone" and produced in a big way. How many teams out there would love to have a shortstop capable of 25+ HR and 75+ RBI, all while playing gold glove caliber defense. His defensive numbers have slipped slightly over the past two seasons, but he still plays better than the league average, and his offensive production has more than made up for any defensive miscues.

While I'd love to see J.J. locked up with a multi-year deal (coupled with a move to third or second base), I'll settle for one year deals that avoid arbitration. I realize that the Brewers are probably going to address their 2009 payroll issues before investing multi-year deals in their young core players, but hopefully after the arbitration hearings are over in mid-February, they look in to long term deals, especially for Hardy, Hart, Gallardo and Parra. Maybe wait a year on Gallardo, to see if he can stay healthy for a whole season.

Friday, January 9, 2009

ESPN makes me want to puke

Reading the reaction to the Hoffman signing and then comparing it to the Smoltz reaction is enough to put me into a Grand Mal seizure. Two guys, same age, both HoF material are moving to new clubs after spending (almost) their entire careers with one club. One goes to small market Milwaukee, the other to big market Boston. Before I launch into my diatribe, I want everyone to know that I like John Smoltz. I'm of the opinion that he's going to be in the Hall when all is said and done. If the Brewers would have signed him, I would have been elated. That being said, I shall continue. So I'm sitting at work and word comes down that Hoffman has chosen us over the Dodgers. Oh happy day, right? So I head over to the four-letter network's website to get confirmation, hear their opinions etc... and what greets me as front page news on their MLB page? John Smoltz is CLOSE to a deal with the Red Sox. GIVE ME A BREAK! It's not like we just signed a career minor leaguer to a deal with an invite to Spring Training! We just signed the all-time career saves leader. This is just the beginning of the disgusting injustice.

So after reading the analysis from both signings (as Smoltz did end up signing with the Sox), the general reaction for one of the signings is "great move, impact player, elite pitcher yada yada yada", the other is "washed up, over the hill, not gonna cut it etc..." Now one of these players is coming off of major surgery that limited him to just 28 innings in 2008, the other has had a remarkably healthy career (except one year) and has shown he can still get it done even on the league's worst team. So which of these players is "washed up"? TREVOR HOFFMAN!!! What leads these jackass, no-ball pussy losers to believe that Hoffman can't get it done? His "peripheral stats"? Care to elaborate? Of course not. The only peripheral stats that I saw jump in 2008 was his hits/9 and HR/9. Walks: down, WHIP: down, K/9 up, GO/AO: one of the best of his career, opponent OBP: down, I could keep going =, I'm just tired of making these "experts" look foolish. Someone needs to get in the ear of the brass over there and tell them that despite what Peter Gammons believes, there are teams other than the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers and Angels.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Don't Hassel the Hoff

I know it's a stretch, I just wanted to avoid the headlines that most other sites will be using from the boring: Trevor Hoffman strikes deal with Brewers; to the more "clever": "Hell's Bells" ringing in Miller Park (no offense intended JD, just not my style). Plus it leads to cool pictures such as the one below.

But I digress... I shut my mouth for a week, didn't mention names of players brought up in rumors or players I think the Brewers should go after and look what happens, the Brewers ink Hoffman to a one year deal for $6 million and an additional $1.5 million in incentives if he finishes 52 games. At the risk of sounding like "always optimistic about his baseball's teams chances" guy, I love the move. There are those that say Hoffman's time is over and he can't be effective in MLB anymore. To them I ask, "where are you getting this from?" It seems that people are only looking at two numbers, his age and his ERA last year. He converted 30 of 34 saves which is an 88% conversion rate, right on pace with his career rate of 89%. He struck out 46 while only walking 9 which equates to 5.1 K/BB, his best mark since the 2004 season and well above his career average of 3.85 K/B. Compared to career numbers, his WHIP was better (1.04 vs. 1.05), Opponent OBP lower (.263 vs. .265), BB/9 lower (1.79 vs. 2.50) and the fourth best Ground out/Air out ratio in his 16 years; and this is the career of a first-ballot Hall of Famer who just happens to own the career saves record. Oh, and by the way, he's the only player in history to record 30+ saves in 13 consecutive seasons...

Yeah he's old, but look at guys like Maddux, Smoltz, Rogers, Wakefield, Clemens (I'm not getting into it here) and Moyer who all got/get it done in the twilight of their careers. Hoffman's a vet that knows his way around a pitching mound and doesn't rely on 95+ mph heat to shut the door. He can use his years of experience (a devastating changeup doesn't hurt either) to get his way through the ninth and get Brewers fans back to their homes happy. Do I think he's going to save 50+ games? Absolutely not. Do I think he's going to post a sub 2.50 ERA? Not likely. But do I think that he's capable of 35-40 saves? Hell yeah. Is he going to close the door 9 out of ten times he takes the ball? Not a doubt in my mind.

So let the naysayers come out of the wood work. Let them criticize the Brewers for misappropriating their limited resources on another over-paid, over-the-hill pitcher. They'll be the same people who will be buying the Hoffman t-shirts/jerseys when Miller Park opens its doors.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

I'm done...

Here at JBB, I have decided to stop naming names in players that I think the Brewers should sign/trade for. If you've been reading my recent articles, you would know when this all started: J.J. Putz. I wrote a big article about freeing up payroll and trading for Seattle's closer. What happens the very next day? He gets traded to the freaking Mets... where he isn't even going to close. 

Then along comes the will they/won't they trade of Mike Cameron for Melky Cabrera and Kei Igawa(maybe). Here I am saying it's a done deal, talking about it like it's already happened and explaining what I view as the benefits of the trade... then it dies.

 Then Doug Melvin comes out and names some names of pitchers he wants to sign of the Shady Acres Retirement Complex softball team and I view Randy Johnson as the most solid choice and how he'd be a good fit if the Brewers are serious about upgrading the rotation. San Francisco beats us to the punch. How many games did they win last year? Can anyone out there name their starting infield? How about the outfield? You're telling me that we couldn't lure this guy away from a "superior location" (if you like hacky-sack and Jerry Garcia) just by the fact that he might actually win with us? Even if he only gives up 2 or 3 runs over 6-7 innings, that offense is only going to score 1 run. Randy, you're just pushing 300 farther and farther away. I'm done being bitter about that one.

And now for the latest kick to my baseball groin: Brian Fuentes. 2 years $17 million? You're telling me we couldn't beat that offer? WE GAVE $10 MILLION TO ERIC FREAKING GAGNE!!! I just need to face facts that we are going to be stuck with our current roster and whatever reclamation project Doug finally decides on (Chad Cordero*)

* - that was my last name drop, I promise