Archive for the ‘ Hot Stove ’ Category

So What of First Base in Milwaukee?

Chris-Carter

In case you missed the news yesterday, there was a free agent signing reported and quickly announced following the reveal of the 2016 MLB Hall of Fame class.

What follows is the official press release:

The Milwaukee Brewers have signed free agent first baseman Chris Carter to a one-year contract. To make room on the 40-man roster, the team designated catcher Josmil Pinto for assignment. The announcement was made by General Manager David Stearns.

“We are pleased to be able to add Chris to our organization,” said Stearns. “Over the past three seasons, Chris has proven to be one of the most consistent power threats in the game. We believe that his skills and experiences will complement our team well and provide additional production to our lineup.”

Carter, 29, has hit 90 home runs over the last three seasons (29, 37, 24), which ranks eighth in Major League Baseball. He started 112 games for the Astros this past season (105 G at 1B, 7 G at DH) and led the team in walks (57).

Carter was a key component in the Astros capturing an American League Wild Card spot in 2015 as he batted .353 (12-for-34) with 6 HR and 10 RBI over the team’s final 15 games, beginning September 18. Of anyone with at least 35 plate appearances during this stretch, Carter led the Major Leagues in OPS (1.376) and slugging percentage (.971) as the Astros edged the Angels by one game to earn a postseason berth.

Carter continued his hot hitting into the playoffs as he batted .294 (5-for-17, 3 BB) with 1 HR and 1 RBI. He started at first base in all six of Houston’s postseason games and fell a triple shy of the cycle in Game 3 of the American League Division Series vs. Kansas City (3-for-3, 2 R, 1 RBI).

Originally selected by the White Sox in the 15th round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Carter is a career .217 hitter in the Major Leagues with 109 HR and 280 RBI in 528 games with Oakland (2010-12) and Houston (2013-15).

Now for my own commentary:

After trading both incumbent Adam Lind and his primary backup Jason Rogers in the month of December, the Brewers had a sizable hole at first base. Enter the large-framed Carter.

Carter packs a punch at the plate with his prodigious power potential. There exists no doubt to his ability to clear Major League fences…when he makes contact. What they didn’t, and shouldn’t, tell you in the press release is that Carter finished with a .199 batting average in 2015, even with that final two-week flurry. He also struck out 151 times in 391 AB. Carter once led the league with 212 strikeouts back in 2013.

It’s not all negative though. His on-base skills are existent as he still walked 57 times last year to finish with an on-base percentage over .300. It’s not great, but let me frame it for you. Despite a batting average between 50 and 60 points lower, over the last two seasons he still got on base at a better clip than, for example, Jean Segura (OBPs of .289 and .281, respectively, over those years) and Scooter Gennett (.294 OBP in 2015). But they don’t exactly have the power that Carter does.

And oh, that power!

90 home runs over the last three years (including a high of 37 in 2014) is what keeps Chris Carter in the big leagues. Sure, Minute Maid Park in Houston has the Crawford Boxes which help right-handed hitters, but as we all know Miller Park isn’t exactly a pitcher’s paradise.

He’s not considered a good defender, but neither was Adam Lind who turned in a good year with the glove in 2015. Perhaps there’s something to coaching up a bit on defense. At the very least Carter’s 6’5″ frame (and resultant wingspan) offers a big target for the other Brewers infielders to target on their assists.

Finally, it must be mentioned that Carter left the Astros by way of non-tender as this is his first off-season of arbitration eligibility. There obviously won’t be a hearing as he is signed to a $2.5 million deal for 2016 (with an additional $500 thousand in incentives), but he’s under team control for longer than just 2016. If he proves capable but not quite flippable, the Brewers could continue to hold onto him for the next couple of years. Then again if Carter has the bounce-back season he envisions, perhaps he’ll be under some other team’s control after a mid-season trade.

That’s the other benefit too many people are overlooking. Call it the “Billy Beane” if you want to. The Brewers’ chances of winning the World Series in 2016 are admittedly between slim and none. That said, if you get a short-term asset like a Carter to realize his full power potential before the July 31st trading deadline, he could prove a desirable asset to a contender at which point you could flip him for additional young talent to continue feeding the timeline of future contention.

As for the worst-case scenario? Carter’s batting average drops even lower, he strikes out even more, he still hits some #dingerz, and the Brewers non-tender him next off-season after spending a paltry sum for his services.

This is pretty much a can’t lose signing because even the worst-case scenario isn’t the end of the world. That’s part of the beauty of one-year deals.

I think the team will benefit from the presence of Chris Carter being on the field in Brewers blue this year. Where it goes from there remains to be seen but as fans let’s enjoy the power while we can and let GM David Stearns worry about the fallout down the road.

Hot Stove Report: Trade Consummated With Pittsburgh

OFFICIAL RELEASE

The Milwaukee Brewers have acquired outfielder Keon Broxton and right-handed pitcher Trey Supak from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for first baseman Jason Rogers. Broxton has been added to the 40-man roster, which remains at 37. The announcement was made by General Manager David Stearns.

“We are pleased to add Keon Broxton and Trey Supak to the organization,” said Stearns. “Keon is a young, athletic outfielder who will have the ability to impact our Major League team as soon as this season while Trey was a highly coveted high school pitcher from the 2014 draft who adds to our growing number of pitching prospects.”

Broxton, 25, split the 2015 season between Double-A Altoona (45 games) and Triple-A Indianapolis (88 games) and batted a combined .273 with 10 HR, 68 RBI and 39 stolen bases in 133 games. His 39 steals ranked second in the Pirates organization. He also made his Major League debut in 2015, appearing in seven games off the bench. Entering the season, Broxton was rated by Baseball America as the best defensive outfielder in the Pirates system.

Originally selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the third round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, Broxton was traded to Pittsburgh on March 27, 2014. He owns a career batting average of .253 with 75 HR, 337 RBI and 150 stolen bases in 826 minor-league games. He has produced 20+ stolen bases in five of his seven professional seasons.

Supak, 19, was selected by Pittsburgh in Competitive Balance Round B of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft. He spent his first two seasons at the Rookie level (Gulf Coast League Pirates and Bristol), going 2-5 with a 5.85 ERA in 16 games, including 14 starts.

Rogers, 27, was selected by Milwaukee in the 32nd round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. He made his Major League debut in 2014, appearing in eight games. He batted .296 with 4 HR and 16 RBI in 86 games during two stints with the Brewers in 2015. Rogers started 25 games this past season, making 22 starts at first base, two in left field and one at third base.

Archived Tweets from Stearns/Counsell End of Season Press Conference

Because I want to be able to find these quickly later (and so that I can easily share them with those of you who may have missed them earlier), I’ve decided to link all my tweets from Thursday’s end of season press conference with new Brewers GM David Stearns and Field Manager Craig Counsell. There were more points that I couldn’t completely type up on the fly (like having a plan in place for the off-season before arriving at the GM Meetings in November) that warrant mention, but this is just my tweet log.

Here’s the final thing I tweeted, and I think it’s the takeaway for any fan who is worried about a rebuild taking seven years.

 

Brewers On Deck 2015 – The Interviews

Here is a boatload of audio recorded on Sunday, January 25, 2015 at Brewers On Deck in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Enjoy!!

Right fielder Ryan Braun

Relief pitcher Jim Henderson

Manager Ron Roenicke

New Brewers first baseman Adam Lind

Starting pitcher Wily Peralta

Newest member of the starting rotation Jimmy Nelson

All-Star outfielder Carlos Gomez

Second baseman Scooter Gennett

All-Star starting catcher Jonathan Lucroy

General Manager Doug Melvin met with the assembled media

EXCLUSIVE with 40-man pitcher Michael Blazek

Prinicpal Owner Mark Attanasio addressed the media

This is the full audio from one of the Main Stage events, a panel discussion (with fan questions!) featuring Mark Attanasio, Doug Melvin, Gord Ash, Adam Lind, Corey Knebel, and Luis Sardinas

Rumor: Brewers In Trade Talks to Acquire Papelbon?

JonathanPapelbon

According to a tweet that came in just after midnight CT on Friday morning, the Brewers are in “serious discussions” to acquire Jonathan Papelbon from the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Phillies have been selling off several of their high-priced veterans, and Papelbon fits that M.O. The 6’4″ veteran closer is set to make $13 million in 2015 and has a vesting option for 2016 as a part of his contract as well. The Brewers did just save ~$9 million when they traded Yovani Gallardo, so conventional logic would seem to infer that the Phillies might be paying a portion of Papelbon’s contract in any deal.

The now 34-year-old Papelbon saved 39 games for a Phillies team that only won 79 all season. He pitched to a 2.04 ERA in 66.1 IP. He struck out 63 batters and walked just 15. In stark contrast to the outgoing Brewers closer of 2014, Francisco Rodriguez, Papelbon gave up only two (2) home runs last year. His FIP (2.53) and WHIP (0.905) are encouraging peripherals as well.

Papelbon does have a 17-team no-trade list, but it’s unknown whether the Brewers are on the list.

An acquisition of Papelbon would certainly satisfy Doug Melvin’s oft-stated desire to have multiple guys in the his bullpen who have experience closing games. In fact, Papelbon was a rumored target for the Brewers last season before they ultimately acquired Jonathan Broxton from the Cincinnati Reds. At the time, the idea of Papelbon in Milwaukee was panned due to the financial commitment due him. For the record, his 2016 option (also at $13 million) vests if Papelbon finishes 48 games in 2015 as that would bring his two-year total up to 100.

***UPDATE***

As often happens when one baseball writer breaks news, others react to it by checking in with their own sources and then share what they’ve learned. So far today, that role has been filled by FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal and ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark.

So all that seems to counter, to a degree, what Jeff Passan originally reported. However, Jayson Stark then chimed in.

Stay tuned.

Rumor: Yovani Gallardo Headed to Rangers In Trade

Gallardo091914

As first pinpointed by FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi, the Brewers followed through on my report from early last week and are reportedly on the verge of trading away homegrown starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo to the Texas Rangers.

Gallardo, as you may recall, became the Brewers’ career strikeout leader late in 2014 and was on pace to overtake several statistical categories in Brewers history in the near future. It now appears as though the man we call “Yo” will finish where he currently sits.

I’m writing to discuss why I think this trade went down, some of the logistics without yet knowing all the names involved for sure, as well as my generalized thoughts about trading Gallardo from a macro level.

First, the Brewers are basically maxed out on their payroll as the day begins. Principal owner Mark Attanasio has been flexible over the years in adding payroll in season when the chance to compete is there. Just look at 2014. He authorized acquiring Jonathan Broxton (the likely closer to begin 2015) and Gerardo Parra (a pricey current 4th outfielder) after all. But entering a season where they sit after avoiding arbitration with all three of their eligible players (~$97 million committed to 12 players per Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel beat writer Tom Haudricourt), it’s not that far of a stretch to understand why Attanasio might want to trim a little payroll fat. Gallardo is set to make $13 million in the final season of a six-year, $42.5 million contract he signed before the 2010 season. This is also pretty strong evidentiary support of the idea that the Brewers had no plans to offer Gallardo another long-term contract or even a qualifying offer after the season.

That’s just one of the logistical points of this situation. Another that I’ve been told is that the Brewers might not be moving all of Gallardo’s $13 million. There is chatter that they’ll be paying a portion of his deal. That’s normally done to offset the cost to the acquiring team, thereby increasing the return in quality and/or quantity of players.

But why now? Why move Gallardo at all? He was drafted by the Brewers, after all. I’ve heard all this and more since the trade rumor was first floated out. To those questions, I answer thusly.

Gallardo rebounded a bit in 2014 and actually had a better overall season than many give him credit for. He still struggled against St. Louis, had a poor May after an excellent April and limped through September when everything around the team seemed to be collapsing together, but his season was strong as a sum of its parts. Gallardo’s fastball came back to life and he posted a career-best BB/9 ratio of 2.5 overall. With a full season of control, Gallardo is more valuable to the Brewers to move now than he would be at any other point in 2015. And outside of the money issues, Gallardo is the most moveable piece among the pitchers. He’s the best combination of return, savings, and striking while the iron is hot on the team.

You aren’t moving the cheap Wily Peralta, Mike Fiers or Jimmy Nelson. Kyle Lohse is the oldest of the group and wouldn’t bring as much in return since there’s less projectability left on his arm than that of Gallardo. And after bringing in Matt Garza on an expensive deal, that’s not changing yet, plus the fact that Garza is already on pace to providing an extremely inexpensive contract option.

You also can’t let yourself worry about the fact that he was drafted and developed by the Brewers. So was Rickie Weeks. So was Prince Fielder. So was Corey Hart. There is a time for the vast majority of players in the era of free agency to move on from their original teams. If Gallardo isn’t in the long-term plan and he can bring you back someone who is, you move him. It can be a hard thing for a franchise like Milwaukee to do when homegrown talent under team control is a necessity to win, but when that talent prices themselves out of town decisions must be made regardless of the potential public relations hit. In a perfect world every Brewer is Robin Yount, but a perfect world this ain’t.

As for the return, well that just might be another column once we learn the particulars. Rosenthal speculates that Luis Sardiñas might be involved, but as of Sunday afternoon Gallardo hadn’t even been informed that he’d been traded. A principal agreement could be in place without all the details sorted out. I’m told that Gallardo’s agent leaked the report though so somebody knows something. Understandably, both front offices are upset as the track record exists for both to operate quietly.

In regards to the next step that so many people wanted to jump to on social media already, the agent for James Shields wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t reach out to the Brewers to discern their plan and see if his client might fit. After all, the talk for a bit now is how nobody is in on Shields at the number he wanted. Engaging the Brewers could get things a bit more towards where Shields would like them to be. Then again, the conspiracy theorists point to how shortly after the Gallardo news broke, the Nationals agreeing to a contract with free agent pitcher Max Scherzer came out. They are pointing to the coincidence to indicate that maybe the Brewers desiring to trade for Wisconsin-native starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann and needed to free up a rotation spot and some money to do it and that now that the Nationals feel confident in trading Zimmermann, they could fully engage on Scherzer. While that’s all plausible, it certainly feels like a couple of steps past where things stand as the sun comes up on Monday, January 19th.

Stay tuned. I have a feeling that things could get fun today.

Rumor: Is Something A-Brewin’?

So a friend reached out early Tuesday and told me that there would likely be transactions over the next handful of days. It was said that the A’s, Braves, Blue Jays and Brewers were all set to be active.

I asked for details, such as whether the teams would be involved in trades together. Details were declined.

I didn’t share because details are important. Then on Wednesday the Braves traded Evan Gattis to the Astros and the A’s traded Yunel Escobar to the Nationals and my curiosity was certainly piqued.

I pressed for anything else specific to the Brewers and was told to be patient. Well…I’ll do my best. Now you can be impatient with me.

Misery loves company.

Trade News: Brewers Trade Marco Estrada

Lindhomer091314

Multiple reports and confirmations (including one by the Brewers) have come out this early Sunday afternoon which have the Milwaukee Brewers trading RHP Marco Estrada away.

Estrada, 31, gave up a league high 29 home runs in 2014 splitting time between the starting rotation and bullpen. He was much more effective as a relief pitcher in 2014, something that’s a bit of a disconnect from earlier in his career. Estrada was originally acquired by the Brewers off of waivers from the Washington Nationals after the 2009 season. Estrada made $3.325 million in 2014 and in his upcoming third time being arbitration eligible, he was set to receive a significant enough raise that he may have ended up as a non-tender candidate. That’s because the Brewers didn’t have a spot for him in the starting rotation where he’s a bargain. He’s quite pricey as a long-reliever.

He will finish his Brewers career with a 23-25 record in 139 games (70 starts). He’s amassed a 4.11 ERA in 521.0 innings pitched.

Doug Melvin struck a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays, who he has dealt with in the past. In return, the Brewers have acquired 1B Adam Lind.

Lind, also 31, has had an up-and-down career in Toronto, the only organization he’s known as a professional since being drafted in the 3rd round of 2004. Lind debuted as a 22-year-old in 2006.

In 2014, Lind spent some time in the  minor leagues to get his groove back, more or less. In his 96 games on Toronto’s roster, Lind slashed .321/.381/.479 in 318 plate appearances. That includes an incredibly hefty platoon split though. In 2014 he his .354/.409/.533 against right-handed pitching (which is the majority as we all know) but an incredibly different .061/.161/.061 in 37 plate appearances. That’s four walks, just two hits (both singles), and 11 strikeouts.

The Brewers are hardly strangers to platooning. They carried season-long platoon at both first and second base last season and due to some injury concerns, they basically played with one in left field down the stretch as well. They might be committing to Scooter Gennett full-time at the keystone in 2015 (though I think they’ll wind up in a soft platoon at best), so it would allow them room to have another first base platoon next season. Looking at the numbers, they almost have to. New hitting coach Darnell Coles can only do so much, after all.

Lind will makes $7.5 million in 2015. His contract carries a 2016 option as well valued at $8 million with a $500 thousand buyout.

Roster News Roundup

If you’re otherwise unable to keep up on news as it happens throughout the day (via social media, or however), allow me to catch you up on the all the roster news coming out of One Brewers Way over the past several days.

(I’ve tweeted all of this as it happened, but this is a quick summary so it’s all in one place.)

  • October 27th
    • 3B Luis Jiménez claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
  • October 30th
    • Five players filed for, and were granted, free agency
      • Zach Duke
      • Tom Gorzelanny
      • Lyle Overbay
      • Mark Reynolds
      • Francisco Rodriguez
    • A report came out that the 2015 contract option on Yovani Gallardo had been exercised
  • October 31st
    • Brewers confirm picking up Gallardo’s option
    • Rickie Weeks officially became a free agent when the team declined the 2015 option on his contract
    • Brewers officially exercised their half of the mutual 2015 option on the contract of Aramis Ramirez
      • Ramirez officially has three (3) days — read Monday — to decide whether he will opt in as well or decline the option to become a free agent
    • C Juan Centeno claimed off waivers from the New York Mets

Quick thoughts (because you can get a list anywhere):

Jiménez sounds like a great glove with some power who carries a higher average than Reynolds. Truly feels like Doug Melvin found a player worth replacing the veteran with.

Speaking of the free agents, the Brewers could look to bring back either Duke or Gorzelanny (though likely not both) but there’s certainly a tenable position that with Duke’s performance and Gorzelanny’s recent health concerns that they choose to let both sign contracts elsewhere. I’d lean toward them re-signing Duke of the two, though Gorzelanny could be cheaper. Overbay has said publicly that he’s leaning toward retirement. As for Reynolds, when he was simply passed over down the stretch last season, it felt like he dropped out of favor. He was streakier at the plate than I think the Brewers anticipated.

Gallardo’s option getting picked up makes all the sense in the world. I covered that move specifically here before it was confirmed Friday morning.

Rickie Weeks leaving Milwaukee is truly a notable moment. He’s been in the franchise for a long time, and was really the first of the high draft picks which ultimately led to winning seasons and playoff runs. While he never did realize the level of a #2 overall draft pick due mainly to injuries, he was the consummate professional in his time in Milwaukee. I wish him consistent success wherever his career takes him next.

Wanting to bring Ramirez back makes sense to a degree as the Brewers haven’t yet developed an internal replacement at third base. Should he decline his option to seek a multi-year deal elsewhere, the Brewers could turn to Jiménez or another internal option like Jason Rogers who played there in 2014 for the first time since college, or even, assuming he stays as has been rumored, Taylor Green? (Yes, that’s how thin the hot corner has been for the Brewers.)

Finally, as for Centeno, I haven’t had much of a chance to read up on him but I did see that he was a tremendous defensive season in 2013 in the minors though he reportedly regressed this past season. He hit pretty well in the minors in 2014 though. Without another catcher on the 40-man roster outside of the MLB level duo of Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado, it’s nice to have someone readily available who also has minor league options remaining.

Anyway, there’s your end of October round up of the Brewers roster moves over the past few days. Also noteworthy in roster news is that the Washington Nationals declined their option on 1B Adam LaRoche, making him a free agent. He could be a top target in free agency for Doug Melvin

Brewers Reportedly Exercise Contract Option

Gallardo esta ganador!!! (Brewers 5, Giants 4)

According to Tim Dierkes of MLBTradeRumors.com, the Milwaukee Brewers exercised their 2015 contract option on starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo.

The option, worth $13 million, had a buyout of a mere $600 thousand, but it was universally agreed that the Brewers would not be able to find similar production on the free agent market for that kind of cost.

Gallardo’s strikeout numbers have dropped the last couple of years, but he’s remained a relatively consistent performer by many other metrics including FIP, WHIP, innings pitched, home run rate, and more. The senior member of Milwaukee’s rotation also posted the best full-season ERA of his career at 3.51, over half a run lower than 2013. Gallardo also posted his lowest BB/9 (2.5) at the MLB level.

The Brewers now appear to have four of their five rotation spots secured for 2015 in Gallardo, Matt Garza, Kyle Lohse, and Wily Peralta. Jimmy Nelson and Mike Fiers would seem to be in line to compete for the fifth job and almost certainly other options will be considered come camp. But if everyone stays healthy, four jobs appear set.

There is also the matter of the holes on the team, most notably at first base where both Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay are free agents. Overbay, who said on MLB Network radio that he’s leaning toward retirement, isn’t likely to return. Neither, it would seem, is Mark Reynolds who played quality defense but was either hitting home runs in bunches or hitting nothing at all. If the Brewers decided that there is value in moving an affordable asset to shore up a bigger hole, it’s conceivable that the Brewers could install Fiers and Nelson in their rotation or return to Marco Estrada who is arbitration eligible.

The point is that by picking up Gallardo’s contract option, the Brewers will be picking up other options as well, metaphorically speaking.

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