Archive for the ‘ Transactions ’ Category

Rumor: Brewers Sign MLB Veteran Willis to MiLB Deal

DontrelleWillis

ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted this a few minutes ago…

Willis, 33, hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2011 as a member of the Cincinnati Reds, though he has spent time in the minor leagues of the Orioles, Angels, and Giants over the past three years. He infamously lost his control at a relatively young age after being dynamic and electric early in his career with the Florida Marlins.

This brings the group of Brewers non-roster invitees up to six when camp opens in February.

Gallardo Trade Details

 

SardinasKnebel

As first reported by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (and since confirmed by several respected writers), the Milwaukee Brewers are receiving three players in return for Yovani Gallardo who was traded to the Texas Rangers.

The three players are a shortstop, a relief pitcher and an 18-year-old starting pitching prospect.

The shortstop is 21-year-old Luis Sardiñas who was suggested by Ken Rosenthal as potentially being involved as the Rangers had offered the Venezuelan in other trade ideas this off-season. He’s a guy who some still regard highly (7th overall Rangers prospect according to Baseball America) while others (MLB Pipeline, unranked) don’t have him nearly as high anymore. He’s considered a true shortstop defensively which is never a bad thing to have in the system.

The relief pitcher is Corey Knebel, a 23-year-old former 1st round pick (2013, 39th overall) of the Detroit Tigers. Knebel made his MLB debut in May of 2014, appearing in a total of eight games for the Tigers. He was later traded to the Rangers in the Joakim Soria deal. Knebel was listed as the Rangers’ eighth-best prospect prior to the deal. Of Knebel’s abilities, the website says:

Knebel definitely has the weapons and competitive makeup with which to close games. His fastball ranges from 91-98 mph with tailing action, and he uses his height to throw it on a downhill plane. When he stays on top of his curveball, it can be just as nasty as his heater, arriving in the low 80s with sharp downward break.

There’s some funkiness to Knebel’s delivery, but it adds more deception than it detracts from his ability to throw strikes. He flashes a decent changeup, which had the Tigers initially considering trying him as a starter, but his future definitely is as a reliever.

Knebel is 6’3″, was a closer at the University of Texas, and quite clearly skyrocketed through the minors and into The Show. If healthy (he was shut down in August with a UCL injury), he joins a murky if somewhat crowded Brewers bullpen situation.

The youngster of the trio is Marcos Diplan, (20th Rangers prospect, MLBPipeline). He can reportedly touch 98 MPH and sits in the low 90s but has room to add power onto his young frame. Diplan was the consensus top pitcher in the 2013 international class coming out of the Dominican Republic, that coming from MLBPipeline.com.

All told, this is a quality return for the Brewers. There is no surefire superstar in the group, but for one guaranteed season of Gallardo, and a chance to sign him to an extension or at least extend a qualifying offer, this was probably about as strong a return as could have been hoped. Oh, and as I reported yesterday, the Brewers kicked in some money to Texas. Reports have it as $4 million. That could explain some of the delay as a dollar amount of that size would need approval from the commissioner’s office.

Both Sardinas and Knebel were on the Rangers 40-man roster. Gallardo leaving opens one spot.

***UPDATE: To clear the other needed spot, former organizational player of the year Hunter Morris was designated for assignment.***

Rumor: Yovani Gallardo Headed to Rangers In Trade

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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.

Brewers Extend Class-A Affiliation

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Official Release:

The Milwaukee Brewers have announced a four-year player development contract extension with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers of the Midwest League through the 2020 season. The announcement was made jointly by Brewers President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Doug Melvin and Timber Rattlers President Rob Zerjav.

“We thoroughly enjoy the professional working relationship that President Rob Zerjav and the Timber Rattlers provide to the Milwaukee Brewers,” said Melvin. “This long-term relationship continues to show the trust and confidence that we have in working together as we continue to develop future Major League players.”

The 2015 season will mark the seventh season of affiliation between the Brewers and Timber Rattlers. The partnership officially began on October 1, 2008 as part of a four-year agreement. The organizations announced a four-year extension through the 2016 season on June 29, 2011.

This past season, the Timber Rattlers went 72-67 during the regular season and qualified for the postseason after clinching a second-half Wild Card berth in the Midwest League’s Western Division. It marked Wisconsin’s second postseason appearance over the past three seasons (also 2012 when they won the Midwest League championship).

“Our relationship with the entire Brewers organization has been a special one for the Timber Rattlers, for the local business community in the Fox Valley and, most importantly, for our fans,” said Zerjav. “The Brewers provided us the team that brought home the first Midwest League championship in Timber Rattlers history and it has been great to see the success of former Rattlers now making an impact at the big league level in Milwaukee. We look forward to many more years of this great partnership both on and off the field.”

The Timber Rattlers play their home games at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Brewers “Go” Ahead, Add “Forth” Player to 40-Man

(Because sometimes, puns can’t be helped.)

Following this morning’s announcement of three additions to the Brewers’ 40-man roster, there remained one open spot. I opined to one of my followers on Twitter that I was surprised David Goforth was not among those chosen.

Tom Haudricourt first told us that David Goforth was being considered for a the last remaining open slot on the 40-man roster, and the Rule 5 draft protection that comes along with it. Adam McCalvy then tweeted that Goforth was going to be added to the 40-man roster, according to a source. Naturally, I think it’s a wise move.

Goforth is a right-handed pitcher who seems to have found a home in the back of the bullpen after serving for the majority of 2014 as the closer as Double-A Huntsville. He recorded 27 saves in 44 games finished across 54 appearances. He posted a 3.78 ERA as he was prone to the occasional blow up outing (six games of multiple runs allowed), but far more often than not, Goforth was nails (39 scoreless outings of his 54). He struck out 46 in 64.2 innings, leading one to understand that his forte is generating ground balls. While not elite, Goforth posted a 1.76 ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio. He throws a heavy ball though that stays in the park though, with a 2014 HR/9 of just 0.28 and a HR-to-fly ball ratio of 4.3%.

The other major calling card that brings Goforth attention as a prospect is that his heavy fastball also sits in the mid-90s and touches 98 MPH. But heat isn’t all he brings. Goforth features a strong cut fastball and is developing potentially above average offerings in a curveball and changeup. As is often cited on prospect reports, and backed up in the numbers, Goforth’s biggest obstacle to a full-time back-end bullpen job in Milwaukee is himself. He needs to improve his command. Many bullpen guys breakthrough “late” according to standard progression, but Goforth just having turned 26 shouldn’t worry anybody from projecting his possible ceiling, in my opinion.

Brewers Add Three to 40-Man Roster

Today the Brewers announced the additions of three players to the 40-man roster, a move that comes ahead of today’s deadline to protect those players from the Rule 5 Draft. The Rule 5 Draft takes places each December on the last day of baseball’s annual Winter Meetings.

Last year the Brewers protected four players: infielders Hunter Morris and Jason Rogers, and pitchers Kevin Shackelford (since removed) and Brooks Hall.

Morris and Hall were hurt for a stretch of time in 2014, though Hall pitched well making up time in the Arizona Fall League following surgery. Jason Rogers was among Milwaukee’s September call-ups in 2014.

The Brewers had nearly a full 40-man roster of players to consider for protection (38), including 22 who were eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time.

Here are the three prospects who were protected with a little bit more information about each of them.

JungmannTaylor Jungmann is a big (6’6″) right-handed pitcher who was the team’s top overall draft pick (12th overall) in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Texas. He split time this season between Double-A Huntsville and, after an earned promotion, Triple-A Nashville. He posted a combined 12-10 record in 27 starts and one appearance out of the bullpen right after his promotion to Triple-A. Jungmann, who turns 25 next month, posted a composite 3.57 ERA in 153.2 innings. He struck out 147 hitters overall, 101 of which came in his 101.2 innings at Nashville.

MikeStrongMike Strong, who turned 26 three days ago, earned protection after a long and successful 2014. The southpaw pitcher played for three different teams this year, making all but one regular season appearance with High-A Brevard County before a one-game season-ender with Huntsville (where he pitched 4.0 scoreless in relief) and then participating in the Arizona Fall League as a member of the Glendale Desert Dogs. In the Florida State League, Strong was 2-2 with a 2.50 ERA in 75.2 innings pitched across 30 games (six starts). He struck out 78 batters as a Manatee, saved four games, and posted a 1.044 WHIP. In Arizona, his 1.98 ERA in 11 games, two saves, and 14 punchies in 13.2 innings were a cherry on top of his case to make the 40-man roster.

 

YadielRiveraYadiel Rivera is the third player protected this year and is considered to be nearly ready defensively for the Major Leagues. Before 2014, however, Rivera’s bat was lagging significantly behind. Still just 22 years old, Rivera slashed .258/.309/.374 combined in 2014, with a line of .262/.304/.410 at Double-A following his late-June promotion from High-A. He still needs development at the plate, and Orlando Arcia will be nipping at his heels at shortstop in the system, but with his defensive profile and step forward as a hitter, Rivera deserved protection.

With these three additions, the Brewers 40-man roster currently stands at 39 players.

Of note is that the Brewers are still considering the addition of a fourth player to the 40-man roster in advance of today’s 11pm CT deadline. That report came via a tweet from beat writer Tom Haudricourt who called GM Doug Melvin for comments on Jungmann, Strong, and Rivera.

David Goforth was the surprise to me this morning as having been left off of the 40-man roster, but to hear that the Brewers are still considering him is encouraging.

Trade News: Brewers Trade Marco Estrada

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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.

Official Release: Brewers Name New Hitting Coach

The Milwaukee Brewers today named Darnell Coles hitting coach. Coles, who was signed to a one-year contract, replaces former hitting coach Johnny Narron, who was relieved of his duties on October 10.  The announcement was made by President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Doug Melvin.

“Darnell has an impressive Major League background as a player and coach,” said Melvin.  “With his knowledge of hitting and strength as an instructor, he has the ability to connect with our players, with whom he is quite familiar.”

Coles, 52, returns for his second stint in the Brewers organization, having served as minor league hitting coordinator from 2010-11 and as manager at Double-A Huntsville from 2012-13.  He spent the 2014 season as assistant hitting coach for the Detroit Tigers, his first career coaching position at the Major League level.  The Tigers offense led the Major Leagues in batting average (.277), hits (1,557), RBI (731) and doubles (325) and ranked second (led the American League) in on-base percentage (.331), slugging percentage (.426) and OPS (.757).

Coles began his coaching career in 2000 as minor league hitting coordinator with the Seattle Mariners.  From 2001-06, he served as an analyst for ESPN.  His coaching career resumed in 2006 as minor league roving hitting instructor with the Washington Nationals and followed with roles in the organization as manager at Class-A Vermont (2007) and Class-A Hagerstown (2008) and as hitting coach at Triple-A Syracuse (2009).

Coles played 14 Major League seasons and batted .245 with 75 HR and 368 RBI in 957 games.  The former infielder/outfielder played for Seattle (1983-85, ‘88-90), Detroit (1986-87, ‘90), Pittsburgh (1987-88), San Francisco (1991), Cincinnati (1992), Toronto (1993-94), St. Louis (1995) and Colorado (1997).  He was a member of the 1993 World Series champion Blue Jays.

Coles and his wife, Shari, reside in Tampa, Florida.  They have three children, DeAnna, Darnell Jr. and Jared.

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