Results tagged ‘ Craig Counsell ’

Brewers On Deck to Feature Over 50 Players, Alumni, Coaches, Broadcasters

BREWERS ON DECK, PRESENTED BY TIME WARNER CABLE, TO INCLUDE OVER 50 PLAYERS, COACHES, BROADCASTERS & ALUMNI

Free Admission to All Fans in 2014; Food Donations Accepted through Hunger Task Force

Nearly thirty Milwaukee Brewers players plus a host of alumni, coaches, front office executives and broadcasters are scheduled to participate in Brewers On Deck, presented by Time Warner Cable, which is set to take place on Sunday, January 26 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Wisconsin Center.

Admission to this year’s Brewers On Deck is free of charge.  Tickets are not required for the event.  Food donations will be accepted through the Hunger Task Force (peanut butter is requested by the Hunger Task Force, in particular).  Donations can be dropped off at two main entrances to the Wisconsin Center, located at 4th Street and Wisconsin Avenue, and 4th Street and Wells Street.  Players, coaches and alumni scheduled to attend include (all subject to change):

Players (28)

  • Jeff Bianchi
  • Michael Blazek
  • Ryan Braun
  • Hiram Burgos
  • Khris Davis
  • Marco Estrada
  • Mike Fiers
  • Yovani Gallardo
  • Scooter Gennett
  • Caleb Gindl
  • Tom Gorzelanny
  • Brooks Hall
  • Sean Halton
  • Donovan Hand
  • Johnny Hellweg
  • Jim Henderson
  • Elian Herrera
  • Brandon Kintzler
  • Kyle Lohse
  • Jonathan Lucroy
  • Hunter Morris
  • Jimmy Nelson
  • Mark Reynolds
  • Jason Rogers
  • Logan Schafer
  • Jean Segura
  • Kevin Shackelford
  • Will Smith
  • Tyler Thornburg
  • Rob Wooten

Alumni (7)

  • Craig Counsell
  • Rollie Fingers
  • Jim Gantner
  • Larry Hisle
  • Geoff Jenkins
  • Gorman Thomas
  • Robin Yount

Coaches (10)

  • Ron Roenicke
  • Joe Crawford
  • Mike Guerrero
  • Marcus Hanel
  • Garth Iorg
  • Rick Kranitz
  • Johnny Narron
  • Ed Sedar
  • John Shelby
  • Lee Tunnell

Broadcasters (3)

  • Jerry Augustine
  • Dave Nelson
  • Bob Uecker

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Brewers On Deck will feature a number of activities for the entire family.  Autographs and photos from Brewers players, coaches and alumni; interactive games in the Kids Area; Q&A sessions and game shows with Brewers players, coaches and broadcasters; vendor booths with baseball memorabilia; Brewers Community Foundation’s Treasure Hunt and many other activities will all be a part of Brewers On Deck.

Details regarding autographs include the following:  Recipients of “PREMIER” autographs (players to be announced next week) will be chosen through a random selection process. Each fan in attendance will receive one Premier Entry sheet which may be redeemed at the Random Selection area outside the Main Exhibit Hall of the Wisconsin Center District.  The Premier Entry sheet will be exchanged for a numbered coupon to be entered into the random selection process for any one of the select Brewers players.  Coupon distribution will be available at 8 a.m. the day of the event and will continue up to an hour before each designated autograph session.   There is no cost for coupons to enter the random selection process; however, those holding winning coupons must pay $10 at the respective autograph stage to collect their player signature.  There will be 250 winners for each of the autograph sessions.  The winning ticket numbers will be posted at the designated autograph stage no less than 30 minutes prior to each player’s session.

Players and staff not included in the PREMIER autograph list will not use the random selection process. Each of these players will sign 250 autographs at prices ranging from free to $10. A schedule of players, their session times, and distribution info will be posted next week.  The autograph opportunities are for signatures on photo cards provided by the team; the Brewers cannot guarantee that any player will sign other memorabilia.  For additional information, visit Brewers.com/ondeck.

Autograph proceeds benefit Brewers Community Foundation.  Please note that cash is the only acceptable form of payment for autographs. The Brewers cannot guarantee that any player will sign other memorabilia, and personalization of items is solely up to the discretion of each player.

Fans also have the opportunity to enter to win autographs from their favorite players via a #BrewersOnDeck Vine & Instagram contest, which runs through Monday, January 20. The details can be found here: http://brewers.mlblogs.com/2014/01/07/win-an-autograph-from-your-favorite-brewers-player-at-brewers-on-deck/

Village of Whitefish Bay to Rename Park in Honor of Craig Counsell

The Village of Whitefish Bay will dedicate a park in honor of Craig Counsell in a ceremony on Saturday at 10 a.m.  The 15-year MLB veteran and current Brewers Special Assistant to the General Manager is a native and current resident of the Milwaukee suburb.

Formally known as “Water Tower Park,” the newly dedicated “Craig Counsell Park” is the home to Whitefish Bay Little League teams.  The park is located at 6330 N. Lydell Avenue in Whitefish Bay.  Counsell along with the Famous Racing Sausages will attend the dedication.

Counsell is a 1988 graduate of Whitefish Bay High School.  He went on to graduate from the University of Notre Dame in 1992 and was selected by Colorado in the 11th round of the 1992 First-Year Player Draft.  He went on to enjoy a Major League career that began in 1995 with the Rockies and included time with Los Angeles, Arizona, Florida and Milwaukee.

Counsell owns a career .255 batting average in 1,623 career games and scored the game-winning run in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series for the Florida Marlins.  He was also a member of the World Series Champion Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001.

Milwaukee Brewers Uniform Number History: #30

Wondering who wore a certain uniform number all-time for the Milwaukee Brewers?

The Brewer Nation has got you covered. If you found this list on its own, head back here for the full repository after checking out this one.

#30

Lew Krausse (’70)
Moose Haas (’76-’85)
Steve Kiefer (’86-’87)
Terry Francona (’89-’90)
Bob Sebra (’90)
Kevin D. Brown (’90)
Willie Randolph (’91)
Bruce Ruffin (’92)
Matt Mieske (’93-’97)
Bob Hamelin (’98)
Davey Lopes (’00-’02)
Mike Matthews (’02)
Jimmy Osting (’02)
David Manning (’03)
Wes Obermueller (’03)
Rick Helling (’05-’06)
Craig Counsell (’04, ’07-’11)
Tyler Thornburg (’14-Current)

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #3 Cesar Izturis

It’s Tuesday as I type.

It’ll be Friday as I drink liquids and eat a bratwurst…at 10am or so.

Three short days remain until Opening Day. It’s going to be a fun ride this season and I hope you’ll all have ample opportunity to get to Miller Park this year and enjoy that ride.

A man looking to enjoy a full season of Major League Baseball is the subject of today’s profile. He is backup infielder:

Cesar Izturis.

After missing all but 17 games in 2011 and all but 19 games in 2010, Cesar David Izturis is hoping for another season in the sun where he actually gets some time on the field.

2011 began okay for now 32-year-old native of Venezuela, but he was placed on the disabled list on May 18th with an ulnar nerve injury. He returned in early August, but three days later was banged for the rest of the season with a groin strain.

He signed his free agent contract with Milwaukee on December 2, 2011 and was an immediate consideration for the backup utility infielder spot vacated when Jerry Hairston, Jr. signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Craig Counsell retired.

Izturis can perform capably on defense at 2B, 3B and SS, and when he was told he would be added to the 25-man roster at the end of the Spring Training it came as no real surprise. That’s because despite his defensive struggles this spring, he’s the only legitimate MLB-caliber player who could backup at shortstop that the Brewers had in camp. He’s also a switch-hitter which adds value. He can pinch hit for anybody and then double-switch into a number of positions.

Managers appreciate that kind of flexibility.

Now, having said all of that, Izturis isn’t exactly a good player anymore.

Recent track record shows a trend of injury and ineffectiveness. He’d have to overcome a bit of that history in order to stick in a normal situation, but in Milwaukee he’ll get more of a chance then he otherwise might. But if his glove doesn’t come around, he’ll be jettisoned when the team can find a more capable option.

Then again, players who can man shortstop, that come cheap, and can switch-hit aren’t exactly your standard unemployment line fodder. They tend to have jobs.

As far as 2012 is concerned though, it’ll be a success if Izturis can stay healthy, and convert outs into outs when he’s asked to give starting shortstop Alex Gonzalez a breather. He’ll need to contribute in a pinch-hitting role on occasion as well, but he’s on the team primarily because he is physically able to play shortstop. Don’t sell that point short in your mind.

The biggest concern?

If anything, it’s that the elbow nerve issue last year comes on an elbow which underwent Tommy John surgery back in 2005. It’s a minor concern really, but he missed almost three months with that injury and Father Time catches up to all athletes eventually. He hasn’t shown any issues with it so far this spring, but as far as I can tell he didn’t have any issues last spring either.

Just something to keep our collective eyes on.

Again, though, if Izturis can answer the bell and provide the services he is on the team to provide, nobody will be able to complain with much authority throughout the year.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #29 Edwin Maysonet

It feels like I’ve only written one of these articles in over a week.

That’s probably because I have only written one article (#33 Eric Farris) in the past eight days. That’s because a significant chunk of the 30′s are consumed by coaches, plus one number is unavailable (thanks for the memories, Mr. Fingers!).

All that said, let’s get right into today’s profile:

Edwin Maysonet.

There has been no bigger point of contention among Brewers fan over the past few seasons than that of how the shortstop on the team is performing.

Last year the position was manned by stalwart and lightning rod Yuniesky Betancourt. Betancourt brought relatively ineffective play, a penchant for making the routine seem incredibly difficult at times, but also a knack for coming through when you least expected it.

Yuni B. was shipped out following the 2011 season and Alex Gonzalez (who will be profiled on March 26th) was brought in to be the starter. Despite his inconsistency, the one thing Betancourt could be counted on for was answering the bell.

He started 146 games at shortstop for the Brewers in 2011. Alex Gonzalez won’t be doing that and therefore a capable backup is needed this year more than it was last year.

The thing is, the capable backup options on the 25-man roster all dried up this offseason as well as Jerry Hairston, Jr. followed his wallet to Los Angeles and Craig Counsell retired from the game altogether.

For Maysonet, opportunity is knocking loudly and clearly.

This is not just some organizational guy who continues to play at Triple-A simply because he’s been there for a while and nobody better has come along. Maysonet, 30, has seen big league time with the Houston Astros in parts of two seasons. He has started 17 games at the Major League level.

So how did he come to the Brewers anyway?

After the Astros made him a 19th round draft pick in 2003, Maysonet made his debut just over five years later on September 7, 2008. The Astros designated him for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot in September of 2010. The Brewers, being perilously thin in the upper levels of the minors as the shortstop position scooped Maysonet up on a minor-league free agent contract which was signed in mid-December of that same year.

The Brewers have used Maysonet primarily in the shortstop role, though he is capable is playing second and even third if necessary.

He’s got the arm strength and range to play short (despite a team-high 23 errors last year), but in order to beat out fellow non-roster invitee (though 11-year MLB veteran) Cesar Izturis for the job he’ll have to contribute something offensively.

In 2011 for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds, Maysonet hit .290/.347/.386, with 111 hits in 383 at-bats. The thing holding Maysonet back though is that his batting average is what’s commonly referred to as an “empty” one. He did have 29 extra-base hits, but only three home runs. He also doesn’t run as evidenced by his two stolen bases in three attempts. As for the run production stats, he only scored 57 and only drove in 39.

In this series of profiles I am focusing on the men that have a chance to make the roster and provide a legitimate contribution either from the 40-man roster or, in this case, as a non-roster invitee. Backup shortstop is the most open competition in camp and therefore anybody in big league camp that can play the position  warrants consideration.

All that being said, and while I’m not saying that Izturis is necessarily the answer either, there is a reason that Yuniesky Betancourt was the starter all year and that when they needed a backup middle infielder in July and for the balance of the season in 2011 it wasn’t Maysonet’s number was not called.

Could he change the minds of those in charge and warrant himself a spot on the 25-man roster? Sure. That’s why he’s there. He’ll even earn some points when not playing is Izturis’ poor defense continues much longer. But the problem facing Maysonet is simply an overall lack of impact ability.

Bottom line: He’s a nice piece at Triple-A and in a short-term pinch he probably could man the post for a handful of games, but I honestly feel like it would take a major event for him to beat out yet another mercenary.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #52 Cody Scarpetta

Three of the last four days in our player preview countdown to Opening Day have been lost to Brewers coaches. Yesterday’s culprit was bullpen coach Stan Kyles who wears #53 when in uniform.

Today however, and for the next seven days following today, a player wears the number in question. That would make it eight straight for “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers”, a stretch which shall not be broken this year and which is only duplicated once, but this stretch includes a non-roster invitee to Spring Training who I’m still debating on whether to profile. Unless I hear an outcry of want, that player, Juan Perez who was assigned #46 when the Brewers acquired him, probably won’t be previewed.

I won’t be holding my breath while waiting for his fan base to cry out in support, but I still haven’t officially made up my mind. After all, I strive to preview players on the 40-man roster and/or those who could contribute to the 25-man roster at some point in 2012. The only thing working in Perez’ favor is his handedness.

But enough about those other members of the Brewers organization; as it is 52 days until Opening Day, we are here today to discuss the player who wears 52:

Cody Scarpetta.

Working as a starting pitcher for each of 23 appearances in 2011 as a member of the Double-A Huntsville Stars, Cody Michael Payne Scarpetta posted a season linescore of 8-5, 3.85 ERA, 100 H, 61 R (50 ER), 8 HR, 61 BB, 98 K, 1.38 WHIP over 117.0 innings pitched. He held opponents to a .234 batting average.

Scarpetta’s play in the first half of the minor league season earned him a reward of sorts. With a bit of an overworked bullpen just before the Major League All-Star Game break, Milwaukee officially optioned Mat Gamel back to the minor leagues on July 10, 2011 and called up Scarpetta for a game that same night against the Cincinnati Reds.

With the game tightly contested the entire way (eventually won by the Brewers with a bottom of the ninth walk-off from Craig Counsell), Scarpetta didn’t enter the game and therefore has no official Major League career to speak of yet. The fact remains that Scarpetta was in uniform for the game and no doubt learned plenty from his 24-hour tour of Milwaukee.

The level of performance that earned him that one-day callup would not carry over to the 2011 Arizona Fall League where, in five appearances (four starts) as a member of the Peoria Javelinas, Scarpetta lost three games and allowed 16 earned runs on 13 walks and 14 hits, two of which were home runs, in just 7.1 innings pitched. That was bad for an ERA of 19.64 and a WHIP of 3.68!

Small sample size or not, and regardless of the fact that the AFL is littered with on-the-cusp talent, it’s clear that Scarpetta simply didn’t have much of anything to offer in Arizona. The future remains bright enough for Scarpetta, though, and he likely could contribute out of the bullpen if needed in 2012.

For a look at how he got to this point, let’s go back and review Scarpetta’s early years as a professional.

Scarpetta was originally drafted in the 11th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft out of Guilford High School and forewent a commitment to Creighton University to sign with the Brewers organization. In an odd circumstance, Scarpetta (who is still only 23 years old today) had his original deal voided because of an injury and when the team resigned him it was forced to add him to the 40-man roster at the end of the same year (2008) or risk losing him to the Rule V Draft.

What that also means is that Scarpetta’s minor league options began having to be used up immediately to keep him in the system beginning with the 2009 season. Normally a player has three options but with the unique circumstances of Scarpetta’s situation, the league granted a fourth minor league option to the Brewers on Scarpetta therefore allowing them to stash him in the minors for one more year before doing so would require exposing him to waivers first.

As you can surmise, 2012 will be an important year in Scarpetta’s development as his final minor league option will be used.

Scarpetta will be working on a fastball that’s already been described as “very good” and sits in the low 90s, a plus curveball that was described as “the best in the system” by Baseball America prior to the 2011 season and a changeup which, while improved, is still developing. He’ll need all three of those pitches to profile well if he’s to get a legitimate shot at joining a Brewers rotation that could, technically, have four openings in 2013. As it stands today, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum will both be free agents at the end of 2012, Randy Wolf could become of a free agent if the Brewers decline their 2013 option and Chris Narveson becomes arbitration-eligible prior to the 2013 season which could always lead to a non-tender if Narveson doesn’t perform well enough this year.

Preparing for that final step, Scarpetta will take the next step in 2012 by most likely beginning the year in the rotation for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds. If he doesn’t start in Triple-A, he’ll likely be one of the first looks for an early-season promotion thereto.

To be successful at the highest minor league level, Scarpetta will have to overcome the command and delivery issues that have some baseball people saying that his best (or possibly only) path to the majors is a complete dedication to the bullpen. It’s been said that Scarpetta has “enough stuff” to start, but you have to be able to control that stuff to be successful at starting.

Listed at 6’3” and 244 pounds, Scarpetta has good size and a build that should hold up well throughout a season regardless as to his eventual role. Naturally everyone in Milwaukee hopes Scarpetta can be an effective contributor in the rotation, but again it remains to be seen if he’s got those kinds of chops.

With pitchers and catchers set to officially report to Spring Training in just five days, and all the uncertainty beginning in 2013 both individually and with the big league pitching staff, the most important season so far in Cody Scarpetta’s career is about to get underway.

What he does with it could make all the difference.

Milwaukee Brewers 25-Man Roster Comes Into Focus…For Now

By: Big Rygg 

After a flurry of moves today the 25-man roster heading north with the parent club has become as clear as it’s been all spring. Justin James and Mike McClendon were optioned to the minor leagues and once GM Doug Melvin traded minor leaguer Cutter Dykstra for OF Nyjer Morgan, Brandon Boggs was placed on waivers.

teamhuddle.jpg

When those moves were completed, there were 27 players officially left in Major League camp though two of them (Jonathan Lucroy and Corey Hart) are expected to be officially placed on the DL shortly.
As for the current 25-man roster, it’ll break down like this:
Four (4) Starting Pitchers
  • Yovani Gallardo
  • Shaun Marcum
  • Randy Wolf
  • Chris Narveson
Eight (8) Relief Pitchers
  • John Axford
  • Takashi Saito
  • Kameron Loe
  • Sean Green
  • Zach Braddock
  • Mitch Stetter
  • Sergio Mitre
  • Brandon Kintzler
Two (2) Catchers
  • George Kottaras
  • Wil Nieves
Six (6) Infielders
  • 1B – Prince Fielder
  • 2B – Rickie Weeks
  • SS – Yuniesky Betancourt
  • 3B – Casey McGehee
  • Bench – Craig Counsell
  • Bench – Erick Almonte
Five (5) Outfielders
  • LF – Ryan Braun
  • CF – Carlos Gomez
  • RF – Mark Kotsay
  • Bench – Jeremy Reed
  • Bench – Nyjer Morgan
Now, obviously things will change throughout April quite a bit. Five expected roster members will be starting the season on the 15-day Disabled List. These are pitchers Zack Greinke, Manny Parra and LaTroy Hawkins, catcher Jonathan Lucroy, and right-fielder Corey Hart.
All of the DL placements will be retroactive to March 22nd (the earliest date allowed by league rule) which means that the men on it to start the year will be eligible to come back to the active roster as of April 6th. Not everyone will be ready by then, but two or more might be.
When Lucroy returns, one of the other catchers will be removed from the roster. Kottaras and Nieves are both out of options and, in reality, Lucroy’s injury is simply delaying the inevitable for one of them. With Martin Maldonado and Mike Rivera set to share the catching duties at Triple-A Nashville, one has to wonder whether the person Lucroy pushes out will even choose to remain with the organization should he clear waivers.
Hart’s situation is much the same though it seems much more clear who loses their job when he returns. Spring Training non-roster invitee Jeremy Reed made the club based on his performance over these past few weeks, but with the Brewers having recently traded for the younger, more talented, team-controlled (contract-wise) Nyjer Morgan, it appears fairly obvious that, barring injury, Reed will be the odd man out when Hart is deemed ready to go.
As for the pitchers, it’s a bit more muddled. The team is only taking four starters north because they don’t need a fifth one until April 6th. That being said, unless they choose to have recently acquired swingman Sergio Mitre make that first spot start, someone will have to be sent out to make room for the fifth starter. If someone is sent out, it’ll likely be Brandon Kintzler because not only does he have options remaining but they aren’t going to keep eight relief pitchers all year anyway.
If they choose to go with Mitre on the 6th of April, Kintzler will survive a while longer. A fifth starter isn’t need again after that until the 16th.
So if we go down the diverging paths another step, we get to the two relief pitchers, Hawkins and Parra. If Mitre makes the spot start, Kintzler will be optioned down as soon as Hawkins is ready to come back. When Parra is deemed healthy he’ll replace one of the other left-handed pitchers in the bullpen, either Braddock or Stetter. Who is sent down to Nashville due to his return will probably rely a great deal on performance over these first couple of weeks.
Of course the elephant in the room is the eventual return of Zack Greinke. When he is ready to contribute the bullpen shrinks back to seven members. No ifs ands or buts about that. If he’s somehow the first pitcher to return, Kintzler again goes. If he’s second behind Parra it could be Mitre who goes because they’d have their long-man back. If Hawkins is on the roster too it could be an interesting decision to say the least.
But for now the 25-man roster is very clear…for at least a week or so anyway.

All- Decade Roster

By: Big Rygg

Here is my 25-man roster (complete with starters, batting order, rotation and bullpen assignments). We will be recording a podcast in the semi-near future to no doubt dissect this (and surely Cary will disagree with a few choices).

This roster was constructed with an eye on best players at positions, but also with an eye on making what could be a legitimate 25-man roster with capable bench players and not all closers in the bullpen, etc.

First will be the roster listed alphabetically by position with starters marked with an asterisk.

SP (5) – Jeff D’Amico, Doug Davis, Yovani Gallardo, CC Sabathia, Ben Sheets
RP (7) – Todd Coffey, Francisco Cordero, Chad Fox, Trevor Hoffman, Curt Leskanic, Brian Shouse, Bob Wickman
C (2) – Henry Blanco, Damian Miller*
INF (6) – Ryan Braun*, Russell Branyan, Craig Counsell, Prince Fielder*, Bill Hall*, Jose Hernandez*
OF (5) – Corey Hart, Geoff Jenkins*, Gabe Kapler, Carlos Lee*, Scott Podsednik*

My rotation shakes out as follows:

1 – Ben Sheets (as a nod to his longevity with the team)
2 – CC Sabathia (he was that dominant in his short stint)
3 – Yovani Gallardo (future ace would make an amazing #3 on this team)
4 – Doug Davis (long tenure, LHP, consistent numbers)
5 – Jeff D’Amico (very solid statistics despite only 33 starts with the Brewers)

The bullpen stacks up like this:

Closer – Trevor Hoffman (yes, only one season but an amazing season as closer)
Set up – Francisco Cordero (flame-thrower, closing experience in the 8th inning)
LOOGy – Brian Shouse (of top three including Mitch Stetter and Ray King, Shouse was best and most consistent)
Others in the bullpen would share back-up 8th inning and the short work

And for my batting order…

CF – Scott Podsednik
SS – Jose Hernandez
3B – Ryan Braun
1B – Prince Fielder
LF – Carlos Lee
RF – Geoff Jenkins
2B – Bill Hall
C – Damian Miller
PITCHER

I am more than happy to explain my selections for this roster and I will…on the podcast. Be sure to download it when you see the post telling you that it’s there.

Happy New Year. Happy New Decade.

How about a couple or several division championships this decade?

Quick Hops: Non-Tenders, Counsell, Rumors

By: Big Rygg

Plenty to talk about as I roll out a new title here. When I have several things to discuss and I choose to put them in one post instead of several, it’ll be called “Quick Hops” as I hop from topic to topic. Oh, and if you don’t know, hops are an ingredient in beer…and the team is the Brewers…I hope you’re following me.

Anyway, let’s get to it!

Non-Tender Choices Add Intrigue to Spring Training

The Milwaukee Brewers chose not to tender contracts to injured relief pitcher Mark DiFelice, pitcher Seth McClung and catcher Mike Rivera. This makes the three men free agents, able to sign a contract with any team. Feel free to skip the next two paragraphs if you understand the arbitration system and what the meaning of the non-tender is.

The system that is in place in Major League Baseball allows for a team to “control” a player for six seasons of service time (in the majority of cases). During the first three years of team control (again, in most cases) the team has 100% control over what they pay a player provided that the salary is at least as much as the league-mandated minimum. Typically teams negotiate salaries with players on a year-to-year basis anyway in an effort to involve the player in their money-dealings, but the team has the final say if they and the player cannot reach an accord. If that happens, then the team “renews” the player’s contract at whatever number they deem fair. This can upset players greatly if they feel they outperformed a certain level of pay with their level of play. Prince Fielder is the Brewers’ most recent example of that situation when, after becoming the youngest player in the history of the league to slug 50 home runs in a single season, he felt he was deserving of much more than the contract that he was offered. The two sides couldn’t reach an agreement, so the team renewed Fielder’s contract at a rate that was in line with their team’s pay scale for non-arbitration eligible players.

Being eligible for arbitration is what leads to the non-tendering of contracts if it’s going to happen. When a player becomes eligible for arbitration, salary is no longer completely up to the team. There are a lot of details that I could bore you with, but the basics are that the team and player negotiate to reach a salary for the upcoming year. If the two sides cannot agree on a number by a certain, pre-determined date then they exchange figures. These figures are those that they will submit to a salary arbiter before the season begins. Arbitration hearings are scheduled over a few days in the spring. The team and player can continue to negotiate up to the beginning of the hearing to reach an agreement. If they do, great. The player signs the contract and plays under its terms. If they don’t, a three-member arbitration panel hears the case and chooses one of the figures the sides submitted several weeks prior. (To note: During Doug Melvin’s tenure as General Manager of the Brewers, no player has gone to a hearing.)

Now, the reason that arbitration eligibility can lead to a non-tender is because the contracts a player gets go up in value significantly during arbitration. The jump in salary in the first year of eligibility is often a multi-million dollar one. What’s more, is that arbitration salaries are often influenced simply by service time itself more so than performance. For example, former Brewer J.J. Hardy made around $4MM in 2009. His 2009 season was terrible. It was terrible statistically and it was terrible peripherally. Hardy is not worthy of even the same salary let alone an increase in salary. However, with the system that’s in place, it is an unbelievable rarity that a player’s salary goes lower.

To summarize this entire Hop, allow me to say this: While Mark DiFelice was non-tendered under the rare case where he wasn’t arbitration eligible (he had shoulder surgery which will most likely cost him his entire 2010 season), the increases in salary that McClung and Rivera (who is eligible for arbitration for the first time) stand to receive are more than the Brewers want to pay for those positions for next year. McClung might have been a combination of high-salary/low-performance with the adding of LaTroy Hawkins and needed a spot on the 40-man roster for him, but most likely they could’ve kept McClung anyway with the injury to DiFelice. As for Mike Rivera, the Brewers are finally able to move on from the career backup. Rivera has been a servicable backup backstop during his time with this franchise however he has never been the future at the catcher position. The Brewers knew this when Damian Miller retired and they brought in Jason Kendall for the last two years with Rivera backing him up. Finally, however, the Brewers feel that they have talent at the position in the minor leagues such that they can promote from within and, with a season or two of tutelage at the Major League level, have a home-grown starting catcher for the first time since Mike Matheny.

This should make for a fun battle to watch during Spring Training. The Brewers have two catchers that might be ready to make the jump. Angel Salome has been the most talked about catching prospect in the system for a couple of years now, especially when he put up such gaudy offensive numbers as part of that stacked AA Huntsville club from two seasons ago that included Alcides Escobar, Mat Gamel, Matt LaPorta and others. He was the starting catcher for AAA Nashville last year. The catching prospect that has gotten the most talk lately, howevere, has been Jonathan Lucroy who was the starting catcher for Huntsville in 2009. The consensus seems to be that Lucroy might be more ready for the big leagues now with his better plate discipline and what not, but that Salome’s ceiling might still be higher. The Brewers did also claim George Kottaras on waivers early in the off-season as well, so if both youngsters are unable to show anything in spring training that wins them the job, Kottaras might end up being the defacto big league backup while the kids get some more seasoning down on the farm.

Any way it ends up, it ought to be a fun ride. Stay tuned.

The Craigger Set to Stay Put, Announcement to Come Monday?

Monday is shaping up to be a big day for Doug Melvin’s staff. The reports from Indianapolis at the Winter Meetings this past Monday through Thursday were that free-agent pitcher Randy Wolf would be announced to the media as the Brewers’ latest acquisition this coming Monday after passing his required physical examination.

The Brewers, though, just might have two names to announce on Monday. While free-agent signee LaTroy Hawkins was rumored to be announced this coming Tuesday, veteran infielder and team leader Craig Counsell has reportedly agreed to stay in Milwaukee for what might be the balance of his career.

I couldn’t be happier about this move. Even if Counsell doesn’t duplicate his offensive production from 2009, his ability to play three infield positions very well defensively is a huge asset to this team. With inexperienced (at the major league level) starters at SS and 3B in Escobar and Casey McGehee respectively along with Rickie Weeks one bat waggle away from season-ending surgery, having Counsell to spell all three positions is as invaluable for 2010 as having him has proven to be over the past couple of years as well.

Welcome back, Craigger! The Brewer Nation is glad you never left.

Rumor Burner Stays Warm on Hot Stove

Doug Melvin has made no bones about his desire to add two starting pitchers during this off-season. Signing Randy Wolf to a free agent contract gives him one. Where the second one comes from has been a matter of some opinion.

There are still plenty of free agents on the market to be sure. Given the Brewers’ projected payroll, some of them are out of the team’s price range. However, there are several that can be had for a reasonable rate that have great chances to put up better numbers than most members of the Crew’s 2009 starting rotation. In this realm, names like Doug Davis, Jon Garland, Erik Bedard, Justin Duchscherer, Wisconsin-native Jarrod Washburn and the recently non-tendered Chien-Mien Wang to name a few.

Pulling off a trade is another possibility that is open to Melvin et al. The Brewers still have a handful of trade chips that they can deal to interested teams to get a starting pitcher in return. It’s all about making something work for all teams involved. The biggest rumor that has been floating around since the Winter Meetings is a trade involving the New York Mets which would send Corey Hart to the Big Apple in exchange for John Maine. This makes sense for a couple of different reasons for both teams, but the biggest thing for Milwaukee’s point of view is that it gets us another starting pitcher. It also relieves us of Corey Hart and his waning value. He performed poorly last year but has had recent success and could still have plenty of upside. Maine has worked with new Brewer pitching coach Rick Peterson before when Peterson was in the same role with the Mets. The pairing led to Maine’s best season as a pro so it’s reasonable that it could produce positive results should the two be reunited in Milwaukee.

The Brewers are rumored to be preparing for this possible trade by readying offers to a handful of right fielders. They haven’t offered contracts to any of them yet, of course, because Corey Hart is still on the roster and would start in right field is no move is made. However, I have been told that guys such as Austin Kearns, Xavier Nady and recent 2009 Brewer Frank Catalanotto (who has one of the best batter walkup tunes EVER!). It’ll be interesting to see if the Brewers need to make an offer to one of these players or to another outfielder altogether. Even if they keep Hart, they carried five outfielders for the majority of 2009 and they currently only have four on the 25-man roster in Carlos Gomez, Ryan Braun, Jody Gerut and Hart.

Whether a trade or signing is next on the horizon for this team remains to be seen, but the Hot Stove League shouldn’t cool down for Milwaukee for a bit yet.

Just an FYI here to finish things up, the next Brewer Nation podcast with yours truly and Cary Kostka should be recorded at some point this month, schedules permitting. We’ll definitely keep you posted though here at the blog so come back often and thanks for your continued (or brand new) readership!

Milwaukee Brewers Sign Five, Including C Zaun

By: Big Rygg

The Hot Stove season in baseball can be a very exciting time. It’s the first real baseball-heavy stretch of time in the sports media since the end of the World Series and, chance are, the first time you’ve really heard much about your team since the end of the regular season.

The big event during the off-season in baseball are the four days collectively known as the Winter Meetings. The Winter Meetings are a gathering of all of Major League Baseball’s General Managers (amongst other MLB officials). A ton of agents and even usually a handful of players make the trip as well. It is a chance for everybody to meet face to face and, thusly, to get a LOT accomplished in a relatively short amount of time. Groundwork is laid, dialogue is begun, negotiations get underway and, when all the stars align, players get signed to contracts.

In 2008 the Milwaukee Brewers were a part of the big storyline of the Winter Meetings, that of course being the CC Sabathia sweepstakes (congratulations to CC for winning a World Series Championship, by the way). That didn’t work out in Milwaukee’s favor, but it certainly was fun to have all the national media focused on the Brewers for a couple of days.

Last year, Doug Melvin was focused pretty much solely on Sabathia during the Winter Meetings and didn’t really accomplish anything. This year, however, Melvin is casting a much wider net into the free agent waters, specifically into the Sea of Starting Pitching. It has been said that the Brewers are basically looking into every available free agent pitcher. Having signed two arms already (the rehabbing Chris Capuano along with John Halama), the Brewers have gotten started fairly quickly this year. The Winter Meetings don’t even start until this coming Monday, for what it’s worth.

But, two pitchers that are questionable at best if one were to rely on them to start 20 games in 2010 (and for Capuano that games-started number could be one) is not enough for this team. Fortunately, Melvin, assitant GM Gord Ash and the rest of the front office realize this fact.

And, since pitching isn’t the only need for this organization, the Brewers have been active in areas other than pitching too. The Brewers made a trade in acquiring a new center fielder, Carlos Gomez, from the Minnesota Twins for SS J.J. Hardy. They signed a 16-year-old (pending age verification) shortstop, a young OF prospect who had a taste of the big leagues last year in Trent Oeltjen and a new starting (more on that later) catcher in the tastefully-named Gregg Zaun.

Allow me to focus on the new backstop in Milwaukee for a bit. There has been much discussion amongst fans already as to what exactly the Brewers are gaining by signing Zaun as opposed to simply retaining the services of two-year starter Jason Kendall instead.

First and foremost to this off-season’s agenda of acquiring as much starting pitching help as possible, this move saves the Brewers money. Kendall earned $5 million last year. With so many servicable options available on the upcoming market, Melvin made the decision that the team couldn’t afford to pay $5 million for a catcher again. There was never a report on whether Kendall flat out told Melvin to take a hike or whether he would’ve considered resigning at a reduced rate. Kendall was said to have greatly enjoyed his time as a Brewer, so it’s nice to think that he would’ve at least considered it.

To focus on what actually happened, though, is to realized that Gregg Zaun was approached by as many as six teams in this first week of free agency. He has said that the Brewers separated themselves pretty quickly from the pack. It helped that Milwaukee could offer a chance to be the primary starter. nearly-40-year-old catchers (or ballplayers of any position at that age) seldom hear those words. Now, Manager Ken Macha has seemed to be a no nonsense guy in his first year. That would seem to indicate that if Zaun isn’t performing at an acceptable level, then he would lose a start or two per week as whomever the backup winds up being will gain that playing time. Zaun is veteran enough in this league to know that performance is what hangs onto a job.

Should Zaun falter and his backup be called on…well, I don’t know what to tell you at this point because there is no certainty who that backup will be. Rumors flew (and continue to fly) since the end of the season about giving highly-touted prospect Jonathan Lucroy a shot to make the leap from AA to the big leagues. Then again, had prospect Angel Salome not missed so much combined time in 2009 due to injuries, might it be his name that would’ve been getting ballihooed about? There’s also the realization that Mike Rivera has been a decent backup the last few seasons as well at the big league level, thereby making him the devil they know, so to speak. Backup catcher is a much more important decision this year because Gregg Zaun will not be starting 130+ games.

Enough sidebarring. What else is the team gaining with Gregg Zaun behind the dish? How about more power, a higher batting average and, since Zaun is a switch-hitter, a second left-handed bat against right-handed pitchers. A little more balance can make a big difference.

As for the things Kendall excelled at (blocking the plate, blocking up pitches in the dirt, calling a game), Zaun is good at all of those things too. Let me put it this way, without going to find defensive statistical numbers… When you’re 38 years old and still playing in the big leagues, it’s usually not because of your stick anymore, especially behind the dish. Why do you think Henry Blanco is still playing? A cannon arm is among the top reasons why.

So when you add it all up, is there really any debate as to whether or not the Brewers made the right call? Of course there is. That’s the beauty of baseball and of all sports. Until the games are played on the field/court/rink/etc, you never know. But at least in baseball, statistical analysis provides a pretty darn good idea.

Despite all of this, though, the team needs more help. Formally offering a contract to Craig Counsell is a good start (depending on the value of said contract), but it’s hardly enough. The Winter Meetings begin in Indianapolis, Indiana in three days. With Doug Melvin and company being able to spread their focus around in 2009, let’s all hope that more irons in the fire yield better results in the long run.

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