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Brewers reportedly make offer to Darvish

MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers reportedly have jumped into the fray for top free-agent starter Yu Darvish, who made sure his nearly two million Twitter followers knew all about it.

With a single emoji -- the thinking face -- Darvish shared via tweet a Japanese-language news report that the Brewers had submitted a formal offer for the 31-year-old right-hander. The original report cited "multiple insider sources," according to a translation, and said Milwaukee was one of six teams engaged.

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers reportedly have jumped into the fray for top free-agent starter Yu Darvish, who made sure his nearly two million Twitter followers knew all about it.

With a single emoji -- the thinking face -- Darvish shared via tweet a Japanese-language news report that the Brewers had submitted a formal offer for the 31-year-old right-hander. The original report cited "multiple insider sources," according to a translation, and said Milwaukee was one of six teams engaged.

Hot Stove Tracker

MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal subsequently confirmed with his own source that the Brewers had submitted an offer, the terms of which are not yet known.

The Brewers did not comment on the reports. General manager David Stearns, whose policy is to never comment on in-progress trade talks or free-agent negotiations, did not respond Sunday night when made aware of Darvish's tweet.

Tweet from @faridyu: 🤔 https://t.co/OG6biIPZMI

It was not the first time Darvish has made playful use of Twitter to tease fans about his hunt for a new team, but it was the first time the Brewers were involved. On paper, the sides are a fit, even though Milwaukee is the smallest market of Darvish's potential suitors. Stearns made clear from the start of the offseason that starting pitching was his top priority, and that the Brewers have payroll flexibility even after adding Jhoulys Chacin on a two-year deal and Yovani Gallardo on an incentive-rich one-year flier via free agency.

The Brewers also have some need, with top starter Jimmy Nelson at the very beginning of a throwing program following surgery in September for a right shoulder injury. At the moment, Chase Anderson, Zach Davies and Chacin appear good bets for the Opening Day rotation, with left-hander Brent Suter and right-handers Gallardo, Junior Guerra, Brandon Woodruff and Aaron Wilkerson among the other candidates while Nelson finishes his comeback.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: Source confirms: #Brewers have made offer to Darvish. First reported: Yahoo Japan.

Darvish has a 3.42 ERA in 131 Major League starts over five seasons, and is coming off a 3.86 ERA in 31 regular-season starts for the Rangers and Dodgers in 2017. After solid starts in each of the first two rounds of the postseason for the Dodgers, Darvish struggled through two abbreviated starts in the World Series and was charged with nine runs (eight earned) on nine hits and two walks in 3 1/3 innings.

Among the theories to emerge in the wake of those outings was that Darvish may have been tipping pitches, as reported by MLB Network insider Tom Verducci.

Video: Free-agent aces Darvish, Arrieta still available

The Brewers have also been linked to the other top starting pitchers on this year's free-agent market, including Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn. All remained unsigned as of Sunday night.

Darvish's tweet came about two hours after ESPN's Jerry Crasnick reported "some buzz" about the Brewers nearing a trade, but there was no indication from the club on Sunday night that anything was imminent on that front.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

 

Milwaukee Brewers, Yu Darvish

Two Brewers among top 2B prospects in MLB

Hiura, Diaz among top four on MLB Pipeline's 2018 list
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- While Brewers officials continue to mull their immediate options at second base, they appear to have two good ones climbing the Minor League ladder.

Milwaukee's Keston Hiura ranked third and Isan Diaz was fourth on MLB Pipeline's list of the top second-base prospects in baseball, as unveiled Monday. The Brewers duo trailed only Scott Kingery of the Phillies and Luis Urias of the Padres in rankings at the keystone corner.

MILWAUKEE -- While Brewers officials continue to mull their immediate options at second base, they appear to have two good ones climbing the Minor League ladder.

Milwaukee's Keston Hiura ranked third and Isan Diaz was fourth on MLB Pipeline's list of the top second-base prospects in baseball, as unveiled Monday. The Brewers duo trailed only Scott Kingery of the Phillies and Luis Urias of the Padres in rankings at the keystone corner.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

Hiura, 21, was the ninth player taken overall in the 2017 MLB Draft. He played for the Brewers' Rookie League team and at Class A Wisconsin while rehabbing a pre-existing elbow injury and impressed with his bat, hitting .371/.422/.611 with 14 doubles, seven triples and four home runs in 187 plate appearances between the two affiliates. He is currently Milwaukee's No. 5 prospect, per MLB Pipeline.

One step further along in his professional development is Diaz, who is also 21 but has four Minor League seasons in the books, including two with the Brewers. Milwaukee acquired him in the same multiplayer trade with the D-backs that brought right-hander Chase Anderson and infielder Aaron Hill, and Diaz made an immediate impact in 2016 by winning Brewers Minor League Player of the Year honors after hitting 20 homers and posting an .827 OPS at Wisconsin. He moved up to Class A Advanced Carolina in 2017 and slashed .222/.334/.376 with 13 home runs.

Video: Top Prospects: Isan Diaz, 2B, Brewers

Diaz is likely to jump to Double-A Biloxi in 2018. Hiura's plan could depend in part on his health; he avoided elbow surgery and resumed throwing by season's end before participating in the Brewers' fall instructional league. Last week he was among the prospects invited to the Brewers' Major League Spring Training camp.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

 

Milwaukee Brewers, Isan Diaz, Keston Hiura

Inbox: Where does Guerra fit on 2018 Crew?

Beat reporter Adam McCalvy answers fans' questions
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

Where does Junior Guerra fit into 2018?
-- Terry H., Janesville, Wis.

I think this might be one of the most under-asked questions of this Brewers offseason. Guerra was equal parts injured and ineffective in 2017, and he played no meaningful role in the surprising season while other starters like Jimmy Nelson and Chase Anderson took notable steps forward. So I get why he might fall through the cracks in discussions about 2018.

Where does Junior Guerra fit into 2018?
-- Terry H., Janesville, Wis.

I think this might be one of the most under-asked questions of this Brewers offseason. Guerra was equal parts injured and ineffective in 2017, and he played no meaningful role in the surprising season while other starters like Jimmy Nelson and Chase Anderson took notable steps forward. So I get why he might fall through the cracks in discussions about 2018.

:: Submit a question to the Brewers Inbox ::

But let's not forget, Milwaukee's decision-makers were convinced enough by what they saw with their eyes and what the advanced metrics had to say about Guerra's sensational 2016 that they made him the Opening Day starter. Guerra strained his calf on a bunt attempt in the third inning of that game and went on to go 1-4 with a 5.12 ERA in 70 1/3 Major League innings, fighting through diminished velocity and a demotion to Triple-A. He basically worked mopup duty when he returned for September.

But 2018 is a new year, and thanks to Guerra superfan Kyle Lesniewski, who writes for Brew Crew Ball and Baseball Prospectus' Brewers site and has been keeping an eye on Guerra coverage in the Venezuelan Winter League, we know that Guerra seems squarely in play for a spot in the starting rotation. Guerra told reporters in Venezuela that he's been made no promises, but will get to compete for a starting spot in a rotation that will be missing Nelson at the start of the season.

Video: MIA@MIL: Guerra gets out of a jam with a double play

In my "if the season started today" projection last week, I had Anderson, Zach Davies and Jhoulys Chacin as locks for the rotation. Because I had to pick two more, I went with lefty Brent Suter and righty Yovani Gallardo, but it would be pretty easy to see Guerra sneaking in one of those two spots. That equation could change, of course, if the Brewers add any more established starting pitching in this slow-moving offseason.

So, let's not forget Guerra. He would not be the first player to bounce back from a bad year.

If Manny Pina and Jesus Aguilar have bad seasons, like Guerra and Jonathan Villar did last year, do you think general manager David Stearns (and us as a fanbase) should stop relying on players picked up via waivers for success for our roster?
-- JL, Madison, Wis.

Villar came to the Brewers via trade, but your point is taken. We've seen a number of players come through Milwaukee via the waiver wire over the years and have some success, then quickly fade.

But the wire remains a good place for rebuilding teams with early waiver positions to find talent, and I don't see Stearns or other GMs of developing teams giving that up. With mixed success, Stearns has made liberal use of waivers to acquire a player, then in many cases try to sneak that player back through waivers so he can be stashed in the Minor Leagues. When it works, it's a cost-effective way to add talent to one's system.

I would add this: I wouldn't say the Brewers relied on any of the players you mentioned when they were first acquired. Pina, Aguilar and Guerra all earned backup-type roles before they were eventually relied upon as starting players.

My question is about the status of the outfield. Early on, it appeared they were willing to part ways with one or two players for the right price. Assuming that doesn't happen, what do you see as the Opening Day outfield, and would the others be on the 25-man or start at Triple-A? I'm thinking of Brett Phillips and Lewis Brinson.
-- Jon T., Baraboo, Wis.

I think we need to change our thinking about the outfield under manager Craig Counsell, who has been pushing the idea of a "position player group" over our traditional notion of starters and backups.I see a scenario in which Ryan Braun, Domingo Santana, Keon Broxton, Phillips and Hernan Perez all get significant at-bats as outfielders. Santana is looking like a player who has to be out there nearly every day, but as Braun's plate appearances come down year to year and players like Broxton, Brinson and Phillips develop, Counsell might have enough playing time to go around.

Video: MIL@WSH: Santana hits a 476-foot homer to left-center

It's certainly possible that one of those players is traded before the season begins, but to me this is an area in which we have to adjust our old notion of three "starting" outfielders.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

 

Milwaukee Brewers

Hiura among 6 Brewers non-roster invitees

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

The Brewers announced Friday they have invited six players to Major League Spring Training camp, including 2017 first-round pick Keston Hiura.

The list also includes infielder Nate Orf, outfielder Kyle Wren and right-handed pitchers Corbin Burnes, Luis Ortiz and Jon Perrin.

The Brewers announced Friday they have invited six players to Major League Spring Training camp, including 2017 first-round pick Keston Hiura.

The list also includes infielder Nate Orf, outfielder Kyle Wren and right-handed pitchers Corbin Burnes, Luis Ortiz and Jon Perrin.

Hiura, 21, was the ninth player taken overall in last June's MLB Draft. He played for the Brewers' Rookie League team and at Class A Wisconsin last year, and the second baseman batted .371 in 42 games combined with 14 doubles, seven triples and four home runs. MLB Pipeline ranks Hiura as Milwaukee's No. 5 prospect.

Tweet from @Brewers: The #Brewers have invited 2B Keston Hiura, INF Nate Orf, OF Kyle Wren, RHP Corbin Burnes, RHP Luis Ortiz and RHP Jon Perrin to Major League camp. pic.twitter.com/hsCDL1SnWl

Orf batted .320 at Triple-A Colorado Springs last year, hitting 32 doubles, while Wren hit .286 there.

No. 7 prospect Burnes, a fourth-round pick in 2016, was 8-3 with a 1.67 ERA in 26 starts at Class A Advanced Carolina and Double-A Biloxi, striking out 140 over 145 2/3 innings. Last season at Biloxi, Ortiz (No. 3 prospect) went 4-7 with a 4.01 ERA in 22 games (20 starts), and Perrin was 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA in 23 games (12 starts).

Video: Burnes named Brewers' Pipeline pitcher of the year

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com.

 

Milwaukee Brewers

Frieri gets Minors pact from Brewers

Reliever receives invitation to Spring Training to compete for 'pen spot
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

The Brewers signed former Angels closer Ernesto Frieri to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training camp on Friday.

Frieri, 32, saved 23 games for the Angels in 2012 and followed that with 37 saves in '13.

The Brewers signed former Angels closer Ernesto Frieri to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training camp on Friday.

Frieri, 32, saved 23 games for the Angels in 2012 and followed that with 37 saves in '13.

He began last year with the Yankees but was released in June, then signed with the Rangers and appeared in six games from mid June to early July, giving up four runs on six hits over seven innings. On Aug. 8, he was sold by the Rangers to the Mariners for $1 and assigned to Triple-A Tacoma. He appeared in seven games with Tacoma and gave up seven earned runs over 12 innings.

Frieri did not pitch in the Major Leagues in 2016.

Carrie Muskat is reporter for MLB.com.

 

Milwaukee Brewers, Ernesto Frieri

Burnes rising fast, eyes MLB breakthrough

Pitching prospect has 1.74 ERA across two Minor League seasons
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- Most Minor League players will say it's best to keep one's head down and focus on the job at hand during the baseball season, rather than worry about personnel moves at higher levels. "Control what you can control," they all say.

Then comes the offseason, and a guy can dream a little. Just ask fast-rising Brewers pitching prospect Corbin Burnes.

MILWAUKEE -- Most Minor League players will say it's best to keep one's head down and focus on the job at hand during the baseball season, rather than worry about personnel moves at higher levels. "Control what you can control," they all say.

Then comes the offseason, and a guy can dream a little. Just ask fast-rising Brewers pitching prospect Corbin Burnes.

"During the season, you try to stay away from it. You focus on what you can do every day, whether it's in the weight room or on the field, to try to get better," Burnes said this month while taking part in Major League Baseball's Rookie Career Development Program. "In the offseason, you can kind of drift to it a little bit. Playing catch, working out, it's always there to look at."

Burnes, 23, is not expected to crack the Brewers' Opening Day roster, but he is moving up, and thus the team's Major League transactions this winter -- or lack thereof -- could have an impact on his own timeline.

The right-hander has done his part to advance his personal schedule since joining the pro ranks as Milwaukee's fourth-round Draft pick in 2016 out of St. Mary's College of California. In two Minor League seasons, Burnes is 11-3 with a 1.74 ERA and 181 strikeouts in 181 1/3 innings. In 2017, he made it to Double-A Biloxi for his final 16 starts and posted a 2.10 ERA.

Burnes was an easy pick for the Brewers' Minor League Pitcher of the Year. He traveled to Miller Park in September for an on-field ceremony before a game.

"I started to learn a lot when I got to Double-A," Burnes said. "That's where you've got a lot of guys who have been around the system for a while, been in the Minor Leagues, so I was able to pick stuff from them, whether it's pitch sequence or how to get guys out. It was a really beneficial year for me, and I'm looking forward to building on what I have."

Tweet from @Burnes16: Excited to be a part of #BrewersOnDeck. Looking forward to a fun day and meeting all the @Brewers fans! https://t.co/6mCFff2o4n

Burnes currently ranks seventh on MLB Pipeline's top Brewers prospects list and is No. 97 in baseball, though he's likely to climb both rankings when the lists are updated for 2018. Another Brewers pitching prospect climbing alongside Burnes in the system, Brandon Woodruff, got a taste of the Majors in 2017. The Brewers also believe right-hander Luis Ortiz will start in the Majors.

Burnes was among three Brewers prospects, with infielder Mauricio Dubon and catcher Jacob Nottingham, to attend the Rookie Career Development Program near Washington in Leesburg, Va. The program has been running since 1992, a joint effort between MLB and the MLB Players Association to educate prospects about off-field issues that can arise and how to deal with them.

"These are some of the best Minor League players and big league players right now," Burnes said. "It's an honor to be here. I'm trying to take in everything I can."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

 

Milwaukee Brewers, Corbin Burnes

All-Star lineup set for Brewers On Deck

Annual fan festival to be held Jan. 28 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

Hall of Famers Robin Yount, Rollie Fingers and Bob Uecker, plus manager Craig Counsell will be among the more than 60 Brewers players, coaches, alumni, broadcasters and executives who will take part in Brewers On Deck on Sunday, Jan. 28, from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. CT at the Wisconsin Center.

Ryan Braun leads the list of current players scheduled to attend, and he will be joined by Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Jimmy Nelson, Corey Knebel, Josh Hader, Travis Shaw, Domingo Santana, Orlando Arcia, Eric Thames and Keon Broxton.

Hall of Famers Robin Yount, Rollie Fingers and Bob Uecker, plus manager Craig Counsell will be among the more than 60 Brewers players, coaches, alumni, broadcasters and executives who will take part in Brewers On Deck on Sunday, Jan. 28, from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. CT at the Wisconsin Center.

Ryan Braun leads the list of current players scheduled to attend, and he will be joined by Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Jimmy Nelson, Corey Knebel, Josh Hader, Travis Shaw, Domingo Santana, Orlando Arcia, Eric Thames and Keon Broxton.

Besides Yount and Fingers, other Brewers alumni scheduled to take part include Don August, Jerry Augustine, Jeff Cirillo, Cecil Cooper, Jim Gantner, Larry Hisle, Dan Plesac, Ken Sanders, Gorman Thomas and Paul Wagner.

Advance tickets are $15 for adults and $9 for children 14 and under. Tickets on the day of the event are $20 for adults and $15 for children 14 and under. On the day of the event, cash is the only accepted form of payment for admittance.

A portion of the proceeds from Brewers On Deck will benefit the Brewers Community Foundation.

Tickets may be purchased online at brewers.com/ondeck, at the Miller Park Box Office or by calling the Brewers ticket office at (414) 902-4000 through Jan. 27 at noon CT.

Food donations will be accepted at the event for the Hunger Task Force. Donations can be dropped off at the two main entrances to the Wisconsin Center, located at 4th Street and Wisconsin Avenue, and 4th Street and Wells Street.

Brewers On Deck will feature a number of activities for the entire family, including autograph stations with players, coaches and alumni; interactive games in the kids area; question-and-answer sessions; and game shows. A schedule of events will be announced at a later date.

Players and select staff and alumni will each sign up to 250 autographs, and all autographs this year will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Some will be free, while there will be a $25 charge for others, with proceeds going to the Brewers Community Foundation. Autograph opportunities are for signatures on photo cards provided by the team.

There will be vendor booths with baseball memorabilia, a 50/50 raffle, a live auction and the Brewers Community Foundation's Treasure Hunt Sale.

For a complete list of attendees and more information, go to brewers.com/ondeck.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

 

Milwaukee Brewers

Nelson ahead of schedule in shoulder recovery

Brewers righty, set to begin throwing in spring, will start this week
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- Here's news that will not surprise anyone who has met the man or watched him hustle from task to task around the Brewers' clubhouse: Jimmy Nelson is ahead of schedule in his comeback from shoulder surgery.

Way ahead of schedule.

MILWAUKEE -- Here's news that will not surprise anyone who has met the man or watched him hustle from task to task around the Brewers' clubhouse: Jimmy Nelson is ahead of schedule in his comeback from shoulder surgery.

Way ahead of schedule.

Originally slated to begin a throwing program at the start of Spring Training, Nelson instead plans to pick up a baseball for the first time on Friday. His timeline to rejoin the Brewers' starting rotation remains nebulous, given the time and patience which will be required to rebuild strength and stamina, and to refine his mechanics. But those first few tosses will represent a milestone for the 28-year-old, whose right shoulder was repaired in three places on Sept. 19.

"I've been anxious to start throwing the last couple of weeks, really," Nelson said. "My strength came back much quicker than I thought it would."

Nelson's surroundings as he spoke via telephone with MLB.com helped explain the accelerated timeline. He might have made history as the first ballplayer to conduct an interview while lying in a hyperbaric chamber, a pressurized tube filled with pure oxygen popular with athletes around the world to aid rehab and recovery.

Video: WSH@MIL: Nelson K's the side, gets out of trouble

Nelson purchased one for his Houston-area home to complete his comeback regimen. It is not the sole reason for his progress -- Nelson said his daily routine includes arm care and physical therapy, workouts at a gym popular with pro baseball players, Pilates workouts and a much-improved diet thanks to wife Melissa, "who is right along on this ride with me."

But he is convinced the chamber has helped. Nelson recommends it to anyone with the time -- he spends two hours a day in the tube -- and the resources. Nelson said his retailed for $24,000, though he got a deep discount on a barely-used unit from another athlete who was retiring.

"The volume and intensity of my workouts has been able to stay as high as possible," Nelson said. "I haven't had to take too many recovery days or too many easy days at the gym, because I'm not feeling super sore. There are things it's doing for me internally that I can't see. It's one of the many reasons my rehab has gone so well."

How does he pass the time?

"There's a good bit of room in here," Nelson said. "It's about seven feet long, and I'm lying on my back and my shoulders aren't hitting the side of the tube," Nelson said. "You can bring your iPad in here, talk to people on the phone, do whatever."

One thing he cannot do is play video games, Nelson's favorite pastime. The hectic rehab schedule -- he rises before 6 a.m. every day and finishes his routine by stepping out of the chamber around 6 p.m. -- has cut into Nelson's couch time.

That is a sacrifice worth making, he said.

"Once we start throwing, we can really see a timeline for this thing," Nelson said. "Everyone responds differently. It might go faster than we assume, or take a bit longer. And there are things I may have to do the rest of the year ... maybe for the rest of my career -- in terms of maintenance -- but I'm going to do [everything I can do] to stay healthy.

"So I don't want to set a date [to return to the rotation], I just want to keep progressing like I have been. That day will be sooner than it is later."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

 

Milwaukee Brewers, Jimmy Nelson

Source: Brewers sign Choi to Minors deal

MLB.com @benweinrib

The Brewers have agreed to terms with free-agent first baseman/left fielder Ji-Man Choi on a Minor League deal, according to a report from Naver Sports. The club has not confirmed the report.

Choi reportedly would receive an invitation to Spring Training and would earn a $850,000 salary if he cracked the Major League roster. According to the report, Choi will have opt-outs at the end of Spring Training and on June 15, so the deal is presumably a Minor League pact.

The Brewers have agreed to terms with free-agent first baseman/left fielder Ji-Man Choi on a Minor League deal, according to a report from Naver Sports. The club has not confirmed the report.

Choi reportedly would receive an invitation to Spring Training and would earn a $850,000 salary if he cracked the Major League roster. According to the report, Choi will have opt-outs at the end of Spring Training and on June 15, so the deal is presumably a Minor League pact.

The contract also includes incentives that could increase the figure up to $1.5 million, including $200,000 after his first 200 Major League at-bats and $100,000 for each subsequent 100 at-bats.

Eric Thames is expected to start at first base for the Brewers, so Choi likely will compete with Jesus Aguilar for a roster spot. Aguilar has the advantage of being a right-handed complement to the lefty-swinging Thames, but Choi has more positional flexibility, given his ability to play left field.

Video: MIL@NYY: Choi robs Braun with a nice diving stop

Choi, 26, hit two home runs in 18 plate appearances for the Yankees in 2017 and slashed .120/.271/.339 in 129 plate appearances for the Angels the year before. He spent most of last season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, for which he hit .288/.373/.538 with 15 home runs in 338 plate appearances.

Aguilar, 27, has a similar offensive profile to Choi and broke out last year in his first full Major League season. He slashed .263/.331/.505 with 16 home runs in 311 plate appearances.

Choi played first base and designated hitter in the Yankees' organization last season but does have extensive experience in left field. He played 20 of his 54 games with the Angels in the outfield and has played the position in the Minor Leagues dating back to 2014.

Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. Follow him on Twitter at @benweinrib.

 

Milwaukee Brewers, Ji-Man Choi

Brewers avoid arbitration with all 4 eligibles

Nelson, Knebel, Perez and Villar agree to 1-year deals
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- After going to an arbitration hearing with Chase Anderson last year, the Brewers ensured Friday that they would avoid that thorny process entirely in 2018 by settling on one-year contracts with starter Jimmy Nelson, closer Corey Knebel and infielders Hernan Perez and Jonathan Villar.

Nelson, 28, will earn $3.7 million next season, and Villar will receive $2.55 million, according to sources, and USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported that Knebel signed for $3.65 million. Salary figures for Perez were not immediately available. The Brewers haven't commented.

MILWAUKEE -- After going to an arbitration hearing with Chase Anderson last year, the Brewers ensured Friday that they would avoid that thorny process entirely in 2018 by settling on one-year contracts with starter Jimmy Nelson, closer Corey Knebel and infielders Hernan Perez and Jonathan Villar.

Nelson, 28, will earn $3.7 million next season, and Villar will receive $2.55 million, according to sources, and USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported that Knebel signed for $3.65 million. Salary figures for Perez were not immediately available. The Brewers haven't commented.

Last year, the team took right-hander Anderson to a hearing and prevailed.

"When you have a deadline, negotiations generally rub up against that deadline," said Stearns, adding talks with all four players focused on one-year deals. "That was certainly the case with the majority of these signings today. … Clearly, the process is designed to promote settlements, and this year we were able to settle all of our cases.

"We also know that hearings are part of the process. We saw that last year. But we're pleased that we were able to reach settlements with everyone this year."

The Brewers originally had nine arbitration-eligible players this offseason, but Anderson avoided the process this time by signing a two-year contract extension with two club options in October, and reliever Jeremy Jeffress and catcher Stephen Vogt signed one-year deals. The Brewers released reliever Carlos Torres and non-tendered another reliever, Jared Hughes, to further shorten the list.

That left four as of deadline day: Knebel, Nelson, Perez and Villar.

Video: CIN@MIL: Knebel seals a 4-3 win for the Brewers

Knebel, 26, began last season as one of Milwaukee's setup men but seized closer duties when veteran Neftali Feliz faltered, and went on to notch 39 saves with a 1.78 ERA while setting a Brewers relief record with 126 strikeouts. Because he was eligible as a Super Two player, the Brewers will have three more years of control of Knebel through 2021.

Nelson also enjoyed a breakout in 2017, going 12-6 with a 3.49 ERA in 29 starts before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in early September. He was eighth among National League qualifiers in ERA and ninth in the NL with 199 strikeouts. The Brewers will be without Nelson for the start of 2018 while he rehabs from shoulder surgery.  

Video: WSH@MIL: Villar hammers a two-run homer to right

Villar's case was complicated, since his representatives could point to a 2016 season in which he hit 19 home runs with an .826 OPS while leading the Major Leagues with 62 stolen bases, and the Brewers could point to a sharp decline in 2017 to a .241/.293/.372 slash line. Complicating matters further, between those two seasons Villar, 26, reportedly turned down a multiyear contract offer that would have guaranteed more than $20 million.

Video: MIL@MIA: Perez robs Ozuna with a great sliding catch

Perez, 26, has been a valuable utility man for manager Craig Counsell since coming to the Brewers via waivers from Detroit. His 458 plate appearances in 2017 were a career high, and Perez posted a .259/.289/.414 slash line while starting games at six different positions, and appearing everywhere but catcher.

All four players were eligible for arbitration for the first time. 

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

 

Milwaukee Brewers, Corey Knebel, Jimmy Nelson, Hernan Perez, Jonathan Villar

Sogard helps daughter with T-ball in sweet pic

Some photos warm the heart. Some photos roll through your social media timeline and think, "Aww, that's just the most precious thing I've ever seen."

You know the type of photo, the one that you could see turned into a greeting card. 

Crew seals Logan deal, signs Hoover as NRI

Lefty agrees to one-year contract with Milwaukee; righty inks Minor League pact
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' bullpen moved closer to completion on Wednesday when the team finalized a one-year Major League deal with left-hander Boone Logan and signed right-hander J.J. Hoover to a Minor League contract that includes an invitation to big league camp.

The duo joins a more familiar newcomer, former Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo, who last month inked a one-year contract and will first compete for a spot in the starting rotation before the Brewers consider him for the bullpen.

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' bullpen moved closer to completion on Wednesday when the team finalized a one-year Major League deal with left-hander Boone Logan and signed right-hander J.J. Hoover to a Minor League contract that includes an invitation to big league camp.

The duo joins a more familiar newcomer, former Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo, who last month inked a one-year contract and will first compete for a spot in the starting rotation before the Brewers consider him for the bullpen.

"I think we're open to adding, but I do think we've built some nice depth in that area with the guys coming back from last year and some of the guys we've added," Brewers general manager David Stearns said. "I do think we're getting to the point where we are in a good spot."

As previously reported, Logan will get a $1.875 million salary in 2018, and his deal includes a $4.125 million club option for '19 with a $625,000 buyout. There is also $3.2 million in incentives available in each year of the deal for innings and appearances.

To clear a spot for Logan on Milwaukee's full 40-man roster, the team released former first-round Draft pick Taylor Jungmann to sign in Japan.

Hoover, who spent 2017 with the D-backs but is well-known to Brewers fans for his work with the Reds from '12-16, would earn $1.1 million if he makes the Major League club with a chance for $1.65 million more in incentives, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.

Hoover pitched 52 times for Arizona last season with a 3.92 ERA, despite tying Rangers and Giants righty Sam Dyson for the 17th-highest WHIP (1.77) among Major Leaguers who logged at least 40 innings. How were Hoover and Dyson so good at cleaning up messes? Strikeouts, in Hoover's case. He whiffed a career-best 11.8 batters per nine innings, ranking in baseball's top 30 in that category at the 40-inning threshold.

Video: CWS@ARI: Hoover strikes out Smith, side in the 8th

Hoover became a free agent when he was non-tendered by the D-backs on Dec. 1, and the Brewers expressed immediate interest. If he makes the team, Milwaukee will have up to two seasons of control before Hoover hits free agency again.

For his career, Hoover has a 4.09 ERA in 283 2/3 innings. All 288 of his Major League appearances have come in relief.

"Really, except for the blip at the Major League level in 2016 [when Hoover had a 13.50 ERA in 18 games], he's been a pretty consistent reliever," Stearns said. "We feel like we know what we're getting here."

The same goes for Logan, assuming he is healthy. He was limited to 21 innings and 38 appearances for the Indians in 2017 because of a severe lat injury. On the other hand, he averaged 56 appearances and just shy of 10 strikeouts per nine innings in the 10 previous seasons, and he has held left-handed hitters to a .234 average in his career.

Tweet from @JJ_Hoover: Thanks for the warm welcome. My wife and I are very excited to be a part of the @Brewers organization. Can���t wait to see what the year has in store.

"Ultimately, we did our medical due diligence," Stearns said. "We believe that he will be ready in Spring Training. Ultimately, the goal is to get a healthy Boone Logan, because we believe a healthy Boone Logan is going to be effective."

Logan has been used as a situational left-hander in his career, the type of reliever the Brewers have shied away from in recent seasons. But Logan made sense, Stearns said, because so many of the team's other bullpen candidates, including left-handers Josh Hader and Brent Suter (assuming they don't crack the starting rotation) can work multiple innings. The same goes for right-handers like Gallardo, Jeremy Jeffress, Jacob Barnes and Junior Guerra.

"We are likely to have length in the bullpen from multiple sources," Stearns said. "When you have guys who can go multiple innings, then you can afford to have someone who maybe is a little bit shorter. We actually do think Boone has the capability with his stuff to be more than a left-on-left guy. … But if that's how he best suits our team, then we are equipped to manage that."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

 

Milwaukee Brewers, J.J. Hoover, Boone Logan

Counsell will rely heavily on Knebel, bullpen

Closer, Hader coming off impressive campaigns, but questions remain
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- With nearly five weeks to go before the start of Spring Training and the open market still stocked with arms, it is not exactly clear how the Brewers will fill out their bullpen at the start of the 2018 season. But this much is certain: Manager Craig Counsell will rely on that bullpen a lot.

"That group was really the backbone of this team through the last six weeks of the [2017] season," Counsell said at the Winter Meetings. "Out of necessity, we treated the last 2 1/2 weeks of the season as playoff games every single day. So, we used our bullpen as though we were in a playoff series. We had to because of where we were in the standings and because of some of the challenges we were having with our starting rotation, and [Jimmy Nelson's] injury.

MILWAUKEE -- With nearly five weeks to go before the start of Spring Training and the open market still stocked with arms, it is not exactly clear how the Brewers will fill out their bullpen at the start of the 2018 season. But this much is certain: Manager Craig Counsell will rely on that bullpen a lot.

"That group was really the backbone of this team through the last six weeks of the [2017] season," Counsell said at the Winter Meetings. "Out of necessity, we treated the last 2 1/2 weeks of the season as playoff games every single day. So, we used our bullpen as though we were in a playoff series. We had to because of where we were in the standings and because of some of the challenges we were having with our starting rotation, and [Jimmy Nelson's] injury.

"That group picked us up and did an outstanding job. A number of them did an outstanding job. We relied on them and they came through a lot."

Video: CIN@MIL: Knebel induces fly out to earn the save

Brewers relievers handled baseball's fifth-highest workload in 2017 (572 2/3 innings) while ranking seventh with 9.67 strikeouts per nine innings and tied for eighth with a 3.83 ERA. That despite ranking 22nd with a 1.37 WHIP. With Nelson sidelined for the start of the season and Counsell building a reputation for aggressive bullpen usage, it is likely he will lean on the group again.

While it is nearly impossible to predict the 'pen makeup this far out, here is a stab at it:

BULLPEN IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Closer: Corey Knebel
LH setup: Josh Hader
RH setup: Jacob Barnes
LHP Boone Logan
RHP Jeremy Jeffress
RHP J.J. Hoover
RHP Oliver Drake or Junior Guerra

STRENGTH
Knebel racked up record-setting strikeout numbers as he assumed closer duties from free-agent acquisition Neftali Feliz early last season, and now will try to prove he can do it over a full season. Ditto for Hader, who has not been ruled out for the rotation but seems likelier to wind up back in the bullpen, where he held opponents to a .554 OPS (including left-handers to a .454 OPS) in 47 2/3 innings. By agreeing to an incentive-rich one-year deal with veteran left-handed specialist Logan -- whose contract became official on Wednesday -- the Brewers freed Counsell to be more flexible in deploying Hader for multiple innings in the most opportune situations. Some view Hader as a future closer.

Video: Counsell on expectations for Hader, his role in 2018

QUESTION MARK
Do they have enough to consistently get to Knebel with a lead? Non-waiver Trade Deadline acquisition Anthony Swarzak was solid as the primary setup man during the final two months of 2017, but he turned down the Brewers' two-year offer to sign with the Mets. That leaves Barnes (4.00 ERA in 73 appearances last season) as one of the leading right-handed options for the eighth inning, with former Brewers closer Jeffress another potential choice. Jeffress had a tough start to last season in Texas, but was better after a trade to the Brewers as he made more use of a split-fingered fastball. Taylor Williams, a Tommy John surgery survivor, was a surprise September callup last year and could be a sleeper if he proves durable enough. And could Yovani Gallardo or Brent Suter make this list? We slotted both of them into the projected rotation for this exercise, but Gallardo also has incentives in his one-year deal that pay for relief work, and Suter came up in a chat Wednesday with general manager David Stearns about the bullpen.

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
One trade or signing could alter the picture. Right-handers Greg Holland, Addison Reed, Bud Norris, Trevor Cahill, Matt Albers and Seung Hwan Oh, and lefties Tony Watson, Brian Duensing and Fernando Abad all remain among the pool of free agents.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

 

Milwaukee Brewers, Jacob Barnes, Oliver Drake, Junior Guerra, Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel, Boone Logan, Taylor Williams