Additions likely to come for Brewers after Meetings
Club evaluating relievers, right-handed bat off bench
SAN DIEGO -- A broken ankle is keeping Brewers general manager Doug Melvin off his feet and out of the Winter Meetings lobby, but if there's any year to be laid up, this is the one.
Melvin reiterated on Day 1 of baseball's biggest offseason gathering that he likes his team as it's already constructed.
"The way we look at it is, the trades last year, getting [Jonathan] Broxton, getting [Gerardo] Parra, and [Aramis] Ramirez coming back, adding [Adam] Lind -- that's $36 million worth of players," Melvin said, referring to players acquired in the past five months. "I look at it as maybe we've done our work ahead of time. We're [still] open to doing things."
Filling out the bullpen is at the top of Milwaukee's to-do list, though Melvin expects those deals to happen later in the winter. Club officials spent part of Monday viewing video and dissecting scouting reports on relief pitchers available in free agency and potentially available via trade.
At the moment, Melvin said, the Brewers don't plan to make a play for Francisco Rodriguez, who made the National League All-Star team and logged 44 saves in 2014 before hitting free agency. Rodriguez and agent Scott Boras will surely seek a multi-year contract, and the Brewers already owe Broxton $9 million next season. They also think right-hander Jeremy Jeffress or left-hander Will Smith could close in the future.
The list of free-agent relievers available remains long but not necessarily deep. It is particularly thin of left-handers, with Joe Beimel, Craig Breslow, Francisley Bueno, Phil Coke, Neal Cotts, Joe Thatcher and Wesley Wright among those available.
"Relievers are getting more expensive all the time, like everybody else is," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "It's more specialized, and I think bullpens are more important in today's game than they've ever been. So that's what we're looking at. Or maybe there is a piece to trade to get somebody we really like. I know Doug's working at it hard, and all the guys up there are looking at a lot of people."
"I don't think you're going to get any deals right now," Melvin said. "It's too close to the holiday season."
Likewise, Brewers officials are taking the long view relative to their own starting rotation, which currently features six pitchers for five spots. If the Brewers keep all of them, young right-hander Jimmy Nelson would probably begin next season in the bullpen, Roenicke said.
But the depth will allow Melvin to listen to trade offers as the winter wears on. Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse could be moved, since each right-hander is entering the final year of a contract, with Gallardo due $13 million and Lohse due $11 million.
"I like what we have, but I have to be open about it," Melvin said.
The trade talks he has engaged in so far are preliminary.
"We're having conversations. I wouldn't say 'engaged,'" Melvin said. "Just checking in, 'What are you looking for, is there anything on our club that might interest you?' There's certain clubs you just eliminate because you don't have a match on. We've had ongoing conversations, but you don't know where they go."
The Brewers are also keeping an eye on right-handed hitters who could platoon with lefty-hitting Lind at first base, but both Melvin and Roenicke also talked up internal options on Monday. Roenicke said All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy will have a heavier Spring Training workload at first base than last year, in the event he becomes Lind's primary platoon partner. Roenicke also spoke highly of Luis Jimenez, an infielder claimed off waivers from the Angels in October. Jimenez can play third base, first base and even some second base, Roenicke said.
"He is a great defender," Roenicke said. "I don't know if you guys remember the series he had against us when we played the Angels, but he had a great series. He had a nice year offensively in Triple-A. So I'm good with that."
At second base, Roenicke confirmed what was expected when the Brewers declined Rickie Weeks' option for 2015. Scooter Gennett will get the opportunity to prove he can hit left-handed pitching.
"We'll see what the rest of the bench looks like, then see how Scooter handles it," Roenicke said. "But the guy can hit. I think it's a matter of him seeing a lot more left- handers and getting confident doing it. There is no reason why he shouldn't be a good hitter against both."