LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Brewers didn't sign a free agent, didn't make a trade, a waiver claim or even a Rule 5 Draft pick.
So what did they get out of four days at the Winter Meetings besides a hefty room service bill? Groundwork.
"I'm confident that we've got enough conversations going that it's been a productive Meeting no matter what," general manager David Stearns said.
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So Brewers officials departed Thursday just as they arrived, shopping for a prominent starting pitcher, a reliever or two and perhaps a second baseman. Options abound on all of those fronts, and Stearns reported being "deep in discussions" in trades and free-agent negotiations as the Meetings wound down.
The Brewers knew the cost of pitching would be high, especially starting pitching. But four days at Disney World revealed that relief is particularly pricey this offseason, with most of the setup types signed this week going for at least $7-$8 million annually for multiple years. The Brewers were not willing to go that high for one of their top targets, Anthony Swarzak, who went to the Mets for two years and $14 million.
But they can spend this offseason, Stearns made clear.
"We have the money to spend when we think it's prudent. Not only prudent for now, but prudent for the future as well," he said. "We understand the constraints that we have, and we have to manage accordingly. We have spending power this offseason.
"I'm confident we're going to find the places to use that effectively. And I would say just because we haven't found it quite yet doesn't mean that we won't."
While it was the relief market moving fastest this week, the Brewers' need for a starter probably takes precedence. That was made clear Monday when manager Craig Counsell confirmed that Jimmy Nelson is not expected to resume throwing after right shoulder surgery until sometime in Spring Training, pushing his return to the top of the rotation some months into the regular season.
"Look, the loss of Jimmy Nelson it hurts. It's a gut punch, it hurts," Counsell said. "I knew when it happened, I said, 'This is going to hurt more in 2018 than it does the last five starts [of 2017]. We can cover five starts in September with expanded rosters. But in 2018, when you go back to a 25-man roster and you lose a guy that's pitching into the seventh inning three times a month, through the seventh inning, that's when it hurts."
Rule 5 Draft
The Brewers were poised to pick a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday morning, but he was already off the board when their turn came, Brewers pro scouting coordinator Bryan Gale said. Team officials didn't publicly specify their target, lest they reveal the characteristics of the player they sought.
The Brewers also did not select any players in the Minor League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, nor did they lose any players in any phase.
GM's bottom line
"Ninety-nine percent of the stuff we work on never works. That's the nature of our business. It is really tough to put together a trade. It's something that often is worked on for days if not weeks, and sometimes months. Ninety-nine percent of the stuff we talk about here or back at Miller Park in Milwaukee never works. When that one percent happens, it's rewarding and it's taken a lot of work to get there." -- Stearns