LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Brewers general manager David Stearns sounded hopeful Tuesday about adding an arm or two to his team's pitching arsenal before boarding a flight home from the Winter Meetings on Thursday morning.
"We have offers out," Stearns said, confirming multiple Major League free-agent offers. "We've engaged with a variety of different players, and I think that dialog has been productive. Now we just have to see how various negotiations play out."
Those negotiations, he said, "are progressing. I think it's probably moving slowly, but we're making some incremental progress, and we'll see whether we are able to get some things done over the next 48 hours or so."
Pitching remained Stearns' top priority as the Meetings moved quietly along, with a trade between the Yankees and Padres that sent third baseman Chase Headley west representing the only major transaction before dinner. The Brewers are eager to add a reliable innings-eater to a rotation that will be without Jimmy Nelson for several months of the season as the right-hander recovers from shoulder surgery, and free agency and trades remained in play.
While awaiting counteroffers from free agents, the Brewers continued shopping outfielder Domingo Santana -- coming off a 30-homer season and with four years of remaining control -- in an effort to meet other teams' high asking prices for controllable pitching. The Rays' Chris Archer is the top pitcher on the trade market and the Brewers are a "team to watch" in that market, according to MLB Network's Ken Rosenthal, given that assistant GM Matt Arnold was previously Tampa Bay's director of player personnel. Archer has two guaranteed years left on his contract plus two club options.
Also potentially available in a trade is the Pirates' Gerrit Cole, who is arbitration eligible in 2018 and 2019 before reaching free agency. Brewers officials talked to their Pirates counterparts Tuesday, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, though it was not known whether Cole was part of those talks.
"In this industry in general, if you're looking to add young, controllable talent, asks are high, and they should be high," Stearns said. "When you have a quality young player who is proven at the Major League level and has team control remaining, those are very valuable players in this game right now. We certainly value them highly."
Juggling trade talks and free-agent offers concurrently can get complicated, leading some teams to put time limits on their offers. Stearns declined to say whether he had done so Tuesday, but said "sometimes" such deadlines make sense.
"Especially in a week like this, where you have a lot going on," he said. "Sometimes you have to. Generally, we're pretty transparent with agents we work with if we have multiple things going on or if we can engage exclusively. We try to be as up front with agents as we can."
Whether the Brewers strike a deal to acquire a pitcher could impact their strategy in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, which is often a vehicle for teams to add an arm to the bullpen, another area of need for Milwaukee. Club officials are scheduled to meet Wednesday afternoon and evening to discuss their options. The Brewers own the 21st pick, but could always trade up if they see a player they like.
Currently, Milwaukee has one opening on the 40-man roster.