Posted on: November 17, 2011 2:28 am
MILWAUKEE -- For now, the Brewers are focused on shortstops, and on a certain big-money first baseman.
But don't be surprised if the biggest money they hand out this winter goes to one or more pitchers already on the roster.
According to sources familiar with the team's plans, the Brewers intend to pursue contract extensions with starters Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, both of whom would be eligible for free agency after the 2012 season. The Brewers also plan to pursue long-term deals with some younger core players, including closer John Axford.
Greinke and Marcum were Milwaukee's two big acquisitions last winter, and the two contributed greatly to a 96-win season that gave the Brewers the National League Central crown.
It's very unlikely at this point that the Brewers will make any similarly high-profile acquisitions this winter, and even more unlikely that they'll re-sign free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder.
While the Brewers continue to talk to Fielder, they seem to have accepted the idea that he won't be back. And while they have talked to the agents for shortstops Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins, Brewers people say that they don't expect to be a serious contender for either one.
It's very possible, in fact, that the Brewers could end up bringing back Yuniesky Betancourt, their 2011 shortstop. And while they have discussed signing someone to replace Fielder at first base (Carlos Pena, for example), general manager Doug Melvin has talked more about giving Mat Gamel a chance at the job.
Owner Mark Attanasio is highly competitive, and never shy about spending money.
But Attanasio said Wednesday that just because the Brewers have the money to make an offer to Fielder, it doesn't follow that they would spend that money elsewhere if (when?) Fielder leaves.
"How you manage your payroll has to be opportunity-driven," Attanasio said. "We're not going to just fill the payroll for the sake of filling the payroll."
Attanasio and Melvin both made the point that the Brewers expect to contend in 2012, even without Fielder. They point to a solid core that includes Ryan Braun (who signed a long-term deal early last season), and a rotation that will return intact.
"Doug and I never felt we were 'all-in' for last year," Attanasio said.
They'd rather not be all-in for 2012, either, but extending their window of opportunity past next year would be a lot easier if they can keep together the rotation led by Greinke, Marcum and Yovani Gallardo.
Signing Greinke and Marcum this winter would make perfect sense, if it's possible.
The Brewers intend to find out if it is.
Posted on: November 14, 2011 5:22 pm
MILWAUKEE -- Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder made it to the free-agent market.
Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez didn't.
It's always fun to look a few years down the line to see who what treats each year's free-agent marketplace will offer.
And it's always important to remember that those treats may or may not reach the market.
Matt Kemp could have been a free agent next winter. Jered Weaver could have, too.
Kemp and Weaver chose to take the big money upfront and stay in Southern California instead.
For now, Matt Cain and Cole Hamels remain on the list of possible 2012-13 free agents. In fact, right now Matt Cain and Cole Hamels probably top the list of 2012-13 free agents.
Hamels may not make it to the market, either. The Phillies would like to sign him to a long-term deal this winter.
Cain may not make it there, either. And it wouldn't exactly be shocking if Zack Greinke (another potential 2012-13 free agent) stays in Milwaukee.
The 2012-13 class was never going to match this winter's class. There wasn't a Fielder, and there wasn't a Pujols. There wasn't a Verlander or a Felix, two ace starters who would have been free agents this winter if they hadn't signed long-term deals with their own teams.
With Kemp and Weaver, though, the class would have featured a potential MVP and a potential Cy Young winner.
Without them, it just doesn't look as good.
Posted on: September 23, 2011 11:40 pm
It was the hit that clinched the Central.
And maybe the MVP, too?
It sure felt that way, as Ryan Braun stood there with his bat held high in the air. It felt that way, as Braun's blast hit the center-field scoreboard, and as the Brewers celebrated their first division title in 29 years.
It felt as if Braun had done something special, and he had -- even if his three-run home run simply clinched a division crown.
The MVP race will go on for a few more days. Matt Kemp could still win a Triple Crown, and that would make him hard to ignore.
The National League Central race is over, over because Braun's three-run eighth-inning home run gave the Brewers a 4-1 win over the Marlins, while Alfonso Soriano's three-run homer gave the Cubs a 5-1 win over the second-place Cardinals.
It's over, and you can bet that title means a lot more to Braun than even an MVP would. He's been a Brewer since he was drafted in 2005, he went through the wild-card season in 2008 and he signed a contract that runs through 2020.
He knows how the fans have responded, knows how owner Mark Attanasio has responded. He knows that the Brewers could have traded free-agent-to-be Prince Fielder last winter, and that instead of doing that, they traded for Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum.
General manager Doug Melvin went all-in, trading prospects, just as he had to get CC Sabathia in that wild-card season.
That year, the Brewers won just one playoff game, losing to the Phillies in the first round. And no one complained.
This time, they're no doubt aiming higher, and no doubt believe they can get past the Phillies and everyone else in the National League.
They'll note the similarities in the way they clinched, with a Braun home run giving the Brewers a win, and then with everyone staying around to watch the scoreboard before the celebration could begin.
But that team wasn't as good as this one. All the Brewers who were there will tell you that.
Braun was good then (in his first full big-league season), but not as good as he is now, when he's leading the league in hitting and near the top in home runs and RBI.
He may be the MVP. He may have clinched it with the dramatic home run Friday night.
We don’t know that yet. We do know he clinched the division crown.
And that's not bad.
Posted on: August 24, 2011 11:37 am
Edited on: August 24, 2011 12:03 pm
Players always go for the most money.
Except when they don't.
Except when Cliff Lee says, "At some point, enough is enough." Except when Jered Weaver says, "Could have got more. Whatever. Who cares?"
Except when Zack Greinke says, sorry Nationals, it's not your money, it's your team. Except when Roy Halladay says, "This is where we wanted to be."
There's a trend developing here, and it might be bad news for the Yankees.
The old rule of thumb was that free agents -- or even free-agents-to-be -- always signed for the biggest contract. And the Yankees always knew they could offer that biggest contract, if they wanted to.
But what if that's not true anymore?
What if the best players decide that once the money gets big enough -- $17 million a year, or $20 million a year, or $24 million a year -- an extra $1 million or $2 million or $30 million isn't going to buy happiness?
What happens is that Halladay gets himself traded to the one team he wanted to play for. What happens is that Greinke turns down a non-contending Nationals team (that offered him a big-money extension) so he can go to a contender in Milwaukee (under his current contract). What happens is that Lee turns down more guaranteed money, because he wants to be back in Philladelphia.
And what happens is that Weaver, as colleague Scott Miller details, bucks the Scott Boras trend. Instead of waiting for free agency (after 2012) and even bigger bucks, he tells Boras that "money really wasn't an option for me" and re-signs with the Angels.
Actually, two trends are at work here. With more money available throughout the game, more and more young aces -- Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander and now Weaver -- never get to free agency. Hernandez and Verlander both would have been free agents this winter, if they hadn't signed extensions.
Imagine that bidding frenzy.
Or maybe not. Maybe, even if they had gone to the market, both would have signed for less than the last available dollar. Maybe both would have turned down the Yankees.
We always snickered when free agents said, "It's not about the money," before or after taking the biggest deal they could find.
But maybe there's a point where it really isn't "all about the money." And maybe now, we're reaching that point.
Posted on: June 28, 2011 10:04 pm
NEW YORK -- Zack Greinke never did seem like a New York kind of guy.
Milwaukee seems more like his kind of place. The Brewers seem more like his kind of team.
And Greinke, despite a terrible Tuesday night in the Bronx (two innings, seven runs), has found a comfortable new home.
"He's far more outgoing than any of us expected," Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun said. "He's fun, intelligent, witty. He likes to trash-talk as much as anyone."
The Brewers weren't sure about Greinke this spring, when he mostly kept to himself, and was quoted as saying that his teammates were all right because "I haven't seen anyone yet that's annoying to me."
But since Greinke came off the disabled list the first week of May, the Brewers have seen a different guy. They like what they see.
"This whole social anxiety thing is exaggerated," Braun said.
Greinke has had social anxiety issues, and they're a big reason why the Yankees didn't pursue him when the Royals put him on the market last fall.
Bringing him to New York didn't seem like a good idea then. And New York didn't treat him kindly Tuesday night.
But Milwaukee seems to fit him just fine.
Posted on: June 20, 2011 2:25 pm
Edited on: June 20, 2011 2:49 pm
I'm guessing Jonny Gomes won't be dancing around or singing. I'm guessing Ryan Braun won't be, either.
But when I talked to one Reds person a few minutes after we found out that Albert Pujols will miss the next month with a broken wrist, his reaction was exactly what you'd expect.
"You hate to see anyone get hurt," he said. "But this is great news for us."
Pujols' injury is horrible news for the Cardinals, and bad news for baseball in general -- no Pujols in the All-Star Game, for one thing -- but it's great news for the Reds and for the Brewers . . . if they can stay healthy themselves.
Seriously, has any division race in baseball been as dominated by injuries this year as the National League Central?
The Cardinals have been without Adam Wainwright all year, without Matt Holliday for two tough stretches, without other lesser-known but key pieces like David Freese and Nick Punto, and now without Albert.
The Reds were without two of their five starters (Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey) for the first month of the season, and now they're without Bailey again. Key reliever Aroldis Chapman has spent the last month on the DL, as well, although his injury is much less serious than his continuing control problems. And Scott Rolen has already been on the DL once, and plays with significant enough pain that he's always a threat to go back there.
The Brewers missed Zack Greinke for the first month, and Corey Hart and Jonathan Lucroy for most of the first month. And Shaun Marcum left his last start early with a hip problem. And key reliever Takashi Saito appeared in just two games before going on the DL, where he remains.
Every year in spring training, someone reminds us that it's often not the best team that wins, but the healthiest. Every year, some very talented team doesn't make the playoffs, and injuries are one of the biggest reasons (2010 Red Sox).
But what happens when an entire division gets hurt?
We'll see this year, in the NL Central.
As it turns out, C. Trent Rosecrans of our Eye on Baseball team was in the Reds clubhouse Sunday when Pujols was hurt, and he can confirm that neither Gomes nor any of the other Reds were singing about it.
"The only thing I heard was someone talking about being upset that he was hurt," Rosecrans said.
You might remember the minor stir in spring training, when Gomes was reported to be happily singing about Wainwright's injury (a report that Gomes stridently denied).
Posted on: June 10, 2011 10:36 am
Edited on: June 10, 2011 10:49 am
CC Sabathia won't pitch against the Indians this weekend, so the Yankees left-hander will have plenty of time to go see his ex-teammates.
If he can find any.
It hasn't even been three years since the July 2008 trade that sent Sabathia from Cleveland to Milwaukee to start off the latest Indians rebuilding project. But the lineup from Sabathia's final Cleveland start includes just two players (Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo) who are still with the Indians now.
The current lineup, which has the Indians (barely) holding on to first place in the American League Central, features two players (Michael Brantley and Matt LaPorta) who were acquired in the Sabathia trade, another (Carlos Santana) who was acquired in the Casey Blake trade three weeks later, and another who (Asdrubal Cabrera) was acquired in a deal two years earlier when the Indians traded the guy who just became the Marlins hitting coach (Eduardo Perez).
"They seem to be able to trade everyone and start over," Sabathia said this week. "That's what they did when they traded for Cliff [Lee] and Grady [Sizemore]."
He's right. Sabathia was 21 years old and in his second year with the Indians when Cleveland traded Bartolo Colon to Montreal for Lee, Sizemore, Brandon Phillips and Lee Stevens. That trade built the Indians team that lost to the Red Sox in the 2007 American League Championship Series.
Four years later, Colon is Sabathia's teammate in New York, and the Indians have rebuilt again, with the trades of Sabathia, Lee, Blake and Victor Martinez playing big parts in it. And while it's hard to believe they can hang on to win the AL Central -- their lead over the fast-charging Tigers is down to one game, heading into the weekend -- the young players acquired in those deals have inspired renewed hope for the future.
One part-time Indians fan now pitching for the Yankees is inspired.
"I was excited [earlier this year], and I am excited," Sabathia said. "It's a really good team."
It's an Indians team that needs a few wins, after a 4-11 stretch that has seen Cleveland's division lead drop from seven games down to one.
Sabathia wouldn't go so far as hoping the Indians win this weekend, but after they leave town Monday, you can bet he'll be pulling for them again -- even if all his old friends are gone.
On to 3 to Watch:
1. Carlos Zambrano created a stir last week, when he said the Cubs were "playing like a Triple-A team." But scouts who have watched the Cubs recently say Zambrano had truth as his defense. The Cubs have been awful of late, even if Zambrano (2.03 ERA over his last four starts) hasn't. Zambrano has actually outpitched Roy Halladay (3.41) in that span, but Halladay's Phillies won all four of his start, while Zambrano's Cubs won only two of his. Now they meet, in Cubs at Phillies, Friday night (7:05 ET) at Citizens Bank Park.
2. You think Sabathia has a hard time finding ex-teammates who are still in Cleveland? How about Colon? The last time he pitched for the Indians, his manager was Charlie Manuel, his closer was Bob Wickman, and the Indians lineup featured Ellis Burks, Jim Thome and Travis Fryman. Oh, and Frank Robinson was in the other dugout, managing the Expos. Colon has faced the Indians eight times since (going 4-3 with a no-decision), and will again in Indians at Yankees, Saturday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium.
3. If Cardinals-Cubs is the old rivalry in the National League Central, and Cardinals-Reds is the "new rivalry," then what do we call Cardinals-Brewers? They're in first and second place, respectively, they have some history, and they meet this weekend. The matchups even work out, with Zack Greinke facing Chris Carpenter in Cardinals at Brewers, Saturday night (7:10 ET) at Miller Park. Greinke has some history with the Cardinals, too. He faced them six times in the I-70 interleague rivalry with the Royals, and hasn't lost to them in four appearances since 2005.
Posted on: May 8, 2011 8:27 pm
Twice last year, Roy Halladay pitched against Josh Johnson.
Their combined numbers in those two games: 32 innings, 16 hits, 2 runs, 1 earned run, 3 walks, 30 strikeouts and a 0.28 ERA.
And one perfect game.
One game ended 1-0, in Halladay's favor (that was the perfect game, and the one run was unearned). The other game ended 2-0, in Johnson's favor.
The second game, in which Halladay allowed one run on six hits in eight innings, is his only loss in 19 starts against National League East opponents in his year-plus with the Phillies. He's an incredible 18-1 with a 1.56 ERA in those 19 games.
Which brings us to Tuesday night, when Halladay and Johnson meet up for the first time this season.
It's far too early to call this a Cy Young showdown (and Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals, who is 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA and two shutouts, might be just as good an early candidate). And since this is just the second of six series between the Phillies and Marlins, there's every chance that Halladay and Johnson could meet up again.
That's fine. Anytime they meet, they're the featured game on 3 to watch. Anytime they meet, I'm paying attention, and I'm betting you will, too.
On to 3 to watch:
1. By this point in his Cy Young season, Zack Greinke was 6-0 with a 0.40 ERA. This year, because he played basketball and broke a rib, he's just now making his first home start, in Padres at Brewers, Monday night (8:10 ET) at Miller Park . Brewers fans are no doubt excited to see Greinke, but you have to wonder how much the Brewers' recent slide (eight losses in the last nine games) has hurt their enthusiasm.
2. Coming out of spring training, the Braves were the popular pick as the NL East team with a chance to take the division title away from the Phillies. But it's the Marlins who have spent most of the first five weeks of the season in second place, often just half a game behind the Phils. The Marlins split two games in Philadelphia last month (a third game was rained out), and they get their next chance at home this week. The highlight matchup, of course, is Halladay vs. Johnson, in Phillies at Marlins, Tuesday night (7:10 ET) at Sun Life Stadium.
3. If Halladay vs. Johnson might help decide the NL Cy Young race, then Michael Pineda vs. Zach Britton might have helped decide the American League rookie of the year race. Too bad that Pineda is facing Jake Arrieta (a fine young pitcher, but not a rookie) in Mariners at Orioles, Tuesday night (7:05 ET) at Camden Yards . Pineda, 4-2 with a 2.58 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings, is the early leader. Britton, 5-2 with a 2.93 ERA, faces the Mariners on Thursday night.