Nov 13, 2009, 2:55 PM EDT
Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin has made it very clear that acquiring starting pitching is the Brewers’ biggest priority this offseason, even trading J.J. Hardy to the Twins for Carlos Gomez in part to clear payroll space for rotation help.
Despite that this afternoon the Brewers declined their $6.5 million option on Braden Looper, choosing to pay him a $1 million buyout instead after the 35-year-old went 14-7 with a 5.22 ERA in 194.2 innings spread over a league-leading 34 starts this season.
On the surface it may seem strange to get rid of a veteran who went 14-7 in a rotation that had the league’s worst ERA, but Looper’s win-loss record vastly overstates his effectiveness. In addition to his ugly 5.22 ERA, he allowed the most earned runs (113) and homers (39) in the league while opponents batted .289/.344/.503 against him. He basically turned every hitter into Matt Kemp, who batted .297/.352/.490 this season.
Looper also had a sub par 100/64 K/BB ratio in 194.2 innings and fell apart down the stretch, posting a 5.54 ERA in the second half that included a 6.58 mark in September. In other words he was awful at just about everything except for getting good run support from the Brewers’ lineup, and as a 35-year-old who underwent post-season knee surgery he’s hardly a good bet to improve enough to be worth $6.5 million in 2010.
Melvin indicated that the Brewers would consider re-signing Looper at a lesser salary, but added that in the meantime “we wanted to keep our flexibility” with the $5.5 million saved. It’s a safe bet that Looper won’t get anything close to $5.5 million on the open market, so even if the Brewers fail to land the big upgrade via free agency that Melvin is aiming for there’s little risk in letting Looper shop himself around.
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