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Brewers revert to thrifty form

Feb 9, 2013, 7:24 PM EDT

Ron Roenicke Getty Images

The Brewers’ offseason opened with speculation about a push for Josh Hamilton. 3 1/2 months later, their biggest pickup has been Tom Gorzelanny.

Mark Attanasio’s Brewers won 96 games and went to the NLCS in 2011, and while the team lost Prince Fielder afterwards, it was able to bring in Aramis Ramirez as a replacement. Still, despite Ramirez’s best efforts, the team dropped to 83 wins and a third-place finish in the NL Central last year. The bullpen was the biggest problem, and when the Brewers couldn’t extend Zack Greinke, they traded him away to the Angels, sacrificing their second star in 12 months.

The curious thing is that while the Brewers were open to giving Greinke a $100 million deal, they’ve made no effort to distribute that money this winter. Gone also are the salaries No. 3 starter Shaun Marcum, No. 4 starter Randy Wolf and overpaid reliever Francisco Rodriguez. Those were four of the Brewers’ six highest-paid players last year, accounting for more than $38 million of a season-opening $98 million payroll.

Lesser lights Myjer Morgan, Manny Parra, Kameron Loe and Jose Veras have also been lopped off. That’s another $7.7 million.

The replacements: Gorzelanny at $5.7 million for two years, fellow reliever Mike Gonzalez at $2.25 million and infielder Alex Gonzalez at $1.5 million. The only other newcomer due a significant salary is reliever Burke Badenhop (acquired from the Rays) at $1.55 million. All told, they’ll combine to make about as much this year as K-Rod did last year.

As is, the Brewers are looking at a payroll about $25 million-$30 million shy of their 2012 figure. And they certainly have needs. Marco Estrada rates as their No. 2 starter behind Yovani Gallardo. A legitimate eighth-inning guy would be nice. The lineup was pretty well set before Corey Hart‘s recent knee surgery, but a quality outfield option would be useful in case either Norichika Aoki or Carlos Gomez can’t repeat his 2012 performance.

Alas, most of the quality players are long gone now. But Milwaukee would still seem to be an obvious fit for Kyle Lohse if the team wasn’t so intent on retaining its first-round pick. Instead, it seems the Brewers will do little and hope for the best. The bullpen can’t be any worse and some young pitching might step up, but the odds are against the offense being as strong again and this is a team that’s going to need a lot of luck to get back to the postseason.

  1. brewcrewfan54 - Feb 9, 2013 at 7:42 PM

    Youdo realize the Josh Hamilton crap wasn’t something the Brewers fueled. Ot was nothing more than ESPN crap that the Brewers wouldn’t refute because why would they.

  2. cadillacjosh - Feb 9, 2013 at 8:12 PM

    The offense was one of the best in baseball last year. It’ll still be good again this year.

    The only thing we should’ve spent money on is pitching, but what really were the options? We couldn’t afford, really, any of the pitching contracts handed out this offseason. We’re not being thrifty, this is the only way we can operate.

    A post season appearance twice every 10 years is fun for our smallest media market. The rest is hopes and dreams. You only need to visit a brewer fan website to see that we believe we can contend this year.

    • paperlions - Feb 10, 2013 at 10:38 AM

      I agree that most of the top end FAs were signed to deals that represent horrible value (the best those teams can hope for is that the players repeat career years every year to justify the salaries) and would have been poor signings for Milwaukee, but there have been some pitchers signed to team friendly deals.

      Haren’s 1 yr $13M deal would have been a good signing for ML, even E. Jackson’s 4 yr deal wouldn’t have been bad…he’s a durable mid-rotation starter…$13M/yr for such a player isn’t bad at all. Dempster’s deal was reasonable (2 yrs/$26.5M)…and plenty of lesser pitchers would have been an upgrade over what they have…and cheap.

      For hitters, Cabrera’s 2 yr $16M deal was a steal….but yeah, the Brewers didn’t have much position player need that could be addressed in FA.

      Milwaukee’s biggest problem is that their farm system is horrible and their track record for developing their pitching talent is bad as well….so no cheap aid is coming from the farm.

  3. stanggtman - Feb 9, 2013 at 8:44 PM

    Go Reds! 2013 NLC Champs!

    • mazblast - Feb 10, 2013 at 1:30 PM

      Typical Reds fan. Try playing the games before anointing yourselves as champions.

    • tuberippin - Feb 10, 2013 at 3:53 PM

      Didn’t work out too well last season.

  4. chill1184 - Feb 9, 2013 at 10:17 PM

    It also can be that the Brewer’s front office looked at the FA market and saw nothing that interested them for the following reasons;

    1. Not wanting to kill their draft pool money and sacrificing a draft pick,
    2. Didnt want to tie up big money in a select few of players that may or may not be an exact fit
    3. Felt that in house options are currently a safer bet
    4. Couldn’t find trade partners to fill needs

    If any Brewers fans can lend some insight, it would be appreciated.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Feb 9, 2013 at 10:20 PM

      FWIW, I think it was more the length of the contracts than the players themselves. After getting burnt by Suppan and Wolf, they were nervous about giving three or four years to a pitcher. Hence, they only offered Dempster two years and missed out on him.

      • padraighansen - Feb 10, 2013 at 12:27 AM

        I believe I understand the point you are trying to make….but the headline seems to insinuate, to some degree, a Miami Marlins type of surrender. Let’s face it, the teams like the Brewers have little room for error, and you mentioned it above with guys like Suppan and Wolf.

        Quite frankly, I’m all for the Brewers giving Peralta, Fiers, and Rogers the ball, especially because the options available in the market have similar current talent levels with less upside. As for Lohse, he’d be a great pick-up for the right price – but not $13M per year. And I was a bit shocked that they wanted no part of Marcum, which leads me to believe there is probably more to the story than is on the record.

        The one thing a team like the Brewers, or any small – medium market team cannot afford to do (literally) is spend money just for the sake of spending money.

      • paperlions - Feb 10, 2013 at 10:41 AM

        $13M/year for a mid-rotation starter is a good deal. $13M/year for a pitcher that can do what Lohse has done the last 2 years is a steal.

      • padraighansen - Feb 10, 2013 at 10:56 AM

        Paper – if Lohse were 2 – 3 years younger, I’d absolutely agree with you. And if it was only a two year deal, I wouldn’t argue. But at nearly 35….no way The Brewers can do 13 – 15M for a 3+ year deal with Lohse…

      • paperlions - Feb 10, 2013 at 1:15 PM

        If Lohse was willing to sign for $15M per and 3 years, he would have been signed a long time ago. I doubt his price tag has come down that far yet. He was probably looking for closer to $17M/yr and 5 years to start.

        It is worth noting that pitchers do not have the same aging curves as hitters. It is not uncommon for pitchers to maintain their effectiveness until they are 37+, whereas hitters are usually in advanced decline (or useless) by that point.

  5. brewcrewfan54 - Feb 9, 2013 at 10:46 PM

    That and they are still a small market team. No Brewer fan should get used to $100 million payrolls as much as we would like to. They’ve paid plenty of guys a lot of money over the last 5 years, this was going to eventually happen sooner or later. To think otherwise is silly.

  6. theaxmancometh - Feb 9, 2013 at 10:52 PM

    Brewers just can’t compete with the big market clubs. They offered $100m plus to try & keep Sabathia, Fielder & Greinke. CC got $161m, Prince $214m, Greinke $147m. Deals well above what small market Milwaukee can afford. And it hurts badly when big dollar free agents fail, Suppan, Wolf etc. Bad mega contracts can be overcome by big market clubs, Zito & Soriano for example. With no cap & extreme differences in tv revenue, these circumstances aren’t going to change. All their biggest contributors are players they drafted & developed, Braun, Gallardo, Hart, Lucroy, Weeks. They can’t give up a 1st rounder for maybe a good year or two of Kyle Lohse. They have some talented young arms with Peralta, Rogers, Fiers, Thornburg. Have to see what they can do.

    • brewcitybummer - Feb 9, 2013 at 11:55 PM

      I agree in general. The biggest difference between large revenue and small revenue clubs is their ability to absorb mistakes. 90 million per year in well spent money is easily enough to be in playoff contention. However, hang a bad contract or two on a small revenue club and things can get pretty bleak.

      As far as the Brewer’s young arms, the consensus among the media scouting types is pretty rough. Jed Bradley is a mess, Jungmann is losing velocity he can’t afford to lose and no one seems to think Rogers can stay healthy. The highest ceiling guy on the farm is Coulter and he is a long way away and has the low floor that comes with a high school catcher.

      I hate to be the low guy on the Brewers but I think they are at a crossroads in the first few months of this season. If the starting pitching implodes, which it very well might, they have to look at getting what they can for Hart, Weeks, Ramirez, Gomez and Axford. However, maybe none of those guys will have enough value to bring back a top 50 type prospect that could impact the big league club in 2014. I guess I’m just searching for a reason for optimism that really makes sense.

  7. historiophiliac - Feb 10, 2013 at 1:19 AM

    “Alas”?

  8. riverace19 - Feb 10, 2013 at 2:13 AM

    It’s the NL Central we are talking about. The Reds Cards Pirates and yes Brewers all have a shot. No need to spend on things you don’t really want. Oh wait… This is America… If you are not spending something is wrong with you

    • paperlions - Feb 10, 2013 at 10:48 AM

      Take the Astros out of the NL central last year and the division is as good as any the NL East or West. The Cubs will be dramatically better this year, not a contender, but I would be surprised if any team in the NL Central lost more than 90 games.

      The NL Central also has two of the best farm systems (StL & Pit) who have impact guys ready or close to it and the Cubs and Reds have up and coming systems as well.

  9. wiguy25 - Feb 10, 2013 at 2:56 AM

    Brewers are going to finish in last place this year

    • mvp43 - Feb 10, 2013 at 1:30 PM

      No…..the Cubs will have that honor.

  10. jdhein22 - Feb 10, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    This post is crap.

    Anyone who watched the Brewers last year – at all, mind you – realize that this team got better when it got younger. It lopped off Greinke, Marcum, and Wolf, and their starting pitching miraculously got better and more consistent. The bullpen was atrocious from April-to-October, so it would make sense to clean house there. And the problem with Aoki and Gomez was that they didn’t have enough at bats, not that they needed more rest. Finally, the Brewers got nothing form Weeks n the first half and Gonzalez and Gamel at all because of injuries.

    This ball club became energized after the Greinke trade and actually were in contention for the wild card way later then anyone wold have expected by July. Presently, their one weakness/unknown remains the 8th/9th inning. No way KRod deserves another shot. But Axford does, given he was lights out in 2010/2011.

    I am sorry, but instead of a “salary dump” this was the Brewers looking at their NFL brother to the north and saying we can do it too. They are embracing their youth/depth in their starting pitching (Peralta, Rogers, Fiers, and Thornburg are ready NOW) and defense (Lucroy/Maldonado, Segura, and Gomez is the best up the middle D this team has had in decades), and still pack the thunder sticks (Weeks, Braun, Ramirez, Hart is a pretty powerful 2-5).

  11. jdhein22 - Feb 10, 2013 at 11:49 PM

    39-25 after Greinke trade. 0.5 game better than the 1st place Reds over same time period. Finished 4th in wildcard standings.

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