Brewers "optimistic" on Looper

So much for standing pat. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin confirmed Monday that the team had re-engaged in talks with right-handed free agent Braden Looper and hoped to close a deal later this week.

“I’m optimistic,” Melvin said.

Melvin chose his words carefully because no deal was yet in place, and did not comment on whether he was offering 34-year-old Looper anything more than a one-year deal. The club has honored Major League Baseball’s directive that teams not discuss free agent signings until the requisite physical examination is complete, but Melvin indicated that in Looper’s case, there was more than that one hurdle yet to clear.

“We’re still talking,” Melvin said. “If anything happens, it’s not going to happen until later in the week.”

Looper’s agent, Alan Hendricks, did not immediately return a call to his office.

Milwaukee’s ESPN radio affiliate — 540 AM — was the first to report Monday morning that the Brewers were once again pursuing Looper, who also drew the team’s interest in December as a reliable innings-eater to bolster a thin starting rotation. 

It marked a change in club philosophy from just two weeks ago, when Melvin and Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio hinted strongly that there would be no additions to the starting rotation before the start of Spring Training. Instead, they floated the idea of holding spending at its current level — about $82 million, pending the outcome of outfielder Corey Hart’s arbitration case — to allow for flexibility early in the season, when the Brewers could try to acquire a top pitcher via trade from a team off to a poor start.

“We’ve analyzed what pitchers we think could become available during the course of the year and when it gets down to it, we think Looper fills a lot of our needs,” Melvin said.

Chief among those is that Looper, a big league reliever his entire career before switching to the starting rotation for the Cardinals in 2007, pitched 199 innings in 2008. That figure would have led all Milwaukee pitchers last year.

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