Spring surprise: Gagne back with the Brewers
I had just left Maryvale Baseball Park for the day when Brewers spokesman Mike Vassallo texted a shocker: Eric Gagne is re-joining the Brewers.
He won’t exactly make the $10 million he pocketed last season, and general manager Doug Melvin made it clear Gagne received no guarantees he’ll get a job. Gagne agreed to a Minor League contract that includes an invitation to big league camp and an out clause that will allow him back to free agency if he doesn’t get a 40-man roster spot before the end of Spring Training.
“He’s got to win a job,” Melvin said. “He came to me at the end of the season and told me he felt he didn’t earn his [salary], that he didn’t pitch the way he wanted to pitch for what he was being paid. He said he felt indebted to us to come back in and give it another shot for us.
“I didn’t expect that, and I respect the fact that he stood up and said, ‘I didn’t pitch well.’ He came to me and said, ‘I’m sorry I disappointed you.’ But he pitched well at the end of the year and that’s what counted, so I give him a lot of credit for that.”
Gagne joins a crowded bullpen. Trevor Hoffman is the closer and Carlos Villanueva, David Riske and Seth McClung and at least one left-hander from Mitch Stetter or R.J. Swindle are ticketed for what will probably be a seven-man relief corps. Assuming only one lefty makes the cut, it would leave only two more spots for a field of competitors led by 40-man roster members Todd Coffey, Jorge Julio, Mark DiFelice and Rule 5 pick Eduardo Morlan.
Melvin said Gagne’s decision to sign had nothing to do with the team’s decision to cancel a trip by top pro scout Dick Groch to see free agent reliever Chad Cordero throw in California on Wednesday. Cordero’s camp informed clubs that he will only be throwing at about 80 percent of total effort, so the Brewers instead will send their local scouts.
The Brewers are not interested in former St. Louis reliever Jason Isringhausen, another right-handed former closer who, like Gagne, could be open to a Minor League deal. So it appears that the team feels it has enough competitors already in camp to put together a quality bullpen.