No arbitration offers

As general manager Doug Melvin forecast on Monday, the Brewers did not extend arbitration offers to any of their ranked free agents ahead of Tuesday’s deadline to do so. That means the club won’t reap any Draft compensation in the event that outfielder Mike Cameron, catcher Jason Kendall, infielder Felipe Lopez or pitchers Braden Looper and David Weathers sign with other clubs.

All five players were Type B free agents. Had the Brewers extended arbitration offers and the players declined, the team would have received a compensatory pick between the first and second rounds of next June’s First-Year Player Draft. Since no offers were made, the Brewers won’t reap any extra picks in 2010.

That’s disappointing for amateur scouting director Bruce Seid, who is already deep into preparation for the Draft. But the risk in extending such offers is that the player can accept, making him signed for the following season at a salary to be determined either in negotiation, or if talks prove unsuccessful, in an arbitration hearing. Players almost always get raises through the process, and that would have certainly been the case for all five of the Brewers’ ranked players.

Four of the decisions were likely easy ones. Melvin has already made it clear he wouldn’t pursue Cameron (who earned $10 million in 2009) or Kendall ($5 million), and the Brewers already paid buyouts to Looper and Weathers instead of exercising club options. The options ($6.5 million for Looper and $3.7 for Weathers) could have cost than what the players would have earned via arbitration, so an offer didn’t make sense.

Lopez, though, was a matter for debate as late as Monday afternoon, when Melvin and his assistants met to finalize their decisions. Lopez earned a reasonably $3.5 million base salary in 2009 and had a career year, batting .310 for the D-backs and Brewers with nine home runs, 57 RBIs, 88 runs scored and a .383 on-base percentage. He was at his best after a July trade from Arizona to Milwaukee, batting .320 for the Brewers with a .407 on-base percentage and filling the void atop the lineup that had existed since second baseman Rickie Weeks was lost to season-ending wrist surgery.

Based on that strong finish, Lopez, who is represented by Scott Boras, will almost certainly seek a multi-year contract. But the Brewers’ decision to not offer him arbitration on Tuesday was a sign that Milwaukee officials, after analyzing which teams will be looking for second basemen this offseason, aren’t convinced he’ll get it.

That left open the possibility that Lopez could accept the offer, and a multimillion dollar bench player probably wouldn’t fit Melvin’s plans. The Brewers are committed to Weeks at second base and are set elsewhere on the infield with first baseman Prince Fielder, shortstop Alcides Escobar and either Casey McGehee or Mat Gamel at third base. Lopez has some outfield experience, but Ryan Braun is a fixture in left field for the Brewers and Corey Hart is the incumbent in right. Hart earned $3.25 million last season and is arbitration-eligible once again.

Payroll is tight for the Brewers despite recent cost-cutting measures because Melvin intends to use the bulk of his remaining resources to fix the team’s starting rotation.

“You would love to have that depth,” Melvin said Monday in previewing his looming decisions. “But is [Lopez] going to want to be a part-time player? He’s going to want to be an everyday player, and Rickie is going to want to be an everyday player. In some sense, you also ask, are you willing to trade the possibility of [acquiring] a pitcher for Felipe Lopez? That’s the question.”

On Tuesday, Melvin answered his own question. He’d prefer to save resources for the pitcher.

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