Free agent reliever LaTroy Hawkins and agent Larry Reynolds met with Brewers officials on Wednesday morning and had the framework of a two-year, $7.5 million deal in place just after lunch.
Reynolds confirmed via Twitter
that Hawkins will sign with the Brewers pending a physical, giving Milwaukee its second significant pick-up of the day. The team also agreed to terms of a three-year contract with left-handed starter Randy Wolf
, a deal Wolf confirmed in an appearance on Sirius XM Radio.
Hawkins attended the Winter Meetings in person hoping to find a multi-year offer. The Astros had interest in re-signing him after free agent closer Jose Valverde declined arbitration, but Milwaukee made a strong push for Hawkins on Wednesday.
Hawkins will turn 37 on Dec. 21, but he is coming off his best season since he saved 25 games for the Cubs in 2004. In 65 appearances for Houston, he posted a 2.13 ERA and 11 saves as a fill-in closer when Valverde was hurt or unavailable.
Hawkins could particularly help the Brewers as an additional option (along with lefty specialist Mitch Stetter) to face left-handed batters, who managed just a .203 batting average against Hawkins last season; righties hit .303. For his career, lefties have hit him at a .282 clip and righties .281.
Hawkins has pitched parts of 15 seasons for seven different teams. He earned $3.5 million from the Astros last year.
Among the other relievers under consideration by the Brewers this week were former Cubs closer Kevin Gregg (a right-hander who has been particular tough on left-handed hitters the past three seasons) and left-hander Mike Gonzalez, who notched 10 saves with the Braves this past season. Gonzelez is a Type A free agent who declined the Braves’ arbitration offer, so he would cost the Brewers a second-round Draft pick.
General manager Doug Melvin already has his closer in all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman, but likes the idea of stockpiling multiple relievers with ninth-inning experience.
“It helps,” Melvin said. “We did that with Solomon Torres [in 2008]. If someone falters, you have somebody who’s done it before.”
The Brewers acquired Torres in a trade with the Pirates just after the 2007 Winter Meetings and he began the year as a set-up man to $10 million closer Eric Gagne. When Gagne failed in the role, Torres stepped in notched 28 saves.
Hawkins could be the final major addition to Milwaukee’s bullpen. Hoffman re-signed for $7.5 million right after the season, and Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash said Tuesday that the team had a tentative deal with right-hander Claudio Vargas to return. Cost-effective lefty Stetter should also be back along with arbitration-eligibles Todd Coffey and Carlos Villanueva. Seth McClung is also arbitration-eligible but can pitch as a starter or a reliever and recovered from an elbow injury before the end of last season.
Other candidates include right-hander Chris Smith and left-hander Chris Narveson, both of whom are on the 40-man roster and had stretches of success in 2009. David Riske may return at some point in the season from Tommy John surgery. John Axford impressed in a late-season stint with the Brewers last season and Macha mentioned him Tuesday as an option. And a number of Brewers officials, including Macha, have touted left-handed pitching prospect Zach Braddock as an option to help the big league team at some point in 2010.
Follow Brew Beat on Twitter.