Brewers GM Doug Melvin confirmed that he had spoken this week with agent Steve Canter about former Brewers left-hander Doug Davis, a free agent who has some interest in returning to Milwaukee.
“He’s interested. I’m just not sure we’re going to add anybody at this point,” Melvin said. “We could give opportunities to guys we have, and — this is the big thing — keep our flexibility [to add a pitcher later].”
Flexibility has been Melvin’s buzzword this winter. He acquired left-hander Randy Wolf at the Winter Meetings and, as the roster stands today, could field a starting rotation led by Wolf and right-hander Yovani Gallardo followed by some combination of Dave Bush, Jeff Suppan and Manny Parra. Melvin mentioned left-hander Chris Narveson and nonroster righty Kameron Loe among those who would get an opportunity to knock one of those incumbents out.
Davis has been extremely consistent in recent seasons, logging at least 33 starts in five of six seasons since finding a home with the Brewers at the end of 2003. He was 37-36 with a 3.92 ERA in parts of four years with the Brewers before Melvin traded Davis to Arizona in November 2006. In 2009, Davis posted a 4.12 ERA for the D-backs.
But “there are issues there,” Melvin said, meaning roster management issues. Melvin said that adding a pitcher would mean you have four pitchers — the newcomer, Parra, Suppan and Narveson — for two spots in the rotation. Parra and Narveson are out of Minor League options. Suppan is in the final season of a multi-year contract, so his $12.5 million salary is guaranteed. Then there is Bush, who has options left but owns enough Major League service time to refuse an optional assignment and elect free agency.
“It’s not like you could keep two and option the other two out,” Melvin said. “You would probably lose them. Are you willing to do that? That’s the question we have to ask ourselves.”
Melvin asked that and other questions this week, when he gathered his staffers in Phoenix for a pitching symposium. Melvin deemed the meeting a success but did not have any drastic changes to announce. The team will continue its pitching tandems at Class A Wisconsin and the rookie levels, in which two starters piggyback each other every fifth day. The group also addressed conditioning and workload issues.
“Any time you get this many people together it’s always productive,” he said. “It’s hard to get all of these people — the doctors, the trainers, coaches, front office staff — together in the same place. The No. 1 goal is to develop starting pitching.”