Doug Davis didn’t get his proper introduction at Miller Park, but he did get something more important: A done deal with the Brewers.
Davis was supposed to travel to Milwaukee on Thursday night for a Friday morning physical exam but his flight was canceled. So he underwent the procedure later in the day instead, finalizing a one-year contract that guarantees $5.25 million and might just cap the Brewers’ major offseason wheeling and dealing.
The Brewers announced the signing late in the afternoon and included a statement from general manager Doug Melvin.
“Doug Davis has been a very durable pitcher throughout his career,” Melvin said. “His ability to produce quality starts gives our club a chance to win each time he takes the mound.”
With Davis and fellow free agent acquisition Randy Wolf in tow, the Brewers have six established starting pitchers. Young right-hander Yovani Gallardo and lefties Wolf and Davis figure to fill the first three spots in the rotation, leaving right-handers Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan and left-hander Manny Parra to vie for the other two spots.
Barring an injury to one of those six pitchers, of course, Melvin and manager Ken Macha could face some tough calls. Parra has been maddeningly inconsistent in his two full seasons with the Brewers, but he is only 27 years old, is out of Minor League options and would almost certainly be lost to the waiver wire if he’s exposed to it. Club officials are trying to be more patient with Parra than they were with Jorge De La Rosa, who was traded to Royals in 2006 and has since become a solid member of the Rockies’ rotation.
Bush and Suppan are both coming off injury-plagued 2009 seasons. Financial considerations could come into play; Suppan is entering the final season of a four-year contract that guarantees $12.5 million in 2010, while Bush is arbitration-eligible this winter. He’s likely to earn $4.2-$4.3 million next season, but since arbitration contracts aren’t guaranteed the Brewers could release Bush in Spring Training and owe just a fraction of that salary.
Here’s another option: Bump someone to the bullpen. But even that could be tricky depending on performances in Spring Training, since six spots are already spoken for by closer Trevor Hoffman, setup men Todd Coffey and LaTroy Hawkins, left-hander Mitch Stetter and right-hander Claudio Vargas and Carlos Villanueva. That leaves one opening for a large field of competitors including, if he’s ready, David Riske, who underwent Tommy John surgery last June and is guaranteed $4.5 million in 2010.
Davis, meanwhile, gets a $4.25 million base salary in 2010 and his contract calls for a $6.5 million mutual option in 2011. If the club declines its half of the option, Davis gets a $1 million buyout. He can also earn $1 million in what a source calls “makeable” incentives in each season of the deal.
All told, if Davis pitches both seasons for the Brewers and hits all of his incentives, he could earn $12.75 million.
It’s Davis’ second stint with the Brewers. He revived his career in Milwaukee in 2003, a strange season split between the Rangers, Blue Jays and Brewers. All told, Davis was 37-36 with a 3.92 ERA in parts of four seasons with the Brewers before a November 2006 trade to Arizona, where he went 28-34 with a 4.22 ERA from 2007-2009.
Along the way he remained durable, logging at least 33 starts and 192 innings in five of the past six seasons. The exception was 2008, when Davis missed the start of the season to get treatment for thyroid cancer.