January 2010

Fielder next on agenda?

prince-fielder-2009-9-6-18-40-29.jpgThe Brewers are expected to re-introduce Doug Davis at Miller Park on Friday, a signing that could cap GM Doug Melvin’s major offseason maneuverings. Now that the rotation has a dose of healthy competition, and the bullpen and the lineup are set for 2010, it could be time to return to the topic Melvin mentioned way back in October — an extension for first baseman Prince Fielder.

Easier said than done, considering that Scott Boras is Fielder’s agent and that the player himself is two years removed from free agent riches. Assuming the Brewers will give it a try, I laid out some of the issues both sides will be considering in a story that went live on Brewers.com Thursday night.

Melvin, for his part, plans to keep things under wraps if talks indeed progress.

“It’s a big one,” he said this week, “and if we have any kind of conversations it wouldn’t be for publication. You don’t want to be asked about it every 24 hours. I’m not going to get into that sort of thing.

“But at some point, we said we want to get together. It has to be the right time. Is it the right time now? I don’t know the answer to that.”

A discussion of Fielder’s future requires this disclaimer up front: He’s already under contract for 2010, then is under club control for one more year of arbitration eligibility in 2011. That means the Brewers own Fielder’s rights for two more seasons, and, as Melvin has pointed out in the past, means that there is no sense of urgency to strike a deal or else.

On the other hand, it’s understandable that Melvin would seek a sense of whether Fielder (and Boras) are open to the idea of an extension or whether they intend to test the free agent waters two years from now.

Do you think the Brewers and Fielder will be able to strike a deal?

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Coffey avoids arbitration with one-year deal

The Brewers moved a step closer to another year devoid of arbitration hearings when they agreed to terms on a one-year deal with reliever Todd Coffey on Thursday. With Coffey under contract, the Brewers have only three arbitration-eligible players still unsigned.

“It was quick, easy, painless,” Coffey said after the team’s announcement. “Now we can get on to baseball.”

Coffey will earn $2,025,002 in 2010, a $1.225 million raise from last season. The sides struck a deal two days after exchanging arbitration figures and settled for about $50,000 less than the midpoint — Coffey and agent Rick Thurman filed for $2.45 million and the Brewers countered at $1.7 million — but Coffey can earn that $50,000 in incentives based on appearances.

He joined the Brewers in September 2008 after the Reds released him on his birthday, and was a workhorse for the Brewers in his first full season in Milwaukee. Coffey posted a 2.90 ERA in a team-high 78 relief appearances and led all National League relievers with 83 2/3 innings pitched, a career-high.

He’s expected to return in a setup role to closer Trevor Hoffman in 2010 alongside Brewers newcomer LaTroy Hawkins.

With Coffey under wraps, the Brewers have three arbitration-eligible players left to worry about:

– Right fielder Corey Hart filed Tuesday for $4.8 million, $650,000 more than the club’s $4.15 million offer and $1.55 million more than he earned in a disappointing 2009 season. 

– Starting pitcher Dave Bush filed for $4.45 million and the club offered $4.125 million, a relatively manageable gap of $325,000. Bush earned $4 million in a 2009 season marred by a line drive off the bat of Florida’s Hanley Ramirez on June 4 that struck Bush near the right elbow and caused trouble for the rest of the year. 

– Reliever Carlos Villanueva filed for $1.075 million and the team offered $800,000, a $275,000 difference.

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Brewers unveil "On Deck" schedule

Brewers On Deck.jpgThe Brewers on Thursday announced programming details and a tentative autograph schedule for Brewers On Deck, the fanfest set for Sunday, Jan. 31 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Midwest Airlines Center in downtown Milwaukee.

Autograph sessions will be staggered during the event, and autograph tickets — ranging from free to $25 each and available for cash only — will be available on the day of the event only.  There will be 250 autograph coupons available for each player at the event, and coupons will be distributed one hour prior to each autograph session.  Proceeds from the autographs will go to Brewers Charities and other charitable causes.

Three stages will be set up throughout the convention hall, featuring programming and other activities throughout the day. The Brewers Main Stage will feature various question and answer sessions with top Brewers baseball executives, a pair of game shows featuring players and alumni, a fashion show showcasing the latest Brewers gear, and a roundtable discussion with members of the Milwaukee media who cover the team on a regular basis.

The Brewers Interactive Stage will feature the Brewers Anthem Challenge with fans vying for an opportunity to sing the National Anthem at Miller Park.  Also scheduled for the Brewers Interactive Stage is a question and answer session with the Brewers’ player development and scouting staffs as well as a live webchat with Brewers players.  The Newsradio 620 WTMJ stage will broadcast live from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and will feature interviews with Brewers players and coaches.

Brewers Charities will host a Treasure Hunt, featuring some hard to find Brewers items on sale.  Additionally, Brewers Charities will be collecting food to be donated to the Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee.  Collection barrels will be set up at the Brewers Charities area in the Midwest Airlines Center.

Fans will also be able to take part in the Brewers On Deck Scavenger Hunt, with discounted tickets waiting for those who complete the circuit. Inside the Midwest Airlines Center, fans will be invited to locate four player photos strategically placed around the different event attractions. Each photo will include a number or letter, which can then be used as a promotional code to purchase tickets online at a 50 percent savings for Brewers games on April 7, April 11, June 23 and June 24. For additional information on the Scavenger Hunt, visit Brewers.com/ondeck.

Tickets for the event are $15 in advance and $20 at the door for adults and $9 in advance and $15 at the door for children 14 and under.  Tickets purchased at the door of the event on Sunday will be cash only.

There are a variety of parking structures and street lots surrounding the Midwest Airlines Center.  For more parking information, the Brewers encourage fans to visit www.parkmilwaukee.com.

Details on the autograph and programming schedules are listed below. The schedule is subject to change, with the latest version and more information always available at Brewers.com/ondeck.

Autograph Schedule

Stage 1                                                            
11:00 – 11:45      Yovani Gallardo ($10)      
12:30 – 1:15        Robin Yount ($25) 
2:00 – 2:45          Ryan Braun ($25) 
3:30 – 4:15          David Riske and Tim Dillard ($10)

Stage 2                                                                                
11:30 – 12:15      Jeff Suppan ($10)                                            
1:00 – 1:45           Todd Coffey ($10)                             
2:30 – 3:15           Manny Parra ($10)                          
3:45 – 4:30           Casey McGehee ($10)                     

Stage 3                                                                           
10:30 – 11:15                                                     
12:00 – 12:45      Corey Hart ($10)               
1:30 – 2:15           LaTroy Hawkins ($10)         
3:00 – 3:45           Carlos Gomez ($10)       

Stage 4
11:00 – 11:45      Jody Gerut and Josh Butler ($10)
12:30 – 1:15         Randy Wolf and George Kottaras ($10)
2:00 – 2:45           Gregg Zaun and Chris Smith ($10)
3:30 – 4:15           Claudio Vargas and Hernan Iribarren ($10)

Stage 5
11:30 – 12:15      Dave Bush and Chris Narveson ($10)
1:00 – 1:45           Trevor Hoffm
an ($25)
2:30 – 3:15           Carlos Villanueva ($10)
3:45 – 4:30           Mitch Stetter and John Axford ($10)

Stage 6
10:30 – 11:15
12:00 – 12:45      Rickie Weeks ($10)
1:30 – 2:15           Prince Fielder ($25)
3:00 – 3:45           Alcides Escobar and Mat Gamel ($10)

Main Stage Schedule

10:30 – 11:00      Q&A Session with Ken Macha and Rick Peterson
Local media and fans will take part in a 30-minute Q&A session.

11:30 – 12:15 “Who Wants to Be a Brewer?”
Watch Craig Coshun from Fox Sports Wisconsin host the Brewers version of a quiz show as Brewers pitchers Todd Coffey and LaTroy Hawkins will work with lucky fans to earn incredible prizes.

12:30 – 1:00 Q&A Session with Mark Attanasio, Doug Melvin and Gord Ash
Local media and fans will take part in a 30-minute Q&A session.

1:30 – 1:45 Carlos Gomez Press Conference
Local media will welcome Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez with his introductory press conference.

2:15 – 2:30 Fashion Show
The latest Brewers apparel, including 40th Anniversary Brewers gear, will be displayed on the runway.

2:30 – 2:45 Brewers Alumni Q&A
Brewers alums Jeff Cirillo, Gorman Thomas and Greg Vaughn will take questions from fans.

3:15 – 3:45 Brewers vs. Alumni Feud
Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Trevor Hoffman, Randy Wolf, Dale Sveum, Jeff Cirillo, Greg Vaughn, Robin Yount and two lucky fans will participate in a Brewers version of a game show. Hosted by Brian Anderson.

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Brewers bring back Davis

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said way back in October that he wanted to add two established starting pitchers this winter. On Wednesday, he landed the second of two.  
With Randy Wolf already in tow, the Brewers agreed to terms with left-hander Doug Davis on a one-year contract that includes a mutual option for 2011, a baseball source said. The deal guarantees Davis $5.25 million and could pay up to $12.75 million if the option is exercised and Davis reaches all of his incentives.  
The contract won’t be official until Davis passes a physical. Until that final step, Melvin could not confirm that he had a deal in place.  
“We don’t have anything finalized yet,” Melvin said Wednesday afternoon, “but I guess we’re getting close.”
Davis pitched for the Brewers from 2003-2006 before he was traded to Arizona. He will earn a $4.25 million base salary in 2010, and the mutual option calls for a $6.5 million salary in 2011 or a $1 million buyout. Davis also can earn $1 million in what the source termed “makeable” incentives in each season of the deal, based on games, starts and innings pitched.  
The lefty turned 34 in September after going 9-14 with a 4.12 ERA for the D-backs in 2009. He joins fellow newcomer Wolf in a rotation that suddenly has six established arms for five spots: Dave Bush, Davis, Yovani Gallardo, Manny Parra, Jeff Suppan and Wolf. Davis, Parra and Wolf are all left-handed.  
Barring an injury before the start of the season, one of those six pitchers will have to bump to the bullpen or be let go.  
“Players help us make those decisions,” Melvin said.   
Melvin made starting pitching a priority after Brewers starters finished last in the National League last season with a 5.37 ERA.  
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40th anniversary plans unveiled

40thanniversarylogo.jpg

The Brewers are expanding the Retro Friday promotion to “Retro Weekends” in 2010, part of a year-long campaign to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the franchise’s 1970 move from Seattle to Milwaukee.
The team will host four Retro Weekends, one for each decade of Brewers baseball. On the first three Fridays, Brewers players will wear retro uniforms from each era, and on all four Sundays the team will give away a bobblehead doll representing a great moment in the club’s history.  
Along the way, Brewers players will wear special 40th anniversary season patches throughout the season and Brewers fans will have the opportunity to vote for the best moments in team history in a “40 Years/40 Moments” campaign being coordinated in partnership with FOX Sports Wisconsin, Brewers.com and the team’s flagship radio station. 
More information about voting program will be announced in April. For now, the team released details for the four Retro Weekends: 
1970s Retro Weekend
May 14- 16 vs. Phillies
- May 14: Brewers to wear reproductions of the home 1972-77 uniforms with “BREWERS” in royal blue block letters on the front of the jerseys and the yellow “M” logo on the cap. The Phillies will be wearing light blue uniforms worn on the road throughout most of the 1970s. Alumni Gorman Thomas and Jim Colborn are scheduled to attend and participate in a pre-game autograph session. 
- May 16: All Fan Bobblehead Giveaway, courtesy of the Milk Marketing Board, is Hank Aaron hitting his 755th and final home run as a member of the Brewers. 
1980s Retro Weekend
June 25-27 vs. Mariners
- June 25: Brewers to wear reproductions of the home 1978-89 uniforms. The uniform is highlighted by pinstripes with “BREWERS” block letters on the front and a “ball and glove logo” hat. The Mariners will be wearing light blue uniforms worn on the road from 1981 to 1984. Alumni Robin Yount and Paul Molitor are scheduled to attend and participate in a pre-game autograph session. 
- June 27: All Fan Bobblehead Giveaway, courtesy of RedPrairie, is Cecil Cooper’s base hit to drive home the tying and winning runs in Game Five of the 1982 American League Championship Series. 
1990s Retro Weekend
July 23-25 vs. Nationals
- July 23: Brewers to wear reproductions of the home 1997-99 uniforms. The jersey has “BREWERS” in block letters on the front, while the cap features an “MB” logo. The Nationals will be wearing their current uniforms. Alumni Greg Vaughn and Jeff Cirillo are scheduled to attend and participate in a pre-game autograph session. 
July 25: All Fan Bobblehead Giveaway is Yount recording his 3000th career base hit. 
2000s Retro Weekend
Aug. 27-29 vs Pirates
- Aug. 27: Brewers and Pirates to wear current uniforms. Alumni Geoff Jenkins and Bob Wickman are scheduled to attend and participate in a pre-game autograph session. 
- August 29: All Fan Bobblehead Giveaway, courtesy of Palermo’s, is CC Sabathia securing the final out of the final regular season, playoff-clinching game in 2008. 
The 2010 season is actually the 42nd in franchise history and the 41st season of Brewers baseball. But it marks the 40th anniversary of the team’s April 1970 move from Seattle to Milwaukee. 
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Sheets: 'I showed them what I've got'

MLB.com reporter Jesse Sanchez put together a roundup of Ben Sheets’ Tuesday throwing session, during which he threw more than 50 pitches in front of scouts, a few coaches and MLB Network’s Trenni Kusnierek. You can read the story and watch video of Sheets from Trenni here. And there’s also a story from the local newspaper in Monroe, La. 

Two money quotes from the Sheets coverage. First, from the man himself: “I’ve been healthy before in my life and I feel every bit as good as I have in any point of my career,” Sheets said. “That’s what I judge off of. What happens tomorrow or in seven years from now, I don’t know. We are all kind of a walking time bomb and any injury can happen at any time. But at this point, right now, I feel great.”
And this, from Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Our scout said there was nothing untoward to report either way,” said Ash. “From what we’ve been told, his expectations [for a contract] are way beyond what we think we can do.”
MLB Network analysts Jon Heyman and Tom Verducci guessed last night that Sheets would get a deal similar to Brad Penny’s pact with the Cardinals, which guarantees $7.5 million with $1.5 million more available in incentives. Barring some other moves to free payroll, that’s out of the Brewers’ price range. Never mind the inherent risk of signing someone who didn’t pitch the previous season. 
But if Sheets stays healthy in 2010 and resembles his former self, he could end up being the best signing of the offseason. The Reds, Cubs and Cardinals were among the National League Central clubs with scouts at Tuesday’s showcase. 
In other former Brewers news, I saw on the website MLB Trade Rumors, via the Philadelphia Daily News, that Eric Gagne will work out for the Phillies today. Gagne last pitched in the Majors in 2008 with Milwaukee and actually finished the year strong as a setup man after flaming out as the closer. 
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Brewers swap proposals with arbitration-eligibles

Minutes before teams swapped contract proposals with their arbitration-eligible players, the Brewers agreed to terms on one-year contracts for second baseman Rickie Weeks and center fielder Carlos Gomez, leaving four other eligible players unsigned.  
Weeks will earn $2.75 million in 2010, a $400,000 raise from a 2009 season spent mostly on the disabled list, and Gomez will make $1.1 million, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Gomez, acquired from the Twins in November, earned $437,500 last season with the Twins and qualified for arbitration for the first time as a so-called “Super Two” player. 
Work will continue toward deals with four other players who are arbitration-eligible but remain unsigned. The team exchanged salary proposals with all four on Tuesday:  
– The biggest gap is with reliever Todd Coffey, who filed for $2.45 million while the Brewers countered with $1.7 million, a difference of $750,000 that nearly matches Coffey’s $800,002 salary last season. Coffey arguably had the best year of any of the Brewers’ eligible players, posting a 2.90 ERA in 78 appearances while leading National League relievers with 83 2/3 innings pitched.  
Coffey wasn’t sweating the gap. He spent the day playing with daughters Hannah and Haley in North Carolina.  
“I haven’t even checked my voicemail,” Coffey said. “It’s part of the game. It’s the process you have to go through. That’s what I have an agent for, to keep my mind off the business aspect as much as possible. It’s not like you can totally ignore the business side, but I’m focused on playing baseball right now. I already have the itch.”  
– Right fielder Corey Hart filed for $4.8 million, $650,000 more than the club’s $4.15 million offer and $1.55 million more than he earned in a disappointing 2009 season. Hart’s year was made even more frustrating when he needed an emergency appendectomy in early August that sidelined him more than a month. He finished with a .260 batting average, 12 home runs and 48 RBIs.  
– Starting pitcher Dave Bush filed for $4.45 million and the club offered $4.125 million, a relatively manageable gap of $325,000. Bush earned $4 million in a 2009 season marred by a line drive off the bat of Florida’s Hanley Ramirez on June 4 that struck Bush near the right elbow and caused trouble for the rest of the year. Bush finished his frustrating season with a 5-9 record and a 6.38 ERA, highest of any National League pitcher with at least 100 innings of work. The Brewers could have nontendered Bush in December to erase his salary obligation, but opted to bring him back to a starting rotation that needs every arm it can get.  
– Reliever Carlos Villanueva filed for $1.075 million and the team offered $800,000, a $275,000 difference that was the smallest gap in terms of dollars but the second-largest as a percentage of the salary he’s seeking. Like Gomez, Villanueva was eligible for arbitration for the first time after earning $447,000 and is coming off a tough year in which he went 4-10 with a 5.34 ERA in 58 relief appearances and six starts. He did finish strong, with a 3.18 ERA over his final 16 appearances of the season.  
Brewers arbitration specialist Teddy Werner will continue negotiations with representatives for Bush, Hart and Villanueva while assistant general manager Gord Ash handles talks with Coffey’s agent, Rick Thurman.  
“All the exchange of numbers does is give you the actual parameters instead of the theoretical conversation,” Ash said. “Sometimes that can help you, and sometimes that hurts. I can’t speak for the guys Teddy is dealing with, but given the conversations I had [with Thurman] about Coffey last week, both parties were true to their respective positions.”  
Talks can continue until the date of an arbitration hearing in Florida — they’ll be scheduled for Feb. 1-21 — at which time each side presents its case to a three-member panel of judges which chooses one salary or the other. It can be a very uncomfortable process, which is why the vast majority of negotiations end with both sides agreeing on a figure near the midpoint of filings. The Brewers haven’t gone to a hearing with a player during Doug Melvin’s tenure as GM, which began in September 2002.   
“You always want to put yourself in a position to avoid a hearing,” Ash said. “But sometimes it makes sense to go to one. We’ll just have to see.”  
Gomez, Weeks and outfielder Jody Gerut, who agreed to a $2 million, one-year contract on Monday, avoided that prospect by signing ahead of Tuesday’s deadline.   
The Brewers acquired Gomez on Nov. 6 for shortstop J.J. Hardy and installed him as the starting center fielder. He was arbitration-eligible for the first time as a “Super 2″ player after batting .229 last season with three home runs and 28 RBIs in 137 games.  
Weeks has also yet to tap the potential that prompted the Brewers to select him second overall in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft, partly because of injuries. He was off to a great start in 2009 — .272 average, nine home runs and 24 RBIs in 37 games — before tearing the sheath of a tendon in his left wrist during a May 17 game at St. Louis. Weeks needed surgery and was lost for the season.  
The Brewers expect Weeks back in 2010 as the team’s starting second baseman and leadoff hitter.
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Other NL clubs 'monitroring' Mulder

The Brewers aren’t the only team showing some interest in rehabbing left-hander Mark Mulder, according to a FoxSports.com report. 

The website cited a Major League source who said that the Cubs, Dodgers and Cardinals are among the clubs “monitoring” Mulder, who has been limited to six Major League appearances since 2006 because of a rotator cuff injury. It’s the first report I’ve seen of a club other than the Brewers showing interest in Mulder as a bounce-back candidate. 
Mulder has ties to new Brewers pitching coach Rick Peterson, who served the same role in Oakland during Mulder’s rise to the Majors. Peterson and Brewers GM Doug Melvin met with Mulder last week in Phoenix, but Melvin said later that he wanted to see Mulder throw off a mound before committing even to a Minor League contract. 
Melvin said he plans to check back in with Mulder and agent Gregg Clifton in February. 
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Miller Park "Border Battle" returns

For the second straight season and the fourth time since 2003, Minor League Baseball is coming to Miller Park in 2010.
The Brewers announced Tuesday that their Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers will host the Cedar Rapids Kernels on Friday, May 7 in Milwaukee. The Kernels are an Angels affiliate based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, about four hours southwest of Milwaukee. 
The first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT and $10 tickets will go on sale at a later date. 
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime for myself and the club here,” Timber Rattlers manager Jeff Isom said before last year’s event. “We might have five or six guys [make it to the Majors], and that’s it. For those guys it might be no big deal, but for the other guys who don’t make it, this is something that they’ll remember.”
Isom’s Rattlers defeated the Peoria Chiefs, a Cubs affiliate, in a 2009 Border Battle at Miller Park that featured Brewers prospects Brett Lawrie and Wily Peralta. Milwaukee’s affiliate is 3-0 in the showcase including the inaugural event in 2003, when a Beloit Snappers squad featuring Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks won behind current Brewers pitcher Manny Parra
The Timber Rattlers begin their second season as a member of the Brewers Minor League system in 2010.
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Weeks, Gomez agree to one-year deals

Minutes before teams swapped contract proposals with their arbitration-eligible players, the Brewers announced they had agreed to terms on one-year contracts for second baseman Rickie Weeks and center fielder Carlos Gomez, leaving only four eligible players unsigned. 
Terms of the new deals were not immediately available but Weeks earned $2.45 million in 2009, when he spent most of the season on the disabled list following wrist surgery, and Gomez earned $437,500 with the Minnesota Twins. 
The Brewers acquired Gomez on Nov. 6 for shortstop J.J. Hardy and installed him as the starting center fielder. Gomez was arbitration-eligible for the first time as a “Super 2″ player after batting .229 last season with three home runs and 28 RBIs in 137 games.  
Weeks has also yet to tap the potential that prompted the Brewers to select him second overall in the 2003 Draft, partly because of injuries. He was off to a great start in 2009 — .272 average, nine home runs and 24 RBIs in 37 games — before tearing the sheath of a tendon in his left wrist during a May 17 game at St. Louis. Weeks needed surgery and was lost for the season. 
The Brewers expect Weeks back in 2010 as the team’s starting second baseman and leadoff hitter. 
With Gomez, Weeks and outfielder Jody Gerut under contract (Gerut signed Monday for one year and $2 million), the Brewers were left with four unsigned players eligible for arbitration. At 11 a.m. CT on Tuesday, unsigned players and their teams swapped salary proposals, but can continue to negotiate until the date of a scheduled arbitration hearing next month.  
The eligible players still unsigned include starter Dave Bush ($4 million salary in 2009), relievers Todd Coffey ($800,002) and Carlos Villanueva ($447,000) and outfielder Corey Hart ($3.25 million). 
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