I’m fresh off a flight home from St. Louis and playing a bit of catch-up on the news that Jeff Suppan was released today while owed more than $10 million by the Brewers. General manager Doug Melvin was kind enough to step away from Draft prep to do a conference call with the beat reporters, and here is some of what he said:
“I contacted him and talked to him briefly. … I had a nice conversation with him and he handled it like a pro. He is a professional and I can’t say enough things from that perspective, what Jeff provided to our team and our community when we first signed him. The time came where some of the younger guys, like [Zach] Braddock and [John] Axford and Kameron Loe were coming in and even Jeff said, ‘These guys are pretty good.’ He admitted that. He’s obviously disappointed — no one wants to lose his job — but I wished him the best.”
Melvin was asked first what all of you have been wondering: Does he regret giving Suppan that four-year, $42 million contract in the first place?
His response was passionate.
“It’s a fair question. Have any of you done your homework to determine who the free agent players were that year?” he asked reporters before answering himself. “We could have signed Jason Schmidt. He signed for three years and $47 million. Barry Zito was seven years and $126 [million]. Gil Meche was five years and $55 [million]. Miguel Batista, three years and $25 [million]. Jason Marquis, three and $25 [million]. Vicente Padilla, two and $20 [million]. Ted Lilly, at four years and $40 [million], was probably the pitcher who performed the best out of that group.
“That was the free agent class of pitchers that particular year. Jeff and Ted Lilly were both in the playoffs. I won’t forget that when we brought him in here, we wanted someone that would start, be professional, you hoped he would win a lot of games. In that regard, he was professional about the way he went about things. He pitched until the last year of the contract.
“When you enter into free agent contracts, guys, it’s one of the riskiest things to do. I know in the off-season, media, fans, myself included, we all get excited about the free agent people who are out there. But there are not a lot of free agent contracts with pitchers where you get the full [value].
“I guess when I look at it, when you get involved with free agency it’s all a learning experience. It cotninues to be a learning experience no matter how many years you’re in the game. Free agent contracts with pitching is not really the way you want to go. There’s not many where you get the full performance equaling the contract. I’ll never forget that Jeff did contribute. He and Dave Bush went 9-0 in the month of August in 2008. We don’t win and get to the playoffs if they don’t perform that month.”
On the timing of the move:
“Once we felt a little more comfortable with the development of Axford and Braddock, knowing Kameron Loe came up here and performed, knowing Marco Estrada is another guy we could go to. We had to make sure from a depth standpoint that we were comfortable with this. Then you have [Chris] Capuano coming back, David Riske coming back [this week]. Look at how many guys we’ve called up over the past few weeks. …
“None of this is easy, but the timing of it made sense now after finding out that these guys could pitch. … And, the fact that we didn’t see Jeff returning to the rotation.”
Melvin said he mentioned during his chat with Suppan the resurgence of right-hander Carlos Silva with the Cubs. The Mariners dumped Silva last winter with two years left in his four-year, $48 million deal and Silva lowered his ERA to 2.93 with seven innings of one-run ball in Pittsburgh on Monday.
“I said, ‘Jeff, don’t get discouraged. You should go out there and continue to pitch,'” Melvin said. “Dontrelle Willis pitched seven shutout innings the other day for Arizona. Sometimes you perform at a certain level with one club and it can change.”
On the reasons, in Melvin’s view and the view of his scouts, for Suppan’s drop in production:
“I don’t think he was as aggressive as he was earlier on, when we got him,” Melvin said. “This game is a lot of confidence. If you have your confidence going well, then you perform better. … Jeff’s stuff is not going to get a lot different than it is now. Sometimes you gain your confidence and pitch a couple of good games. You always hoped for that.”
More to come…