The celebration was still raging inside the Giants’ clubhouse in Arlington and outside in the streets of San Francisco on Monday night when baseball’s offseason business began. Before midnight, the Major League Baseball Players Association fired up the hot stove by releasing the names of 142 free agents, including three Brewers.
Per new rules made public just last month, Milwaukee pitchers Dave Bush and Chris Capuano and infielder Craig Counsell were declared free agents immediately after the Giants clinched the World Series. Three more — pitchers Doug Davis and Trevor Hoffman and catcher Gregg Zaun — are expected to join the free agent pool when the Brewers decline their 2011 options.
The new rules dictate that options must be resolved within three days of the end of the World Series, Milwaukee assistant general manager Gord Ash said. That would make Thursday at midnight ET the deadline.
The rules also shorten the period of exclusive negotiation between teams and their own free agents from 15 days after the World Series to five. That window closes at midnight ET on Saturday. Beginning Sunday, free agents can negotiate with any team.
Players typically exercise their right to test the open market, but the Brewers may show some interest in bringing back Capuano or Counsell. With Capuano, the question could be whether the team is willing to take on risk — the left-hander returned in 2010 from his second career Tommy John surgery but pitched well, posting a 3.95 ERA in 24 appearances including a 2.91 ERA in six September starts. With Counsell, the question could be whether he views the Brewers as a legitimate contender — he batted .250 as a useful bench option and could draw interest from teams looking for a versatile defender.
The three players with options, meanwhile, will probably move on.
The highest profile of those players belongs to 43-year-old Hoffman, who notched his 600th career save amid a trying 2010 but was replaced as closer by rookie right-hander John Axford. Hoffman’s contract includes a $7 million mutual option for 2011 that the club will decline. The price of his buyout increased from $500,000 to $750,000 when Hoffman finished his 35th game of the season on Sept. 26.
Davis’ deal includes a $6.5 million option with a $1 million buyout. His 2010 season was a bust because of health issues.
Zaun’s contract includes a $2.25 million club option for next season, but he is still recovering from shoulder surgery and will almost certainly get a $250,000 buyout instead. Zaun said in August that he intends to play in 2011, but considering the Brewers have Jonathan Lucroy and George Kottaras on the 40-man roster and Mike Rivera signed to a Minor League contract, it’s difficult to envision Zaun returning.
Of the Brewers’ free agents, only Hoffman qualified for compensation in the Elias rankings. Hoffman made the cut as Type B, meaning the Brewers would reap an extra pick between the first and second round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, but only if they offer Hoffman arbitration and he declines and then signs elsewhere.
It’s a moot point, because the Brewers would not risk Hoffman accepting an arbitration offer. That means the Brewers will not have any extra Draft picks for the second straight year.