December 2010

Greinke trade official

Two and a half years ago, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin raided his farm system to lure CC Sabathia from Cleveland and declared, “We’re going for it.” Now Melvin is doing it again. 
Two weeks after he traded his top position player to the Blue Jays for right-hander Shaun Marcum, Melvin pulled off a Saturday night shocker by sending four more premium young players to the Royals for 2009 American League Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke. 
The teams made the deal official on Sunday afternoon. 
Melvin paid a high price to get Greinke, shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and cash — reportedly $2 million to offset the buyout of Betancourt’s 2012 club option. Kansas City receives the Brewers’ starting shortstop in Alcides Escobar, their potential starting center fielder Lorenzo Cain, a former first-round Draft pick in right-hander Jeremy Jeffress and Milwaukee’s top pitching prospect in right-hander Jake Odorizzi. 
It’s quite a quartet of young talent. Escobar and Cain are both 24 and big-league ready. Jeffress is 23 and might have been in the Brewers’ bullpen on Opening Day. Odorizzi is 20 and pitched the first eight innings of a no-hitter last season at low Class A Wisconsin. 
“This trade is a credit to our scouting and player development staff as their hard work and judgment provided us the talented prospects that Kansas City will be receiving,” Melvin said in a statement. “I also appreciate the support of ownership in making this deal.”
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Brewers moving toward Greinke trade

A source with knowledge of the talks said the Brewers were indeed closing in on a trade for Kansas City ace Zack Greinke, but that the deal was not yet complete. 
Word that the Brewers were close to acquiring Greinke for a package of prospects first surfaced on “Bernie’s Crew,” a blog hosted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel but independent from the newspaper. It said Milwaukee would send shortstop Alcides Escobar, outfielder Lorenzo Cain and pitcher Jeremy Jeffress to the Royals for Greinke, shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and cash. 
Then the website, which regularly covers the Brewers, chimed in and, citing a source, said the Brewers would also send their top pitching prospect Jake Odorizzi to Kansas City in addition to the three other players. In this version, Milwaukee would get another Major League player in return in addition to Greinke. 
Whether there was fire behind this hot stove smoke remained unclear late Saturday night. Multiple Brewers officials, including general manager Doug Melvin, did not respond to messages from Greinke’s new agent, Jeff Berry of CAA, the firm that represents Brewers outfielders Ryan Braun and Corey Hart, also did not respond to messages. 
Joshuha Kusnick, the agent for two of the Brewers players included — Cain and Jeffress — said he had not been informed of any pending trades. 
If the trade indeed is being discussed, then Greinke and some or all of the other players involved would have to undergo physical exams. Greinke would also have been asked for his approval, since his no-trade clause is believed by Melvin to let him block deals to Milwaukee. 
Greinke, 27, has two years and $27 million left on his current contract. There’s no doubting his talent; he won the 2009 American League Cy Young Award while going 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA. In a more disappointing 2010, Greinke was 10-14 with a 4.17 ERA. 
The Brewers and Royals did talk about Greinke earlier this offseason but Melvin sounded pessimistic during the Winter Meetings earlier this month that a deal could be struck, both because of the Royals’ asking price and because of Greinke’s no-trade clause. 
But that was 10 days before Greinke switched agents, from SFX to Casey Close and Berry of CAA, and reportedly requested a trade. Royals general manager Dayton Moore confirmed the change in agents to but declined to comment on the report about Greinke’s demand. 
However, Moore did cast doubt on the Royals’ chances of signing Greinke to a contract extension. 
“It’s no different than it was in 2008 before we signed him long-term,” Moore said. “You’re evaluating opportunities. We were fortunate to be able to sign him long-term in the winter of 2009 based on where the market is and where it’s going. 
“It’s going to be incredibly difficult for us to sign him to another long-term contract, therefore it makes perfect sense for us to evaluate opportunities to potentially move Zack in the right type of deal — one that gives us back players that fit in the very talented group that we have on the horizon.”
The Royals’ discussions with other clubs have been ongoing, but Moore was believed to be seeking a bundle, notably premier young players for the middle of the field — particularly shortstop and center field — and the mound.
In the proposed deal with the Brewers, they are filling those needs. Escobar, 24, was Milwaukee’s starting shortstop in 2010 and is expected to be better offensively than he was as a rookie, when he hit .235 with a .288 on-base percentage and 10 stolen bases. Cain debuted in the Majors last season, is 24 years old, a fine center field defender and batted .306 in his first 147 at-bats with a .348 on-base percentage. 
The pitchers reportedly heading to Kansas City are two of  the best in the Brewers’ system. Right-hander Odorizzi may be the team’s top arm, a supplemental first-round pick from the 2008 Draft who went 7-3 with a 3.43 ERA at low Class A Wisconsin in 2010. Jeffress, a first-round pick from ’06, has been slowed by multiple suspensions for marajuana use but took a step up the prospect ladder in 2010, when he converted to relief and finished with a 2.23 ERA in the Minors and a 2.70 ERA in 10 appearances in the Majors. 
It would be a heavy price to pay for Milwaukee, but Melvin has been focused all winter on ways to improve his starting pitching staff. Since Philadelphia signed free agent left-hander Cliff Lee, the focus on starting pitching available via trade has zeroed in on Greinke.  
The Brewers already traded for one 2010 Opening Day starter this month, picking-up right-hander Shaun Marcum from the Blue Jays in exchange for top prospect Brett Lawrie, a second baseman. Marcum joined righty Yovani Gallardo and left-hander Randy Wolf atop Milwaukee’s rotation. 
The Brewers also have lefty Chris Narveson at the back end of the rotation but Melvin made it clear last week that he was still looking for more. Brewers starters were next-to-last in the National League last season with a 4.65 ERA after ranking dead last in 2009.  
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Ferrone joins scouting department

 The Brewers have hired veteran scout Joe Ferrone to serve as national crosschecker, one of a number of amateur scouting additions announced Thursday. 
Ferrone has scouted for the Expos, Dodgers, Tigers and Pirates and was responsible for signing players like Ted Lilly and Shane Victorino. He’ll work alongside Brewers amateur scouting director Bruce Seid and replaces Seid’s former assistant, Ray Montgomery, who took the top amateur scouting job with the D-backs. 
“I’ve known Joe since my first year of scouting in ’93, and that was his first year of scouting, so we kind of grew up together,” Seid said. “He’s been a good scout, a good people person, a good evaluator.” 
Ferrone graduated from UC-Santa Barbara in 1989 and was an infielder on the baseball team for four years (1986-89). He also played professionally for Perugia in the Italian Baseball Federation in 1990 before attending graduate school for sports management at Ohio University in 1992. He lives in Michigan. 
In other scouting-related news: 
— The Brewers named Jim Rooney their national pitching crosschecker. Rooney has filled a number of roles in Milwaukee’s farm system including roving pitching coordinator. 
— Jay Lapp was promoted to supervisor of the Brewers’ scouting efforts in Canada. Lapp is the scout who recommended Brewers closer John Axford. 
— The team hired three new area scouts in the U.S.: Shawn Whalen (who will cover the Pacific Northwest), Brendan Hause (Southwest) and former Brewers outfielder Drew Anderson (Midwest). Anderson’s territory will include Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota and the Dakotas. He’s a Nebraska native who played nine big league games for the Brewers in 2006 and spent this last season between Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Nashville. 
— The Brewers also added three area scouts in Latin American countries: Pedro Hernandez and Juan Martinez in the Dominican Republic and Reinaldo Hidalgo in Venezuela. 
— Closer to home, Amanda Kropp was promoted to Manager, Administration — Amateur Scouting. Kropp is in her ninth year in Milwaukee’s front office. 
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Winter Leagues roundup

Brewers PR man Ken Spindler put together a list of Brewers players participating in the various Winter Leagues. Here are some highlights:

Brewers shortstop Alcides Escobar is off to a quiet start in the Venezuelan Winter League and headlines a list of 26 players with Brewers ties who played on after the end of the U.S. summer season. 
Escobar was hitting .211 with a .248 on-base percentage through Wednesday, when he played his 24th game for the Cardenales de Lara. He returned home looking to build off a rookie season in the Majors in which Escobar hit .235 with a .288 OBP, four home runs, 45 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. 
Two of Escobar’s September teammates were also playing in Winter Leagues. Outfielder Carlos Gomez batted .269 with four RBIs and 11 runs in 19 games through Nov. 19 for Escogido in the Dominican Republic, and infielder Luis Cruz is active in Culiacan, Mexico, batting .293 with six home runs and 20 RBIs in 34 games including a two-hit night Wednesday. 
A total of 14 Brewers players are participating in Winter Leagues in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico and Puerto Rico after 12 players took part in the Arizona Fall League. 
In addition to Gomez, the Brewers’ Dominican League contingent includes infielder Erick Almonte, who is batting .277 with 3 home runs and 19 RBIs in 43 games for the same team that featured Gomez.  Right-handed pitcher Zack Segovia, who signed a Minor League contract with Milwaukee in November and will be in big league Spring Training camp, has gone 2-0 with a 1.66 ERA and eight saves in 16 relief appearances with Estrellas. 
In the Mexican Winter League, longtime Brewers farmhand Brendan Katin batted .261 with one home run and three RBIs in six games in October prior to joining the Venezuela Winter League, where he has played in eight games.  Right-hander Josh Butler made five appearances, four starts, with Hermosillo. 
The Brewers are represented by five players in the Puerto Rican Winter League.  Infielder Sergio Miranda leads the league with a .364 batting average to go along with 16 RBIs in 32 games with San Juan.  Left-hander Efrain Nieves is also playing for San Juan and has gone 2-4 with a 4.62 ERA in 10 games including eight starts.  Right-handers Hiram Burgos (0-1, 3.06 ERA) and Darren Byrd (2-1, 4.46 ERA) have both pitched in eight games with Mayaguez and catcher Martin Maldonado (.241 average, six RBIs) has played in 21 games with Mayaguez. The Brewers added Maldonado to the 40-man roster this winter. 
In Venezuela, catcher Anderson De La Rosa has played in two games with Lara and left-hander Sam Narron went 2-1 with a 3.82 ERA in seven starts with Caracas. The Brewers recently re-signed Narron, the cousin of new Milwaukee bench coach Jerry Narron, to a Minor League contract. 
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Fielder looking trim

A big tip of the cap is due to Brew Crew Ball, via NBC Sports blogger Craig Calcaterra (who I was happy to meet at the Winter Meetings) for digging up some photos of Prince Fielder’s trip to the Far East as part of a Major League Baseball outreach program. I agree that in almost all of the photos he’s looking rather trim, and I thought I’d pass along some more shots, all courtesy of Getty Images. 

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Twins still hopeful for Pavano

Twins GM Bill Smith told the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Wednesday that he’s still hopeful of re-signing free agent right-hander Carl Pavano, who, of course, is also on the Brewers’ radar. Smith told the newspaper that he’d like to re-sign both Pavano and first baseman/designated hitter Jim Thome, but that, “They have more to do with the ultimate decision than I do.”

So the market for Pavano continues to simmer. His agent, Tom O’Connell, told’s Kelly Thesier on Tuesday that he was in no hurry. 
“We really don’t have a timetable for a decision right now,” O’Connell said. “Once we feel we’ve found the right situation, we’ll act accordingly, but we’re just going to continue to take our time.”
O’Connell wouldn’t say whether he had received any hard offers yet, and the Twins would not comment, either. Brewers GM Doug Melvin told reporters on Tuesday that he had yet to make a formal offer for Pavano. 
The Pioneer Press did an interesting bit of speculating about Pavano, who probably would like a deal similar to fellow 34-year-old Ted Lilly’s three-year, $33 million pact with the Dodgers. Because he has earned more than $50 million since 2005, the newspaper wondered aloud whether Pavano would base his choice on factors other than total dollars or term. On one hand, that would seem to favor the Twins because Pavano enjoyed pitching there in 2010. On the other hand, if there is some flexibility in the length of the contract, it could help the Brewers, who don’t want to go three years for Pavano.
Stay tuned.
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Hoffman still wants to close’s Buster Olney heard that all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman is telling teams he still wants a chance to be a closer in 2011. It’s getting more difficult to find potential landing spots since Arizona signed J.J. Putz to a two-year deal last week and the Padres intend to keep Heath Bell in that role. 

Might the Dodgers be a fit? It seems they aren’t thrilled with Jonathan Broxton, and recently-signed veteran Vicente Padilla is being mentioned as a possible closer. Hoffman seriously considered the Dodgers before he signed with Milwaukee two winters ago, and spacious Dodger Stadium could be a nice fit. 
Just a thought. There’s also the possibility that Hoffman will decide to retire if he doesn’t find a good match. He turned 43 in October.
Hoffman was a Type B free agent who was offered arbitration and declined per a pre-arranged deal. That means if he signs a Major League contract with another club this winter, the Brewers will reap an extra pick between the first- and second rounds of next year’s Draft. 
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Three years for Pavano?

We heard during last week’s Winter Meetings that free agent Carl Pavano was looking for a contract in the neighborhood of fellow 34-year-old Ted Lilly’s three-year, $33 million deal with the Dodgers.’s Ken Rosenthal talked to one GM this week who said Pavano and agent Tom O’Connell are holding that line: They want three years, the GM told Rosenthal, with an average annual value in the $10-$11 million range. 

The Brewers do not want to guarantee more than two years. The same goes for the Nationals, according to Rosenthal, who wrote that the Rangers, still stinging from Cliff Lee’s decision to sign with Philadelphia, “are not on Pavano.” 
So, we’ll have to see whether Pavano’s most recent team, the Twins, are willing to go to three years to keep him. As for the Brewers, GM Doug Melvin told reporters yesterday that he spoke on Monday with O’Connell but had yet to extend an offer.
What do you think? Given the Brewers’ need for pitching, would you be willing to stretch to three years for someone like Pavano? If the answer is no, what’s your better option?
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Happy Birthday, Shaun

Marcum04 copy.jpg

The newest Brewers pitcher, right-hander Shaun Marcum, spent his 29th birthday Tuesday at Miller Park, where he’ll be spending quite a bit of time over the next two years. Marcum and his wife, Stephanie, and agent Jim Turner had lunch with Brewers GM Doug Melvin but dessert came later, after Marcum met the local media. He cut the first piece of a Brewers-themed birthday cake.

Thanks to Brewers photographer Scott Paulus for the tasty-looking shot. 
For more on Marcum, check out the story over at There’s also a separate story updating the team’s interest in free agents Carl Pavano and Craig Counsell and a bit about their potential interest in Phillies righty Joe Blanton.
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Brewers to name new scouts

Updated at 3:45, because I’ve been told this announcement could be held for another day…

The Brewers are expected to announce a number of scouting hires later this week, including former Expos, Dodgers and Pirates scout Joe Ferrone as national crosschecker. Ferrone will replace former assistant amateur scouting director Ray Montgomery, who was hired away by the D-backs in October. 

Stay tuned. I’ll post a story with all of the new names when they are announced.
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