December 2010

Dodgers shoot down Fielder rumor

The Dodgers were quick to shoot down a report from ESPN Los Angeles that they were considering trading closer Jonathan Broxton and first baseman James Loney to the Brewers for slugging first baseman Prince Fielder. 
The initial report said the sides were “actively involved in discussions,” but Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said that was not so. 
Other reports reinforced Colleti’s denial. FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal spoke to a source from one of the teams who said the teams had not even discussed such a swap. Yahoo!’s Steve Henson cited a source saying the Dodgers had “zero interest” in Fielder. 
It’s not surprising to see Fielder’s name pop up in a Winter Meetings rumor. The Brewers have not had any success in talks with agent Scott Boras about an extension for the 26-year-old, who is arbitration-eligible for the last time and due a raise from his $10.5 million salary in 2010. Fielder is on track to reach free agency after the 2011 season. 
The  Brewers’ previous talks with other teams have all centered around starting pitching, but general manager Doug Melvin has found that other teams are unwilling to offer what Milwaukee officials consider fair value for Fielder. 
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Some execs surprised Lawrie was available

The Shaun Marcum-Brett Lawrie was met with some surprise in the lobby of the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin resort by a handful of rival executives who didn’t know Lawrie was available. The Langley, British Columbia native is coming off a solid season at Double-A Huntsville in which he batted .285 with eight home runs, 63 RBIs and 30 stolen bases. Sixty of Lawrie’s 158 hits went for extra-bases including 16 triples.

Some scouts compare Lawrie to Jeff Kent, and Lawrie indeed could turn out to be that good. But the Brewers need starting pitching, and the fact they were willing to part with Lawrie shows just how urgent that need is. 
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Report says Brewers would move Cain

The Brewers already have one new pitcher for their rotation, but aren’t done shopping at the Winter Meetings. 
The deal for Toronto right-hander Shaun Marcum was not yet official on Monday when AOL Fanhouse, citing a Major League source, reported that the Brewers were “interested in moving” 24-year-old center fielder Lorenzo Cain, who had a successful second-half-stint with the Brewers in 2010. 
That’s not surprising. General manager Doug Melvin has made it clear that almost anybody is available in trades, given the Brewers’ need for pitching. The team could conceivably part with Cain because they have other options in center field, albeit some questionable ones. Carlos Gomez has been slow to reach his potential, but he’s an excellent defender and just turned 25 on Saturday. Chris Dickerson and Brandon Boggs are on the roster as backups, and, in the Minors, the team remains very high on center fielders Logan Schafer and Caleb Gindl, though Schafer’s 2010 season was marred by a groin injury. 
Cain missed time in 2009 with a knee injury but bounced-back in a big way in 2010, hitting .317 with a .402 on-base percentage and 26 stolen bases in 84 games at the Double-A and Triple-A levels and then .306 with seven steals 43 games in the big leagues. 
He was Milwaukee’s 17th round Draft choice in 2004 and did not play baseball until high school. Cain will turn 25 shortly after Opening Day. 
As of Monday morning, the Brewers and Blue Jays were still putting the finishing touches on a trade that would send Marcum, Toronto’s Opening Day starter, to Milwaukee for infield prospect Brett Lawrie. The deal was expected to be official by the end of the day. 
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Villanueva to Toronto

The Brewers traded right-handed reliever Carlos Villanueva to the Blue Jays on Friday for a player to be named later. 
Villanueva, 27, fell down the depth chart in Milwaukee in 2010, when he posted a 4.61 ERA in 50 appearances and drew a surprise demotion to Triple-A Nashville in late July. Villanueva was recalled in September, but he was used sparingly and is arbitration-eligible for the second time. He earned $950,000 last season. 
“I talked to him today and I think he was a little disappointed or shocked or whatever,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. “He’s a good pitcher and I hope he does well there. His strikeout rate is pretty good. 
“But, sometimes we have to turn things over and look at some other people.”
That’s what the Brewers are poised to do. They non-tendered reliever Todd Coffey on Thursday, an indication club officials feel covered with developing arms like closer John Axford and left-hander Zach Braddock in key roles. Braddock and right-handers Mike McClendon, Brandon Kintzler, Jeremy Jeffress and Mark Rogers all made their Major League debut in 2010 and impressed. The Brewers also have the more veteran LaTroy Hawkins and Kameron Loe slated to return in 2011.
Minus Villanueva, the Brewers’ 40-man roster stands at 35, and Melvin indicated that he and other club officials had already reached out to express interest in “a number” of players who joined the free agent pool Thursday when they were nontendered.  
The Brewers tendered Villanueva a contract on Thursday instead of releasing him to the free-agent market, perhaps with the trade to Toronto in mind. Deals at this time of year often include players to be named later if some of the prospects in question are eligible for next week’s Rule 5 Draft. 
Melvin said the player does not have to be named until April 1. He could not say whether the player would be a pitcher or a position player. 
Acquired at the end of 2004 Spring Training from the Giants, Villanueva pitched for the Brewers from 2006-10 and went 20-24 with a 4.34 ERA in 203 relief appearances and 20 starts. The 2010 season was his first as a full-time reliever.
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Provus remembers Santo

Cory Provus only spent two seasons on the Chicago Cubs’ broadcast team, but he’ll never forget his time with Ron Santo. 
Santo, who put the “color” in color analyst during Cubs radio broadcasts on WGN for the past 21 seasons, died Thursday from complications of bladder cancer. Provus, who did pre- and post-game work with Santo in 2007 and 2008, learned the sad news on Thursday night. 
“I loved the guy,” Provus said. 
Provus felt instantly embraced by the Cubs veteran color man. His first on-air work for the Cubs came in March 2007 in Las Vegas, where the team played one of its annual Spring Training exhibitions. Provus was nervous, and feeling a bit down after boarding the charter flight to Cincinnati for Opening Day. 
“Halfway through the flight, Ron came back and sat with me for an hour,” Provus said. “He told me to relax, be myself, have fun and that we were going to laugh all the time. That meant the world to me. That started our friendship.” 
Provus worked particularly close with Santo because part of the daily duties of the pregame host included recording Santo’s daily chat with manager Lou Piniella. The on-the-record portion lasted just five minutes, but the off-the-record portion was the good stuff. Provus sat in every day while two baseball veterans bantered. 
It was the best part of the job, Provus said. 
“I didn’t say much unless they wanted me to,” Provus said. “I just soaked it up.” 
Santo played 14 of his 15 seasons with the Cubs and remained a fan even after joining the broadcast team in 1990. He cheered the Cubs when they scored a big run and groaned when they committed a costly error, and never apologized for either. 
“And he never should apologize,” said Brewers radio broadcaster Cory Provus, who worked very closely with Santo as the Cubs’ pre- and postgame host in 2007 and 2008. “That’s what Cubs fans want. Pat Hughes and Ron Santo make such a great team, because if you missed any analysis, Pat was there to pick it up. 
“Ron was vital. Cubs fans wanted to hear Ron Santo be Ron Santo. They didn’t want to hear somebody say, ‘Oh, he hung a breaking ball.’ That’s what a lot of guys say. Ron was different. He was genuine, he was pure.” 
Santo had both legs amputated below the knees, the result of complications from his diabetes, so Provus and engineer Matt Boltz would help Santo get around the ballpark. Santo took a keen interest in Provus’ marital prospects, and gave a hearty endorsement after meeting a then-girlfriend named Dana. Cory hasn’t dated anyone since, and in two weeks, he and Dana will be married. 
Provus moved on to Milwaukee beginning in 2009 and recently signed a two-year contract extension through 2012. He’ll continue calling Brewers games alongside Bob Uecker, who has battled his own health issues this year. 
“I’ve been lucky enough to work daily with the voices and faces of their franchise,” Provus said. “It’s an experience I’ll never forget.” 
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Crew cuts ties with Coffey, Inglett

If Todd Coffey makes another mad dash from the bullpen to the pitcher’s mound at Miller Park, it will probably be in another team’s uniform. 
Coffey and utility man Joe Inglett were the only two of eight arbitration-eligible Brewers not tendered a contract before Thursday’s 10:59 p.m. CT deadline for teams to do so. The decision means the right-handed reliever and the left-handed bench bat joined the pool of Major League free agents. 
The Brewers did decide to retain the rights to their six other arbitration-eligibles: First baseman Prince Fielder, second baseman Rickie Weeks, center fielder Carlos Gomez and pitchers Manny Parra, Kameron Loe and Carlos Villanueva. Those players are all considered signed for 2011, with their salaries to be determined later by baseball’s arbitration process. 
“We didn’t have many discussions about [non-tendering] the other players,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. 
Melvin said general manager Gord Ash will stay in touch with Inglett’s agent, Ryan Ware, about returning at a lower price, but it appears Coffey will look for work elsewhere. 
The decision to cut ties with Coffey was largely a financial one. He earned $2,025,002 in 2010 and would have been in line for a raise in arbitration despite a somewhat disappointing season in which Coffey suffered a thumb injury swinging the bat in late May and posted a 5.35 ERA over his final 43 appearances. He lost his job as the team’s primary right-handed setup man to Loe, who had a solid first season in Milwaukee and will cost less than Coffey in 2011. 
“The process allows the player to see if there’s a better fit for him, and from our standpoint it allows us to look at a larger pool of players,” Melvin said. 
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Shouse calls it a career

One of Brian Shouse’s best days in the big leagues came Sept. 26, 2008, right in the thick of the Brewers’ push for the National League Wild Card, when the lefty reliever settled with a smile into a big, Brewers-themed rocking chair that had been autographed by all of his teammates and placed in front of Shouse’s locker. It was a fitting 40th birthday present. 
Now, at 42, Shouse is finally calling it quits. He told FoxSports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi that he’s retiring after 21 professional seasons. 
“It has been a long and fun career,” Shouse told the website. “It lasted much longer than I anticipated.” 
Shouse was drafted in 1993 and made his Major League debut with the Pirates in 1998 but didn’t have his best big league season until a nearly decade later. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin acquired him from the Rangers in 2006 for overmatched infielder Enrique Cruz, and Shouse proved a key pickup. He made a career-high 73 appearances in 2007, and posted a career-best 2.81 ERA in 2008 to help the Brewers make their first postseason appearance in 26 years. 
Shouse was a free agent after that season and signed with the Rays for 2009. He didn’t pitch in the Major Leagues in 2010.  
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Melvin on the slow pace of Weeks talks

The Brewers would love to lock-up second baseman Rickie Weeks with a multi-year contract extension but are having trouble getting those talks started, general manager Doug Melvin said this week. 
“We’re working on getting Rickie signed,” Melvin told the sports radio station WSSP on Tuesday morning. “He’s got a new agent, Greg Genske, who is CC Sabathia’s agent, so it’s going to be a lot tougher than his previous agent [Lon Babby]. 
“[Genske] doesn’t respond as quick. But we’ll be working on it.” 
Weeks, the second overall pick in the 2003 Draft, was forced to select new representation after Babby took over as the president of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. 
The Brewers had a similar experience with Genske and associate Brian Peters in the lead-up to the 2008 Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, where they finally got a sit-down and pushed hard for Sabathia to re-sign. Sabathia instead inked a richer deal with the Yankees.
Melvin earlier this week assigned the task of reaching Genske and determining Weeks’ asking price to assistant general manager Gord Ash. Melvin expects to meet in person next week at the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. 
Weeks, for his part, told MLB.com last month that he’s open to the idea of an extension. Genske was not available on Thursday. 
“I’ve had one meeting with [Genske], and he said that he’s interested in a long-term deal,” Melvin said. “But once players get close to free agency, they get a little less interested in trying to sign up because they’re so close to free agency and they’ve got some security under their belt.” 
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