January 2011

Reed joins outfield mix

The Brewers added a bit more depth on Friday by signing former Mariners, Mets and Blue Jays outfielder Jeremy Reed to a Minor League contract that includes an invitation to big league Spring Training camp. 
The outfield is one area in which the Brewers appear unsettled for 2011. All-Stars Ryan Braun and Corey Hart are locked into the corners, but underachieving Carlos Gomez is no lock for center field, though he’ll head into the season the incumbent starter. Chris Dickerson, a left-handed hitter, could share time with Gomez, who bats right-handed, and offseason acquisition Brandon Boggs is the only outfielder on the team’s 40-man roster. 
Reed joins prospects Logan Schafer and Caleb Gindl as non-roster invitees to Major League camp. There’s also Mat Gamel, who is on the roster as an infielder but last season began trying his hand at the corner outfield spots.
Reed turns 30 in June and owns a .253 career batting average with 12 home runs and 110 RBIs in 476 big league games with the Mariners, Mets and Blue Jays since 2004.  He spent most of last season in the Minor Leagues at Triple-A Las Vegas (Blue Jays) and Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and also appeared in 14 games with Toronto.
Of Reed’s 291 Major League starts, 259 have come in center field. Reed bats and throws left-handed. 
Speaking of the roster, the Brewers sent out an updated list of uniform numbers this week and it’s updated over at Brewers.com. Click here to check it out.
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Wisconsin family needs your help

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I wrote a feature for Brewers.com today about a little boy named Treyton Kilar, and I hope his story touches you as much as it did me. He was killed in September in a car crash involving a drunk driver, and his family is turning their tragedy into something good for the community. 

That’s where you come in. The Kilars are in the running for a $250,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project. You can cast a vote for the project once three times per day through Jan. 31 at www.refresheverything.com/treytonkilar.
[Thanks to Mary Kilar for pointing out that you're not limited to one vote per day because you can actually cast separate ballots via e-mail, text and Facebook. So that makes three.]
The top two proposals will win, and as I write this, the Kilar family is still in second place. Let’s try to at least keep them there.
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First-round Draft order set

As pointed out by my colleague Jonathan Mayo, the Twins’ agreement with right-hander Carl Pavano set the first-round order for the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. Pavano was the last Type A free agent available on the market. 

The Brewers own two picks in the first round — 12th and 15th overall. Pick No. 12 is Milwaukee’s regularly-scheduled selection, and No. 15 is compensation for not signing their top pick from 2010, prep right-hander Dylan Covey. You’ll remember that Covey’s deal fell through after he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. 
Here’s the first-round order, courtesy of Mayo:
1 Pirates
2 Mariners
3 D-backs
4 Orioles
5 Royals
6 Nationals
7 D-backs
8 Indians
9 Cubs
10 Padres
11 Astros
12 Brewers
13 Mets
14 Marlins
15 Brewers
16 Dodgers
17 Angels
18 Athletics
19 Red Sox
20 Rockies
21 Blue Jays
22 Cardinals
23 Nationals
24 Rays
25 Padres
26 Red Sox
27 Reds
28 Braves
29 Giants
30 Twins
31 Rays
32 Rays
33 Phillies
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Greinke talks about Meche influence

The more I read about Zack Greinke, the more I like him. Thanks to the boys at the Brew Crew Ball site, I came across this blog post from the Kansas City Star’s Sam Mellinger, who wrote about the connection between Greinke and recently-retired Royal Gil Meche.

You’ll recognize Meche as the guy who left $12 million on the table this week. But I did not know about the role he played in helping Greinke along his road to stardom.
“Gil definitely helped me a lot,” Greinke told the newspaper. “It wasn’t so much talking about baseball as it was watching him go about his business. On game day, nobody was as focused as Gil. He took the ball and never wanted to come out of games. Other guys would see that [competitive fire]. I tried to be like that. That was my goal.”
Here’s what Greinke said about Meche’s willingness to give back the $12 million he’s owed for 2011:
“That surprised me a little because he’s entitled to that money. He was legitimately injured. But I’m not that surprised. People don’t realize it, but most guys really don’t play the game because of money. And it drives most guys crazy when they’re injured and can’t earn their money. I know it bothered Gil. That’s why he came back as a reliever last season instead of having surgery. That was his decision, and I think he did a pretty good job for us.”
I’m looking forward to getting to know Greinke a bit during Spring Training. Hopefully, he’ll let us new guys in a bit.
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Bratwurst for life

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Scott Paulus/Brewers
The first winner in the Brewers “Fan-Tastic Forty” promotion was Gordon Liebl of A.L. Schutzman Company in Waukesha, who won Klement’s Sausage for a year. He received his first shipment on Wednesday from a five-man delivery team.
Liebl was entered in the contest by renewing his four full season tickets, an account that A.L. Schutzman Company has held since 1981. His son, Griffin accepted along with fellow A.L. Schutzman employee Linda Schenkelberg. That’s them with the racing sausages.   
The prizes will keep on coming over the next month-plus. For more information about what’s available, check out the ticketing section of Brewers.com.
I’d pick No. 8, 13 and, of course, 40. Definitely NOT No. 35. 
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Brewers pass 1 million ticket mark

Buoyed by a rebuilt starting rotation that did not cost the team any of its offensive stars, the Brewers on Wednesday announced they had already sold one million tickets for 2011, matching a club record for reaching that milestone. 
The team also reached the one million mark on Jan. 19, 2009, a franchise record set less than four months after the team’s first postseason appearance in a generation. 
“Bold moves by our owner and general manager have energized our fans, and ticket sales have spiked accordingly,” Brewers Executive Vice President of Business Operations Rick Schlesinger said in a statement. “We look forward to a year of great excitement at Miller Park.” 
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Brewers, Weeks table multiyear talks

Assistant general manager Gord Ash just said that because the Brewers and representatives for second baseman Rickie Weeks have been unable to find common ground in talks about a multi-year extension, the sides have mutually agreed to change course and focus on a one-year deal for 2011. 
The framework for that discussion was put in place Tuesday, when teams and their unsigned arbitration-eligible players swapped figures. Weeks is seeking 7.2 million in arbitration, and the Brewers offered $4.85 million. 
Ash spoke with agent Greg Genske earlier Tuesday and Genske suggested “that it would probably be best, given our differences on a multi-year deal, to focus on a one-year deal but keep the options open in terms of revisiting a one-year deal,” Ash said. “So that’s the way we’ll proceed. We’ll try to get something done for this year and then continue to talk longer-term and use this as a placeholder, perhaps.”
Weeks is coming off a career year in 2010 in which he earned $2.75 million. After playing only 37 games in 2009 before undergoing wrist surgery, Weeks played 160 of the Brewers’ 162 games and batted .269 with a .366 on-base percentage, 112 runs scored, 29 home runs and 83 RBIs. 
He led the Majors and set a Brewers record with 754 plate appearances and led the Majors in home runs (28), RBIs (81) and runs scored (110) from the leadoff spot.
It was the kind of season the Brewers foresaw when they made Weeks the second overall pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft. Injuries — mostly to Weeks’ hands and wrists — had slowed his ascent to that level. 
For now, the sides disagree on how Weeks should be valued. Should more emphasis be placed on his “platform year” production in 2010 — a career year in which Weeks set a club record for plate appearances and career highs for home runs (29) and runs scored (112)? Or should the focus be his “length and consistency of career contribution” — which has been marred by injuries, mostly to his hands and wrists? 
Both are factors in valuing an arbitration-eligible player, per Major League Baseball’s Basic Agreement. 
Genske has not returned messages from MLB.com since taking over Weeks’ representation in September. Ash discussed his view on Tuesday evening. 
“Rickie had a good year — there’s no question about that,” Ash said. “But the criteria also talks about the consistency of your career as well, so we should take that into account. That’s not as stellar as his so-called ‘platform season.’ We’ll continue to look at it.” 
The Brewers and Genske faced differences of opinion in both years and dollars, Ash said, though the discrepancy is larger in the dollars. 
“There’s a lot of negotiating that has to go on,” Ash said. “He’s looking at the player Rickie was this year and [assuming] he will be that going forward. Clearly, Rickie is a player we really value in terms of his dedication and his professionalism and his approach to the game, but we’ve had some uneven history here in terms of performance. 
“So, we’re willing to go and extend, but there’s a limit to the level we’re willing to extend. We’ll have to work our way through that if we can. We still have time, but if there’s a belief on Genske’s side that Rickie Weeks is similar to Dan Uggla, then we’re going to have a problem.” 
Uggla, traded by the Marlins to the Braves this offseason, finalized a five-year, $62 million contract extension earlier this month. His 2010 season was quite similar to Weeks’ in terms of home runs and on-base percentage, but the Brewers would point out that Uggla has played at least 146 games in each of his five big league seasons and has never belted fewer than 27 home runs. 
Weeks has played more than 100 games three times and has undergone four surgeries. 
“The facts are that Uggla is in a different salary level — he’s an elite player,” Ash said. “He can compare himself to some Hall of Fame players. He’s had an historic start. Rickie — we love him, but he’s not to that level yet.” 
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Arbitration figures with midpoints

The Brewers avoided arbitration with Prince Fielder and Manny Parra on Tuesday but were unable to strike deals with three other eligible players, pushing second baseman Rickie Weeks, starter Shaun Marcum and reliever Kameron Loe one step closer to a hearing. 
Unable to reach terms before a Tuesday afternoon deadline, each of those unsigned players exchanged 2011 contract proposals with the Brewers:
– Weeks filed for $7.2 million and the Brewers countered at $4.85 million, a gap of $2.35 million. The midpoint of figures is $6.025 million. 
– Marcum is seeking $5 million and the Brewers offered $3 million. The midpoint is $4 million.
– Loe filed for $1.65 million and the Brewers offered $1.055 million, a $595,000 gap. The midpoint is $1.3525 million.
After figures are exchanged, the next step in the arbitration process is a hearing date in February, a conclusion the Brewers hope to avoid. The sides can continue negotiating until that date, and in the vast majority of cases around baseball, they reach an agreement somewhere between the filing figures. 
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Fielder knows next contract will be big

“It’s cool,” Prince Fielder said Tuesday of his $15.5 million payday. He knows the next one is going to be even better. 

Fielder’s one-year contract for 2011 set a Brewers record for a single-season payout, and will take the slugging first baseman right to the brink of free agency. He figures to be on the top players on the market next winter and will seek a multi-year deal well into nine-figure territory. 
“Of course you think about that,” Fielder said. “That’s just a big part of your career, when you sign a long-term deal. That’s a big deal, so of course you think about it.
“But the thing right now is I’m enjoying being signed for this year and I’m getting ready for spring.”
Even a few months ago, it seemed unlikely that Fielder and the Brewers would be together for 2011. Considering Fielder’s looming free agency, the lack of progress in talks about a contract extension and the Brewers’ dire need for pitching, you had to wonder whether the team would be forced to trade its star first baseman. Brewers fans gave Fielder what felt like a parting ovation during the 2010 home finale.
Instead, general manager Doug Melvin was able to acquire Shaun Marcum from the Blue Jays and Zack Greinke from the Royals without parting with Fielder. Now, the Brewers are poised to contend in 2011.
“Like I always said, I was expecting to still be playing with the Brewers,” Fielder said. “I’m still under contract with them, I wasn’t a free agent or anything, and all offseason I was expecting to come back to them.”
With Tuesday’s business accomplished, he can do just that.
“I’m very happy we were able to get the deal done and now all of that’s taken care of,” Fielder said. “I really wasn’t thinking of all the scenarios too much. I’m just happy it’s done now and I can go play baseball.”
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Fielder, Parra avoid arbitration

Updated at 1 p.m. CT with Parra’s salary: $1.2 million, plus $50,000 for making the All-Star team.
The Brewers stuck a record $15.5 million, one-year agreement with first baseman Prince Fielder and also signed left-hander Manny Parra, leaving three players still eligible for arbitration. 
Fielder will earn the highest single-season salary in Brewers history, $2 million more than is due organizational newcomer Zack Greinke in 2011. He’s entering his final season of Brewers control before reaching free agency. 
“It’s a big number. We’re expecting Prince to go out there and have a big year,” said Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, who handled negotiations with Fielder’s agent, Scott Boras. 
“He’s had some big years in the past for us,” Melvin said. “He led the league in walks last year, and I think he showed an unselfishness in that regard by taking walks and maybe sacrificing some of the power. If you go by what he’ done, he’s had a very good year and then an off-year, then a very good year and a little bit of an off year. So if you go by that docket, he’ll have a very big year for us [in 2011].”
SI.com’s Jon Heyman was first to report Fielder’s salary figure, and also reported that Fielder would earn $100,000 for winning National League MVP honors, $75,000 for runner-up and $50,000 for third place, plus $50,000 for being elected to start the All-Star Game or $25,000 for being selected by National League manager Bruce Bochy or the players. Fielder would also get $25,000 for winning NL Championship Series MVP and $50,000 for World Series MVP.
Fielder earned $10.5 million in 2010 while slugging through what was by his own very high standards a down season, batting .261 with 32 home runs, 83 RBIs and an .871 OPS. He’d driven in 141 runs with a 1.014 OPS the year before. 
Earlier last year, Melvin was engaged with Boras in talks about a multi-year contract for Fielder, but those discussions did not progress. They focused exclusively on a one-year agreement in recent weeks, according to Melvin, who could not say whether the multi-year talks could be re-opened now that a 2011 contract is in place. 
“We haven’t addressed that,” Melvin said. “And if we did, we wouldn’t comment.”
Parra will earn $1.2 million in 2011, plus $50,000 for making the All-Star team. He earned $440,000 last season and was 3-10 with a 5.02 ERA, bounced to the Brewers’ bullpen for the third consecutive season. Parra did find some success in relief, with a 2.39 ERA in 26 appearances. He struck out 2.73 batters per walk as a reliever, versus 1.83 strikeouts to walks in his 16 starts.
With Fielder and Parra in the books, the Brewers have three players still eligible for arbitration: Second baseman Rickie Weeks, starter Shaun Marcum and reliever Kameron Loe. Tuesday was the date on which teams and their unsigned players swapped proposals for one-year contracts.
“We’re going to have to file terms with some of them,” Melvin said ahead of that afternoon deadline. 
After figures are exchanged, the next step in the arbitration process is a hearing date in February, a conclusion the Brewers hope to avoid. The sides can continue negotiating until that date, and in the vast majority of cases around baseball, they reach an agreement somewhere between the filing figures. 
Fielder was not the Brewers’ only key player eligible for arbitration. Weeks ($2.75 million salary last season) is the starting second baseman, is coming off a career year and, like Fielder, is on a path to reach free agency after 2011. Assistant GM Gord Ash has been talking with Weeks’ agent, Greg Genske, about a multi-year deal. 
Marcum ($850,000) is coming off a career year with the Blue Jays and will fit with Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo atop Milwaukee’s starting rotation. He missed all of 2009 following Tommy John elbow surgery but rebounded to go 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA in the tough American League East. He was Toronto’s Opening Day starter last year. 
The Brewers are open to multi-year talks with Marcum at some point, but for now are talking about a one-year agreement, Melvin said. Brewers negotiator Teddy Werner is handling those talks with agent Jim Turner.
Loe, who drew on a $650,000 salary during his four months in the Majors, developed into a key Brewers reliever, posting a 2.78 ERA in 58 games beginning June 1. 
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