November 2011

Braun wins NL MVP Award

Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun is the National League’s Most Valuable Player. He’ll address reporters in a BBWAA conference call at 2 p.m. CT and in another conference call with local reporters at 3 p.m. I will pass along some of his comments from both.

Braun beat the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp to become the first Brewer to win a league MVP award since Hall of Famer Robin Yount won for the second time in 1989, when Milwaukee was still an American League franchise. Prince Fielder finished third, giving the Brewers a pair of players in the top five for the first time since Yount won and Cecil Cooper ran fifth in the 1982 AL vote.

Braun was listed first on 20 ballots and second on the rest of the 32, submitted by two writers from each league city. He scored 388 points in a system that awarded 14 points for first place, nine for second, eight for third and on down to one point for 10th place.

Kemp received 10 first-place votes and was the runner-up with 332 points. Fielder received one first-place vote and finished third with 229 points. D-backs outfielder Justin Upton also received one first-place vote and was fourth with 214 points. Braun, Kemp, Fielder and Upton were the only players named on every ballot.


Follow Brew Beat on Twitter.



Barmes picks Pirates

I just checked in with colleague Brian McTaggart, who checked back with Clint Barmes to clear up one point Barmes made this morning that Tom Haudricourt and others questioned. Barmes had said the Brewers offered a two-year deal. What he meant to say is that the sides discussed a two-year deal, but the Brewers indicated to Barmes’ agent they wanted some time to see how the Prince Fielder situation played out before making a move at shortstop. The Brewers never formally submitted an offer, Barmes just told McTaggart.  

That’s a big distinction, so Brian is updating his story with the new information and you can see my update below. The point remains that the Pirates’ offer was too good to pass, and one of the Brewers’ targets is off the shortstop market.

One of the Brewers’ shortstop targets fell off the free agent market on Monday, when Clint Barmes confirmed he’d chosen a two-year, $10.5 million deal with the Pirates.

“We decided [Pittsburgh’s] offer was too good to pass up,” Barmes told’s Brian McTaggart.

Barmes, 32, said he picked the Pirates in part to reunite with manager Clint Hurdle, who was skipper in Colorado when Barmes broke into the Majors in 2003. He also wanted to remain at shortstop, where Barmes made 120 starts for the Astros in 2010. He’s considered a top-flight defensive player.

The Brewers would have also offered the opportunity to man shortstop, and Barmes says they appeared willing to offer a two-year deal but wanted time to see how the Prince Fielder situation would play out before making a move at shortstop. General manager Doug Melvin checked in with agents for all of the notable free agent shortstops during last week’s General Managers Meetings in Milwaukee, including Barry Meister, who represents Barmes.

Now the Brewers will have to look elsewhere. The door remains open for the return of Yuniesky Betancourt, though the Brewers have also made contact with free agents Rafael Furcal and, to a much lesser degree as of late last week, Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins.

“In talking with my agent and talking with the club, [the Pirates] were wanting to make a decision and they wanted to know by pretty much yesterday who their shortstop was going to be so they could continue to move on,” Barmes said. “It was one of those things they had a few others guys lined up behind me, and the way it was explained to me I was the first in line as far as who they wanted. They threw a great offer.”


Follow Brew Beat on Twitter.

Gindl among four added to 40-man

The Brewers added four prospects to the 40-man roster on Friday, the deadline to protect eligible players from being plucked away in next month’s Rule 5 Draft.

The players are outfielder Caleb Gindl, first baseman Brock Kjeldgaard, right-hander Santo Manzanillo and third baseman Zelous Wheeler. With the additions, the Brewers were left with 35 players on the roster.

Left unprotected, each of those players would have been in the pool of prospects eligible for the Dec. 8 Rule 5 Draft in Dallas, at which other clubs can select players from other teams who are not on the 40-man roster. To be eligible, players who signed at age 19 or older must have been in their organization for four years, and those who signed at 18 or younger must have been in their organization for five years.

Among the notable players left unprotected were 24-year-old left-hander Dan Meadows, who pitched in the Arizona Fall League. He had a 2.68 ERA in 41 regular-season appearances at Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Nashville.


Follow Brew Beat on Twitter.


Is Sveum the Cubs’ choice?

Is another former Brewer about to land a managerial job in the National League Central?

Mike Matheny already has the top post with the Cardinals, and reports emerged late Wednesday from and indicating the Cubs had offered their job to Milwaukee hitting coach Dale Sveum. A Brewers source who would be in the know said he had not heard anything yet, an indication that no deal had formally been struck to send Sveum to Chicago’s North Side.

Sveum, a former Brewers player and a member of the team’s coaching staff since 2006, was a candidate for both the Cubs and Red Sox managerial posts this winter. When I asked Brewers GM Doug Melvin earlier in the week whether he had a list of hitting coach candidates at the ready, Melvin said no, so the Brewers either have an internal candidate in mind or were waiting to see what Sveum would do. Melvin told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Triple-A coach Sandy Guerrero would be considered for the job.

Sveum is/was working under a two-year contract he signed with Milwaukee in October 2010.’s Carrie Muskat has been working the story this week and you can follow her work at


Follow Brew Beat on Twitter.


Brewers seek shortstop at the right price

If you’re a free agent shortstop, then the Brewers are interested.

While sitting in a holding pattern at first base that’s likely to continue until Prince Fielder picks a new team, the Brewers have been among the most active clubs on the shortstop market, meeting or otherwise touching base with the agents for all of the available prominent players. General manager Doug Melvin spoke via telephone in recent weeks with the rep for Jose Reyes, who the Brewers conceded is almost certainly out of their price range, and for Yuniesky Betancourt, who was made a free agent when the Brewers declined his option. The door remains open to Betancourt returning.

Melvin then met personally at the Pfister Hotel during General Managers Meetings with the agent for Rafael Furcal on Monday and the agent for Clint Barmes on Wednesday. Melvin and assistant GM Gord Ash sat with Barmes rep Barry Meister and an associate in the Pfister’s coffee shop just after noon CT for about a half hour.

Next up is Jimmy Rollins, the longtime Phillie who wants a five-year deal, according to reports. The Brewers probably would not be willing to go that far, but Melvin said Wednesday afternoon that he intended to touch base with agent Dan Lozano anyway.

The Brewers have yet to make any offers, Melvin said.

“You never know who says, ‘We’re willing to take a one-year deal and then test the market next year,” Melvin said. “You don’t know. The worst thing is you find that someone signed a one- or two-year deal with someone else and you say, ‘Damn, we should have.’”

The Brewers don’t have a Minor League option to plug into shortstop the way they do at first base, where Melvin has offered growing evidence that 26-year-old longtime prospect Mat Gamel will take over in 2012.

The most likely fit may be Betancourt, even though the Brewers have already paid $2 million to buy out a 2012 club option that would have paid $6 million. That $2 million came from the Royals as part of a December 2010 trade that sent Betancourt and right-hander Zack Greinke to Milwaukee for a package that included Alcides Escobar, who was considered the Brewers’ shortstop of the future.

Melvin said he considers the $2 million expenditure part of the 2011 budget.

According to Melvin, Betancourt is “very interested” in returning, but the Brewers asked for time to scan the market. Betancourt batted .252 with 13 home runs and 68 RBIs in 2010. The only National League shortstop with more RBIs was Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki, but Betancourt finished second-last among all qualified NL hitters with a .271 on-base percentage.

“We do have a need because we don’t have anybody signed at this point,” Melvin said. “Like I said at the end of the year, I would be satisfied with having ‘Yuni’ back. I think he did a better job than some of the critics [argue].”

Melvin’s argument centered around the fact that Betancourt played more games in 2011 than any of the free agent shortstops (he and Atlanta’s Alex Gonzalez tied with 146 starts) and that Betancourt has played in more than 150 games in five of the last six seasons.

“You have to be a good shortstop to play over 150 games,” Melvin said. “If you’re not that good, you’re not playing that many games.”


Brewers next SS target is Barmes

The Brewers will explore another potential shortstop on Wednesday when general manager Doug Melvin meets with the representative of free agent Clint Barmes, a player the team has looked at before.

The Brewers had some interest in Barmes, 33, last July, but backed away because of a well-times hot streak by incumbent shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and indications from the Astros were disinclined to move Barmes. He wound up playing the whole season in Houston, and batted .244 with 12 home runs and a .312 on-base percentage.

Barmes’ agent is Barry Meister. He also represents veteran Craig Counsell, who may play in 2012 but will not play a seventh season in Milwaukee. Melvin has indicated to Meister that the Brewers will not offer Counsell another contract.

“We want to be open-minded and look [for alternative bench options],” Melvin said.

He is open to giving a utility-type player a two-year deal, but only if it fits into the rest of the payroll puzzle. Melvin has been in contact with Casey Close about bringing back Jerry Hairston Jr. on the heels of Hairston’s solid second half in Milwaukee.

“We don’t want to spend $3 million on a guy who’s going to be a part-time player,” Melvin said. “You can’t do that; not with where our payroll is.”

Other tidbits:

— Outfielder Mark Kotsay called Melvin personally on Monday night to say he was accepting a one-year offer from his hometown Padres. Kotsay reportedly will earn $1.25 million. The Brewers had some interest in bringing him back for a second season, but talks were only in the preliminary stages.

Kotsay lives just north of San Diego with his wife and three kids.

“He called and said he appreciated the opportunity and he couldn’t turn down [the Padres’ offer],” Melvin said. “He wanted to jump at it in case it wasn’t there later. … He wanted to call and say thanks for bringing him here last year. He had a blast, his family loved it and he would have considered coming back if it was any place other than San Diego.”

— Infielder Josh Wilson and left-handed reliever Mitch Stetter have elected free agency. Both were outrighted to Triple-A last month, freeing space on the 40-man roster, and had the right of refusal.

The Brewers told Stetter, represented by Rex Gary, to test the market. If he does not find an acceptable offer, the Brewers may be open to bringing Stetter back.

— Pitchers Cody Scarpetta and Mark Rogers were granted fourth options, as expected. Rogers, who will begin the 2012 season on the sidelines because of a drug suspension, has recovered from carpal tunnel syndrome on both wrists and may depart in the coming days to pitch at the Brewers’ new academy in the Dominican Republic.


Follow Brew Beat on Twitter.

Kotsay reportedly returns to Padres

Mark Kotsay’s hometown Padres have reportedly lured the veteran outfielder back to the west coast. cited sources Tuesday in reporting that Kotsay and the Padres had reached an agreement on a $1.25 million, one-year contract. He previously played for the Padres from 2001-03 and lives just north of San Diego with his wife, Jamie, and three kids.

The Padres have not confirmed the deal, which would be pending a physical exam.

Kotsay, 36 on Dec. 2, was a favorite of Brewers manager Ron Roenicke in 2011 while batting .270 with three home runs and 31 RBIs in 104 games. He started twice in the six-game National League Championship Series.

“I always feel good when Kotsay is in the lineup,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said before Game 3 of the NLCS, in which Kotsay homered but could not caught up to two key fly balls in center field. “Especially when we start him, he seems to have a big day; something always good seems to happen when he’s in there.

In parts of 15 Major League seasons, Kotsay is a .278 hitter 124 home runs and 694 RBIs. He is capable at all three outfield positions and at first base.

The move could put the Brewers in the market for a backup outfielder if they feel left-handed hitting Logan Schafer, 25, would be better playing full-time at Triple-A. The team is set in the corners with left fielder Ryan Braun and right fielder Corey Hart, and Nyjer Morgan and Carlos Gomez — both arbitration-eligible — are expected to be back as a center field platoon. The Brewers could simply go with those four true outfielders if they resign Jerry Hairston Jr., who can play anywhere on the diamond including shortstop and center field.


Follow Brew Beat on Twitter.



Boras makes Fielder-Pujols comparison

Agent Scott Boras today billed Prince Fielder as a younger version of the other top first baseman on this year’s free agent market — Albert Pujols — by arguing that the players’ production over the past five seasons has been comparable.

Pujols batted .324 in that span with 195 home runs, 571 RBIs and a 1.025 OPS. Fielder had a lower average — .285 — but hit 200 home runs with 565 RBIs and a .951 OPS.

Pujols, 31, reportedly has one offer already in hand from the Marlins. Fielder, 27, is waiting.

“I’m sure there’s crossover, because in the game there’s so many teams that need a middle of the lineup, franchise player,” Boras said in the lobby of Milwaukee’s Pfister Hotel, where baseball officials have gathered for General Manager Meetings. “I do think there are a lot of teams that … look long-term with a younger player that may not be in the market for a player that is four or five years older. My experience in free agency is that Prince is somebody that both a ‘current’ [focused] club and a ‘future’ club could invest in.”

Boras said Fielder is open to offers from teams in either league.

“I think Prince wants to win,” Boras said. “He certainly wants to get with a franchise that wants to commit to him and others.”


Follow Brew Beat on Twitter.



Melvin on Reyes, other shortstops

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin just revealed what caused all of the buzz linking his club to free agent shortstop Jose Reyes:

“One phone call,” Melvin said on Monday. “No numbers.”

Asked whether they would be more phone calls, or perhaps a face-to-face meeting between Melvin and agent Peter Greenberg during this week’s GM Meetings in Milwaukee, Melvin said he had not decided.

You can expect the Brewers to be linked to shortstops all week considering their need at the position. Melvin had lunch on Monday with Paul Kinzer, who represents shortstop Rafael Furcal and third baseman Aramis Ramirez, both of whom could theoretically interest Milwaukee. Melvin has also been in contact with Jaime Torres, who represents Yuniesky Betancourt, the free-swinger who became a free agent last month when the Brewers declined his $2 million option.

Betancourt is “very interested” in returning, according to Melvin, and the Brewers have interest in bringing him back if the price is right but told Torres they want to explore all of the options first. Had the club exercised Betancourt’s option, he would have earned $6 million in 2012. It will be interesting to see whether Betancourt seeks a multi-year deal after veteran infielders Jamey Carroll (Twins) and Mark Ellis (Dodgers) signed two-year contracts in recent days.


Follow Brew Beat on Twitter.

Melvin: No Fielder offer this week

The Brewers have no plans to add intrigue to their hometown General Manager Meetings by extending a first offer to free agent slugger Prince Fielder.

“We won’t do that here,” Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin said after checking into the Pfister Hotel, the site of meetings of baseball’s GMs and owners that run through Thursday.

Instead, Melvin said he is open to a sit-down this week with Fielder’s agent, Scott Boras, but apparently will continue a wait-and-see approach with the Brewers’ biggest free agent since CC Sabathia left for the Yankees three years ago.

Melvin was the first of his colleagues to appear in the Pfister lobby on Monday. He reserved a suite to use for meetings with agents or executives with other clubs. A few hours earlier, Boras passed through the lobby on the way to a late-morning workout.

Principal owner Mark Attanasio vowed that the Brewers will be “participating in the sweepstakes” for Fielder, who is considered along with Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols the winter’s top free agents. Just how they participate remains to be seen. It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which Fielder’s high price would fit into Milwaukee’s budget, considering that since Melvin and Boras last engaged in serious talks, the team has moved ahead with big-money extensions for outfielders Ryan Braun and Corey Hart, second baseman Rickie Weeks and pitcher Yovani Gallardo.

The Brewers also seem reluctant to extend a hard offer that Boras could use to drive-up Fielder’s price for other suitors.

Should Fielder sign elsewhere, the Brewers’ primary in-house option for first base is Mat Gamel, a 26-year-old who batted .310 with 28 home runs and 96 RBIs in 128 games at Triple-A Nashville last season.

Melvin is expecting a relatively quiet week at the Pfister Hotel. Last year, the highlight of the GM Meetings was a trade that sent Dan Uggla, a Type A free agent with one year remaining of club control, from the Marlins to the Braves.

The difference this year is MLB’s pending labor agreement, expected to include changes to the way teams are compensated for ranked free agents who leave to sign elsewhere. A change to those rules would change the way teams value certain trade and free agent targets.

“I think some people are waiting until the labor deal goes through, if it goes through,” Melvin said. “I think that’s one of the keys. The other thing, it’s hard to make trades at these meetings because of physicals.”

Teams are instructed not to announce trades and signings until the players have passed physical exams.

The Brewers’ primary targets are middle infielders — most notably, they need a starting shortstop — and late-inning relievers to set-up closer John Axford. Melvin has already been in contact with representatives for veteran relievers LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito, both of whom are coming off solid seasons in Milwaukee.

“We probably are going to be late in signing players,” Melvin said. “I don’t know if there’s bargains at the start. … Tell me an early signing that’s a good deal.”


Follow Brew Beat on Twitter.