Brewers pick Gonzalez over Yuni for shortstop

The Brewers filled the most glaring hole on their roster before boarding a flight home from the Winter Meetings on Thursday when they agreed to terms with shortstop Alex Gonzalez on a one-year contract that reportedly includes a vesting option for 2013.

General manager Doug Melvin was with his baseball operations team at the airport when the news broke, and could not confirm an agreement first reported by because Gonzalez first must pass physical exam.

Since Gonzalez will travel from Venezuela to the U.S. for that check-up, the Brewers do not expect to announce the deal until next week.

Gonzalez has played at least 110 games in eight of the last nine seasons — he sat-out 2008 because of a family issue — and is considered a plus defensive player. He was with the Braves in 2011, hitting .241 with 15 home runs and 56 RBIs. Offensively, he is similar to his Brewers predecessor, Yuniesky Betancourt, who remained in play with the Brewers even after they paid $2 million to buy-out a club option that would have paid Betancourt $6 million in 2012.

Betancourt was weighing several options, including some, agent Jaime Torres said this week, to play second base. The Brewers also were in contact with Rafael Furcal, but he wants a two-year deal. So they opted to make an offer to Gonzalez, and he accepted.

Milwaukee’s system is thin at shortstop, and Melvin will probably also have to acquire a capable backup this winter.

Gonzalez (.270 on-base percentage) and Betancourt (.271) had the lowest on-base percentage of qualifying National League hitters. In the end, the Brewers valued his defense for an infield that at the moment includes average to below average defenders at second base (Rickie Weeks) and third base (Casey McGehee) and a first baseman in Mat Gamel who only converted to that position last year. Gamel is the most likely replacement should free agent Prince Fielder sign elsewhere.

Gonzalez will be 35 by Opening Day. He will be the Brewers’ fourth different starting shortstop in as many seasons.


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