January 2012

No movement on Marcum, Veras

The Brewers and their arbitration-eligible players have made little progress toward 2012 contracts in the week since the sides filed figures, the club’s chief negotiator said.

Starter Shaun Marcum is seeking $8.7 million in arbitration and the Brewers offered $6.75 million. Reliever Jose Veras wants $2.375 million and the Brewers filed at $2 million.

“We’re still trying to find common ground,” said Brewers senior director of business operations Teddy Werner, the team’s arbitration expert.

That the sides have made scant progress — in Marcum’s case, had yet to even have a conversation with agent Rex Gary since figures were exchanged — is not cause for alarm. The vast majority of Major Leaguers who filed on Jan. 17 remain unsigned as their representatives and teams wait for the market to further define itself.

The sides can continue negotiating until the date of an arbitration hearing in Tampa. Those hearings can fall anywhere from Feb. 1-21 and have already been scheduled, though Werner was barred by rule from disclosing further details.

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Associated Press reports Aoki details

The Associated Press today reported the details of outfielder Norichika Aoki’s incentive-rich contract with the Brewers, and it appears he will cost the team anywhere from $5 million to just under $11 million before it’s all said and done.

The Brewers paid $2.5 million to the Tokyo Yakult Swallows just to negotiate with Aoki, who agreed on Jan. 17 to a two-year contract with an option that guarantees him another $2.5 million. Aoki will get base salaries of $1 million in 2012 and $1.25 million in 2013, and the AP reported that the Brewers hold a $1.5 million option for 2014 with a $250,000 buyout.

According to the AP, Aoki can make $1,675,000 in performance bonuses during the 2012 season, $837,500 in 2013 and $1,087,500 in 2014 if the option is exercised. The bonuses are based on games played from 70-150 and starts from 100-140. Half of the performance bonuses earned this year would be added to his base salary in 2013.

If that makes your head spin, here is the AP’s bottom line: Aoki would earn $8,187,500 — remember, that doesn’t include the posting fee that went to his Japanese team — if he essentially becomes a starting Brewers outfielder for the next three seasons — i.e., his 2014 option is exercised and he has at least 140 starts and 150 games played per year.

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Spokesperson says Braun is ‘upbeat’ amid rumors

A Brewers spokesperson who was with Ryan Braun over the weekend described the outfielder as “upbeat” in the face of a possible suspension.

Braun spoke Saturday night in New York while accepting his National League MVP Award from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, two days after beginning an appeal for a reported violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Braun spoke of adversity and “viewing every challenge I’ve ever faced as an opportunity.”

“It’s a tough position for him to be in because this is a confidential process,” said Brewers vice president of communications Tyler Barnes said on Monday. “He really can’t say anything. I thought he did a terrific job. It was really a neat experience for everyone who was there, to see Ryan up there being recognized for his accomplishments in 2011.”

Braun batted .332 with 33 home runs, 111 RBIs and 33 stolen bases, and the Brewers won the National League Central. They commemorated that crown on Monday morning by hanging a permanent championship banner inside Miller Park.

Because of the confidential nature of Braun’s appeals process, the Brewers have been given no indication from the Commissioner’s Office that their star player, who signed a contract extension last April through at least 2020, faces any suspension. It’s unclear when the three-member special panel that heard Braun’s appeal will render its decision.

On his Monday morning radio show, commentator Dan Patrick said he’d learned from “somebody involved in this” that Braun may avoid suspension. Patrick was also told that Braun’s test, reportedly for a very high level of testosterone, had nothing to do with a personal medical issue.

“Ryan Braun may be exonerated here,” Patrick told his audience. “He may be found innocent. And judging from all of the information I was told, there’s a good chance that he should be.”

No Major League player has ever taken his case to an appeal and won under the current testing program.

Barnes said Braun intends to be a full participant at “Brewers On Deck” in downtown Milwaukee on Sunday. For information about that event, see Brewers.com/OnDeck.

“He’s excited about it,” Barnes said. “We had a great opportunity to spend a little time with him at a reception before the dinner on Saturday. The guy very upbeat and looking forward to the season.”

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Filing figures for Marcum, Veras

The Associated Press compiled a list of today’s arbitration filings, including the two Brewers eligibles still unsigned.

According to the AP, starter Shaun Marcum requested $8.7 million in arbitration and the Brewers offered $6.75 million. Marcum earned $4.05 million last season and was Milwaukee’s most reliable starting pitcher before a late-season swoon. The right-hander is entering his final season before free agency, but the sides have discussed only a one-year agreement.

Reliever Jose Veras, acquired in December from the Pirates for third baseman Casey McGehee, filed for $2.375 million and the Brewers offered $2 million, according to the AP. McGehee, incidentally, filed for $2.725 million and the Pirates offered $2.35 million.

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Brewers sign Aoki for two years plus an option

The Brewers have signed Japanese outfielder Norichika Aoki to a two-year contract with a club option for 2014. More details to come at Brewers.com.

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Loe, Brewers avoid arbitration

The Brewers have a one-year deal in place with reliever Kameron Loe that pays $2.175 million plus performance bonuses. That leaves only two arbitration-eligible players unsigned: Starter Shaun Marcum and reliever Jose Veras. Earlier today, the team signed reliever Francisco Rodriguez for 2012.

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Brewers, K-Rod settle for $8 million

The Brewers and reliever Francisco Rodriguez agreed to a one-year, $8 million contract just ahead of Tuesday’s deadline for arbitration-eligible players and their teams to exchange figures.

Rodriguez was the team’s trickiest case because he was a free agent who accepted arbitration, not a player with the usual 3-6 years of Major League service, and because he is a career closer who is serving as a set-up man with the Brewers. Those factors could have made for an interesting debate between the Brewers and agent Scott Boras about Rodriguez’s value in the current market.

Per club policy, the Brewers did not announce any salary information but an industry source confirmed the $8 million base salary. Rodriguez earned $11.5 million during a 2011 season split between the Mets and Brewers.

Instead, the sides settled just before Tuesday’s noon CT deadline for teams and players to exchange salary proposals. With Rodriguez’s deal done, the Brewers were still working on three arbitration-eligible pitchers: starter Shaun Marcum and relievers Kameron Loe and Jose Veras.

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Counsell joins Brewers front office

UPDATE at 10 a.m. CT: The news is official: Counsell will serve as a special assistant to the general manager. 

“We are pleased to have Craig join our organization in a very significant role,” GM Doug Melvin said in a statement. “His knowledge of how to play the game along with his work ethic and passion to see the Brewers succeed will now be utilized and welcomed by our front office.”

And this, from Counsell: “I am excited to begin a new challenge in baseball. I look forward to contributing in any way I can to the success of an organization that has been a special part my life for many years.”

More to come after an early afternoon press conference at Miller Park. Here’s the news from this morning:

After 16 Major League seasons, nine postseason series and two championships, Craig Counsell is ready to begin a second career as a front office man.

Several media outlets reported Tuesday that Counsell’s hometown Brewers were poised hire him for a front office role. The Brewers have yet to make their announcement, but Counsell is a good bet to be a special assistant to the general manager.

Until now, Counsell, 41, had been weighing offers to play another season in 2012, but Brewers GM Doug Melvin made clear earlier in the offseason that Milwaukee would find its infield depth elsewhere. Counsell was coming off his toughest season in 2011, finishing with a .178 batting average (28-for-157) mostly as a pinch-hitter, including an 0-for-45 streak that spanned nearly two months.

It was a sour end to an otherwise sweet career that saw Counsell on base for a pair of World Series-winning hits. He was traded from the Rockies to the Marlins as a rookie in 1997 and wound up scoring the winning run in a decisive Game 7 against the Indians on Edgar Renteria’s 11th-inning single. Four years later, with the Diamondbacks, Counsell was hit by a Mariano Rivera pitch to load the bases for Luis Gonzalez’s winning bloop in Game 7 of the 2001 Series against the Yankees.

In all, Counsell was a .255 hitter in parts of 16 Major League seasons, six of them with the Brewers.

He was born in South Bend, Ind. but grew up in Whitefish Bay, Wis., a suburb just north of Milwaukee, and still lives there. Counsell’s father, John, worked in the Brewers’ front office during the franchise’s glory years in the early 1980s and often took his son to the ballpark. Now Counsell and his wife, Michelle, are raising four children in the area.

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Brewers, Morgan settle at $2.35 million

Brewers outfielder Nyjer Morgan will have to decide to split $2.35 million among his many alter egos after coming to terms with the team Monday on a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration. It’s a big raise for Morgan, who was arbitration-eligible for the first time after batting .304 in 119 games with Milwaukee in 2011.

With Morgan’s deal done, the Brewers remained in talks with four other arbitration-eligible players: relievers Francisco Rodriguez, Kameron Loe and Jose Veras and starter Shaun Marcum.

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More non-roster invites: Butler, Arlis

Butler pitches against the Phillies on Sept. 24, 2009. (AP Photo)

We passed along word yesterday that lefty Dan Meadows had been invited to Major League Spring Training camp, and on Saturday morning the Brewers announced two more: Right-hander and former 40-man roster member Josh Butler, plus catcher Patrick Arlis. Butler made three Brewers appearances in September 2009 (see evidence above) but has been dogged by injuries in the years since. He had a 5.15 ERA in 28 starts for Triple-A Nashville last season and walked 76 batters versus 96 strikeouts.

The Brewers’ list of nonroster invitees has grown to 13, including four catchers in addition to the three on the 40-man roster. That’s common for Spring Training, when teams need a slew of catchers to handle all of those pitchers in early-camp bullpen sessions.

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