Quiet Day 1 for Brewers

It was a quiet Day 1 of the Winter Meetings for GM Doug Melvin and the Brewers contingent, who met with a handful of representatives for free agents but did not progress into any hard negotiations. Here are some notes from Melvin’s briefing with reporters:

— The Brewers are understandably hesitant about entering longer-term contracts with starting pitchers after recent experiences with Jeff Suppan and Randy Wolf soured at the end, but Melvin did not entirely rule out going past two years for the right player.

“It’s up to the individual player, who it is. It’s up to the dollars” he said. “I’ll do a 10-year deal if the money is right. If you want $1 million a year, I’ll do 10.”

Melvin said little when asked about the Brewers’ level of interest in right-hander Ryan Dempster, a fellow Canadian who makes great sense for Milwaukee because he’s an innings-eater and has had success at Miller Park. As of Monday evening, Melvin and Dempster’s agent, Craig Landis, had no plans to meet, though that could change in the coming days.

“While he’s here, we might as well [talk about Dempster],” Melvin said. “We like the starters that we have, though. You’ve got [Yovani] Gallardo, you’ve got [Marco] Estrada and [Mike] Fiers, [Wily] Peralta, Mark Rogers, [Chris] Narveson. Is it time to give our young guys a chance and find out about them?”

Melvin also mentioned Hiram Burgos and Tyler Thornburg in the depth department.

— Melvin was more open about his interest in some of the available relievers, saying he had spoken recently to agents for players including Sean Burnett and Jason Grilli. The Brewers have significant interest in both of those players, among others.

Burnett is left-handed a priority for the Brewers since they non-tendered Manny Parra last week. Melvin said he would prefer to fill that hole via free agency rather than a trade, saying, “You don’t like to trade guys for left-handed relievers if you can help it.”

Mike Gonzalez, Randy Choate and Hideki Okajima are among the other lefty relievers on the market.

Melvin said Burnett’s agent, Jim Munsey, is not at these Winter Meetings, and Burnett and his wife just had a baby, “so you can tell we talked to them,” Melvin joked.

— Grilli’s agent is familiar to Brewers fans: Former shortstop Gary Sheffield.

“I talked to Gary about [Grilli],” Melvin said. “There’s a long list of relievers still available.”

Grilli, 36, missed all of 2010 with a serious knee injury but has returned to post the two best seasons of his career. He has a 2.76 ERA in  92 games for the Pirates over the last two years.

“Maybe he’s just adjusted to the bullpen. Maybe he’s better conditioned,” Melvin said. “Sometimes when guys miss years and they’re rehabbing, they get their entire body in better condition. I heard Cliff Lee say that once, that when he was out with an injury, he came back [better] because all of the conditioning and physical therapy that they do. He said his core was stronger, his legs were stronger, and the ball came out of his hand 2-3 mph faster.”

— Other right-handed relievers on Milwaukee’s radar: Kevin Gregg, Jon Rauch, Jason Frasor. There’s also going to be terrific opportunity for in-house options, like Jairo Asencio, Fautino De Los Santos, Johnny Hellweg, Arcenio Leon and Michael Olmsted.

— Not of interest: Matt Capps and Diasuke Matsuzaka. Melvin also said it’s unlikely the Brewers bring back recently-nontendered Kameron Loe because they subsequently acquired a similar pitcher in Burke Badenhop.

— Asked whether he he prioritized starting pitching over relief, or vice versa, Melvin said, “No, not really. I don’t think there was anything new today that we didn’t know coming into the day.”

— As if there were any doubt, the Brewers view Estrada and Narveson as starting pitchers at this time.

— He said he had no active trade talks, and that the trade market in general was quiet. That should pick up after some of the top free agents sign.

— Melvin said some of his meetings with agents were at the agents’ request, to run through their stable of available players. That’s standard operating procedure during the Winter Meetings.

— On the general volatility of free agent contracts, Melvin said, “Look at some of the top free agent players over the past few years and they’ve all been traded. You go back to the Carl Crawfords and Heath Bells. You can go through a bunch of those guys.”

— Melvin hasn’t had any recent inquiries about Corey Hart, nor has he had talks with agent Jeff Berry about an extension. Melvin wouldn’t say whether he believed recent deals signed by Justin B.J. Upton with the Braves (five years, $75 million) and Angel Pagan with the Giants (four years, $40 million) had driven up Hart’s price.

“I don’t know what the price is. I haven’t met with them,” Melvin said.

The Brewers have had some teams ask about their catchers, Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado. But Melvin likes the idea of retaining depth behind the plate, and said a team would have to come to him with a strong offer. The Brewers would then have to find a Major League backup catcher.

— The Brewers have one opening on the 40-man roster at the moment, and a need for relievers, but Melvin said he didn’t expect to make a selection in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft. The Brewers will review their options anyway — a process led by pro scouting director Zack Minasian.


Follow me on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy


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I hate to read the term “innings eater.” In my mind it means, “This guy doesn’t have it.”

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