Will Brewers stretch for Dempster?

The Brewers have interest in free agent right-hander Ryan Dempster and Dempster has interest in the Brewers. The question as baseball’s Winter Meetings began on Monday was whether the sides could meet in the middle to make a deal.

Dempster’s agent, Craig Landis, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Dempster is seeking at least a three-year deal, a common floor for established starters this early in the offseason.

But the Brewers have a strong preference for shorter-term contracts after being burned in the later seasons of long-term agreements struck in December with veterans Jeff Suppan (a four-year pact signed in 2006) and Randy Wolf (three years plus an option in 2009). They wound up releasing both pitchers during the final season of those contracts, including Wolf this past August.

Adding to the Brewers’ caution with Dempster is his age — 35; four years older than Suppan at the time he signed with Milwaukee and two years older than Wolf — and the fact the team is in the process of paring payroll.

Dempster is particularly intriguing to Milwaukee because of his positive clubhouse reputation and his career success at Miller Park, where he owns a 2.66 ERA in 26 games, including 14 starts.

If the risk is deemed too high for the likes of Dempster, Edwon Jackson or any of the other second-tier free agent starters available on this year’s market, the Brewers may be content to fill their rotation with internal candidates behind top starter Yovani Gallardo. Current options include young right-handers Mike Fiers, Wily Peralta and Mark Rogers, plus the moderately more established Marco Estrada and Chris Narveson.

If the Brewers went young, they would be using last year’s Oakland A’s as a model. General manager Doug Melvin could then funnel his available resources to the bullpen, which is in the process of a total makeover. Among the Brewers’ needs there is a left-hander, and they are already being linked to the top available free agents including 30-year-old former Washington National Sean Burnett.

You can also expect the Brewers and Josh Hamilton to be linked all week, though, logically, that’s still a stretch. If Hamilton doesn’t get any mega-offers on the open market, would the Brewers make sense? Definitely, because of the presence of hitting coach Johnny Narron, who was Hamilton’s “accountability partner” for years in Cincinnati and Texas. But what are the odds Hamilton doesn’t get any monster offers? I’d say slim.


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