Kyle Lohse chatted with Brewers manager Ron Roenicke last week, and Roenicke never let on that the club was even considering adding a starting pitcher.
So when Lohse saw social media light up Thursday with the news that the Brewers had signed Matt Garza, he had the same reaction you might have had.
“I’m just like anyone else — it’s pretty surprising,” Lohse said. “This seemingly came out of the blue, but in a good way.”
Garza agreed to a four-year, $52 million contract that represents the richest deal for a free agent in Brewers history. He joins Lohse(who signed for three years and $33 million last March) and Yovani Gallardo atop a starting rotation that also figures to include right-handers Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta. Tyler Thornburg, who was previously penciled in as the No. 5 starter, now fits in among a group of younger pitchers representing depth, with Johnny Hellweg, Jimmy Nelson and recently-acquired left-hander Will Smith.
“I know it stinks for one of the young guys who was going to be competing for that extra spot, but they’ll have their opportunities,” Lohse said. “This helps out the rotation a lot, I think. It’s a good thing for us.”
Lohse met Garza at Minnesota Twins Spring Training camp in 2006, after the Twins had made Garza a first-round Draft pick. They never did play together; Lohse was traded to the Reds in July, just before Garza was promoted for his big league debut.
But they have crossed paths as opponents over the years, Lohse said.
“It’s one of those things where you respect what the guy does out there because he’s a good competitor,” Lohse said. “He’s got great stuff. Now that he’s a teammate, you hope he has figured out the health aspect of it and can stay healthy and help us out every five days. He’s a very animated guy out there, and if you can control that, it works for you.”
Does the deal change his outlook for the 2014 Brewers?
“I just know that any time you sign one of the top starters on the market, it sends a message to the players, and hopefully the fans, that you’re not going to lay down,” Lohse said. “We’re going to try to do some things. I think we’ve got a sneaky shot. We have some good young guys, and if [Ryan] Braun can bounce back and Aramis [Ramirez] can stay healthy, and the young guys who got experience last year can build on that experience, we’ve got a legit shot.
“It boils down to how well our rotation does keeping us in games. If we can build on what we did in the second half last year, and not get off to a slow start, I think we can surprise some people. I don’t want to go out there and make statements that we’re going to be in the playoffs. I’d rather be that team that people kind of get surprised by at the end of the season, like, ‘Wow, they’re in the hunt.’ I want to be a team that other teams don’t want to play.”
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Another Walk of Fame shutout, the Brewers announce:
The Milwaukee Brewers announced today that there will not be an inductee to the Brewers Walk of Fame at Miller Park. A total of 40 votes were received and no candidates received the 26 votes necessary (65%) for election. Teddy Higuera (24 votes, 60%) and Joe Adcock (21 votes, 52.5%) were the closest to election.
Four former Brewers did not receive the necessary two votes to remain on the 2015 ballot. There were a total of 26 Brewers players and seven Braves players on the ballot. The ballots included on-field personnel who wore a Brewers or Braves uniform for a minimum of three seasons but have been retired from playing/managing roles for at least three seasons. All players and managers receiving votes on at least 5% of the ballots will remain eligible in 2015.
Past inductees include Hank Aaron, Rollie Fingers, Paul Molitor, Robin Yount in 2001; Commissioner Bud Selig and Cecil Cooper in 2002; Bob Uecker and Harry Dalton in 2003; Jim Gantner and Gorman Thomas in 2004; Don Money and Harvey Kuenn in 2005; Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn and John Quinn in 2007 (the first year that former Braves players appeared on the ballot); Lew Burdette in 2010 and Johnny Logan in 2013.
Each inductee is honored with a granite plaque that is placed into the terrace area walkway that surrounds Miller Park.
The full results are as follows:
Player Name Votes Percentage
Jerry Augustine 7 17.5%
George Bamberger 20 50.0%
Sal Bando 3 7.5%
Ronnie Belliard 0 0.0%
Mike Caldwell 18 45.0%
Bill Castro 4 10.0%
Jeff Cirillo 14 35.0%
Phil Garner 5 12.5%
Gabe Gross 0 0.0%
Teddy Higuera 24 60.0%
Larry Hisle 5 12.5%
Geoff Jenkins 15 37.5%
Sixto Lezcano 5 12.5%
Mark Loretta 2 5.0%
Seth McClung 0 0.0%
Charlie Moore 5 12.5%
Ben Oglivie 14 35.0%
Dan Plesac 8 20.0%
David Riske 0 0.0%
Bill Schroeder 4 10.0%
George Scott 10 25.0%
Ted Simmons 14 35.0%
Jim Slaton 6 17.5%
Dale Sveum 6 17.5%
Greg Vaughn 6 17.5%
Pete Vuckovich 20 50.0%
Joe Adcock 21 52.5%
Billy Bruton 4 10.0%
Bob Buhl 5 12.5%
Del Crandall 11 27.5%
Fred Haney 2 5.0%
Felix Mantilla 3 7.5%
Andy Pafko 2 5.0%
It is disappointing to see notable contributors to Brewers history like Higuera, Caldwell and others fall short of this high honor. But remember that the Brewers plan to install a “Wall of Honor” at Miller Park this year to recognize players who lasted in the organization. Here’s a link to my blog post about this new creation.
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My colleague Anthony DiComo spoke to Mets GM Sandy Alderson this week about Ike Davis, the first baseman who has been dangled in trade talks all winter, and said he was content to bring both Davis and Lucas Duda into camp if the Mets cannot get what they feel is fair value for Davis.
The Brewers are interested, but so far have been unwilling to surrender a young pitcher, GM Doug Melvin told me this week.
Thus, a stalemate. From Tony’s story:
“We’re not going to move Ike just to move Ike — or any other player for that matter,” Alderson said. “This is a trade market, not a yard sale, and right now we’re perfectly happy to go into Spring Training with Davis and Duda both on the team. Frankly, we’re not that actively engaged in trade discussions involving Ike at this point. I think that underscores our willingness to go into camp with both.”
The Mets spent much of their time at last month’s Winter Meetings talking to other teams about Davis, meeting with the Brewers in particular multiple times. Nothing came of it.
“You can only ask someone to dance so many times before you get the message,” Alderson said. “We’ve been told by a variety of clubs that what we’re asking is not unrealistic. But if they think they can get it or something else for less, that’s what they’re going to try to do. So be it. It’s not like we’re holding out for Babe Ruth.”
If the Brewers can’t get Davis, they will explore other trade options or go with free-swinging slugger Juan Francisco.
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News from the Brewers, who are returning a promotion featuring 39 great prizes and one poor schlub who gets stuck with me:
The Milwaukee Brewers today announced details of its “Fan-Tastic Forty” promotion that will award prizes to lucky fans who purchase Season Seat packages for the 2014 season. All fans purchasing or renewing ticket packages of 20 games or more will have an opportunity to win a variety of unique prizes and experiences spread out over 40 days. From Friday, January 17 through Tuesday, February 25, one Season Seat Holder per day will be selected to win a designated prize in the promotion.
Fans must purchase or renew a minimum 20-game package (or above that) to qualify for the drawing. Purchases made prior to today will already have an entry in the contest. Purchases made within the 40 days will be eligible for the next day’s drawing and the remainder of the prizes. For example, a purchase on January 29 will be eligible for all prizes from January 30 – February 25. The last day to purchase to be eligible for prizes is Monday, February 24.
“This has been one of our most popular programs to reward our valued Season Seat Holders,” said Brewers Chief Operating Officer Rick Schlesinger. “It offers our fans unique opportunities and prizes that create lasting memories.”
Fans looking to renew or get more information about new packages are welcome to call (414) 902-HITS (4487) or visit brewers.com/fan40. Full sweepstakes rules are also available at the website.
Prizes on the list for 2014 include a Brewers On Deck VIP Experience, an All-Inclusive Area Tour (tickets to watch games from each of the five All Inclusive seating locations), signing a Major League contract for a day (including big league pay), a $1,000 Shopping Spree in the Brewers Team Store by Majestic, and 2015 season tickets at 1982 pricing.
A complete list of prizes along with the date they will be selected follows:
January 17 – Team Store Shopping Spree. Win $1,000 to spend in the Brewers Team Store by Majestic.
January 18 – Brewers On Deck VIP Experience. Receive two free tickets to the annual fan fest, plus jump to the front of any autograph line for free autographs.
January 19 – Your Very Own Ticket. For one game during the 2014 season, your photo will be printed on every season ticket.
January 20 – Free Parking for the Season. Enjoy complimentary Preferred Parking for every game in your 2014 ticket plan.
January 21 – Game of Catch with a Brewers Pitcher. Play catch with and receive pitching tips and instruction from a Brewers pitcher.
January 22 – Roundtrip Airfare for Two. Two roundtrip tickets from Southwest Airlines.
January 23 – Tour the Roof. Take a tour of the Miller Park roof and get the best view of the ballpark.
January 24 – VIP Luncheon. You and a guest will sit at the head table during the 2014 Season Seat Holder Luncheon in the Johnson Controls Stadium Club with two Brewers players and/or coaches and Brewers executives.
January 25 – Slide Down Bernie’s Slide. Take a trip down Bernie’s slide before a 2014 home game and then watch part of the game from Bernie’s Chalet.
January 26 – Party Suite for you and 29 Friends. Take in a 2014 home game with 29 of your friends from a spacious Party Suite, complete with food and beverage.
January 27 – Carlos Gomez Autographed Gold Glove Print. Receive a one-of-a-kind Carlos Gomez autographed Gold Glove Framed Print.
January 28 – Owner’s Seats at Miller Park. Sit in the owner’s seats for a game with three friends and enjoy a visit from Brewers executives.
January 29 – Shadow a Brewers.com Beat Writer. Follow Brewers.com beat writer Adam McCalvy during all pregame activities on the field and in the Clubhouse for a 2014 home game.
January 30 – You in the Team Photo. One fan will be included in an unofficial team photo with the 2014 Brewers roster and coaching staff.
January 31 – Field of Sweet Dreams Experience. You and three friends will enjoy a night under the stars while camping on the Miller Park outfield at the annual Field of Sweet Dreams event.
February 1 – Lesson With Brewers Hitting Coach. Win a private hitting lesson from Brewers Hitting Coach Johnny Narron while you and a guest take batting practice before a game at Miller Park.
February 2 – Baseball Signed by Opening Day Starters. Receive nine baseballs, each signed by a member of the Brewers Opening Day lineup.
February 3 – Tickets for Each All-Inclusive Area. Enjoy a game from each of Miller Park’s five All-Inclusive Areas with two tickets for five different games in the special seating areas.
February 4 – Pizza for a Year. Win a one-year supply of Palermo’s Pizza.
February 5 – Throw Out the First Pitch. Throw out the first pitch prior to a 2014 Brewers home game, plus receive a personalized Brewers jersey.
February 6 – Club Suite Party with Craig. Win a Club Suite for you and nine friends to a 2014 home game, complete with food and beverage, and enjoy a visit from Brewers alum Craig Counsell.
February 7 – $500 in Concession Vouchers. Receive $500 in food and beverage vouchers.
February 8 – Harley Deck Experience. Win 30 tickets for Miller Park’s popular Harley-Davidson Deck, complete with food and beverage, for a 2014 home game.
February 9 – Miller Lite/Brewers Neon Sign. Light up your basement bar or garage with a Miller Lite neon sign featuring the Brewers ball and glove logo.
February 10 – Autographed Baseballs. Take home a set of baseballs autographed by each member of the 2014 Brewers starting rotation.
February 11 – Turn Back the Clock Pricing. Receive 1982 pricing for your 2015 season tickets.
February 12 – Catered Tailgate Party. Enjoy a Pavilion party prior to a 2014 Brewers home game, catered by DNC Sportservice. Includes 20 game tickets.
February 13 – Signed Bat and Jersey. Win an autographed bat and jersey from your favorite Brewers player.
February 14 – Gehl Club 4-Pack. Enjoy the luxurious Gehl Club experience with three friends for four games during the 2014 season.
February 15 – Guaranteed Giveaway. Receive every promotional item given away during the 2014 season, including all eight Bobbleheads and six t-shirts.
February 16 – Klement’s Tailgate Package. Receive a one-year supply of Klement’s sausage products, a grill and more.
February 17 – Lucroy Autographed Home Plate. Receive a home plate signed by Brewers Catcher Jonathan Lucroy.
February 18 – View From the Bullpen. Make sure to bring your glove when you and five friends sit in the Brewers bullpen as the Brewers take batting practice prior to a 2014 home game.
February 19 – Club Suite Party with Doug. You and nine guests will sit in a Club Suite for a game, complete with food and beverage, and enjoy a visit from Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin.
February 20 – You in the Brewers Television Booth. Spend an inning in the Brewers television booth during a 2014 home game.
February 21 – Signed Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura Print. Receive a framed autographed print of 2013 All-Stars Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura.
February 22 – Evening With Hank Aaron. Two spots at a table for the 2014 Evening with Hank Aaron Dinner.
February 23 – Movie Night on the Big Screen. You and seven friends will enjoy a private movie screening on the scoreboard at Miller Park.
February 24 – Season Seat Holder of the Year. Be treated like the VIP you are; throw out the first pitch, take batting practice at Miller Park, receive extra concession vouchers and more.
February 25 - Welcome to the Big Leagues. Sign a one-day Major League contract, complete with full uniform plus one day’s pay at the MLB minimum salary.
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Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado and his wife, Janelise, hosted the “bigger and better” charity event today that I last wrote about in October, fulfilling a promise Martin made to his mother that he would give back to the community in his native Puerto Rico after becoming established in the Major Leagues. This year he hosted more than 300 kids, beating the total from the inaugural event last year, also on Three Kings Day.
Maldonado said the event was “better than last year,” and asked me to make note of the sponsors who made it possible, including the Wisconsin-based Andis Company, a manufacturer of hair clippers that got to know Maldonado after learning about his role as the Brewers’ resident barber. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina again made a significant contribution, as did former Brewers reliever Michael Gonzalez and a number of other teammates whose funds came through a donation from the Brewers Community Foundation. Two companies in Puerto Rico, Pan Pepin Bread and the Suiza Fruit Corporation, helped provide lunch.
Here are some photos of the festivities:
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The Brewers began the New Year as the only team yet to sign a Major League free agent since the end of last season.
General manager Doug Melvin was asked Monday what he would say to fans perturbed by the team’s inactivity.
“I would just say that it’s true, we haven’t done all that much,” Melvin said. “But just because you don’t respond in free agency doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the [wrong] thing to do. If you look at a lot of the teams that got involved in free agency in the past few years, it hasn’t been that successful for them — and then there are the players whose price range isn’t even close to what we could consider. We’re putting a lot of faith into our system.”
In Melvin’s view, the Brewers’ Major League roster is well-stocked aside from first base and the bullpen, areas club officials are still open to supplementing at the right price. The rest of the infield is set with catcher Jonathan Lucroy, second baseman Scooter Gennett (with Rickie Weeks’ role to be determined), shortstop Jean Segura and a healthy Aramis Ramirez at third. An outfield of Khris Davis, Carlos Gomez (who would be a free agent right now had he not signed an extension last spring) and Ryan Braun has the potential to be above-average offensively.
Melvin said the Brewers made the fundamental decision earlier in the offseason to “go with our young guys,” and thus plan to trust back-end rotation spots to Wily Peralta, Marco Estrada and Tyler Thornburg, with others vying for spots like Will Smith, Johnny Hellweg, Hiram Burgos and Jimmy Nelson. In the bullpen, Melvin would not mind adding some experience via free agency, but again expressed confidence in the club’s low-cost options.
“We weren’t going to get [Shin-Soo] Choo. We weren’t going to get Robinson Cano,” Melvin said, referring to top free agents. “We can look at $5-$6 million guys, but if we think our guys are better or as good at $500,000, why would we make a move just to make a move?”
Instead, the Brewers have stood pat.
“We’ve sort of been on the sidelines with free agency this year,” Melvin conceded. “We’re putting a lot of faith in the players that performed for us in the second half of the year. We’re expecting Ryan Braun to come back and perform.
“Anything else, we’re always open to discussions, but it’s still got to be good for the ballclub. Our bullpen is an area that we’ve talked about maybe whether we would add an experienced piece or not. … First base, I’ve had ongoing discussions with [Mets general manager] Sandy Alderson, but we haven’t gotten to anything where we’re comfortable with the deal from our side, and he’s not been comfortable with the deal from his side.”
Melvin and Alderson had conversations about New York first baseman Ike Davis as far back as General Managers Meetings in November, and met several times at the Winter Meetings a month later. The Mets’ price is high — they asked the Brewers for Thornburg, and the Orioles for top pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez. The Brewers would rather trade a position player, perhaps from a stable of outfielders that remains reasonably deep, even with the trade of Norichika Aoki.
Melvin declined to say whether the Mets’ asking price for Davis, who was demoted to Triple-A at one point last season, was higher than expected.
“I don’t ever get into that,” Melvin said. “Everybody makes the deal that they feel is the best deal for them. I don’t ever consider whether asking prices are too high on [trades] or not, because you don’t know until after the deal and you’ve seen players perform.
“I think we’ve pretty well stood by — the one thing we’ve done is we do not want to give up pitching.”
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Craig Counsell remembers visiting AT&T Park in San Francisco some years ago and seeing a group of former Giants honored for their contributions to the franchise, even if those contributions fell short of consideration for Cooperstown. Counsell thought the idea would play in Milwaukee, where the Brewers’ Walk of Fame has in recent years become a most difficult club to crack.
Counsell’s idea came to life on Thursday, when the Brewers announced plans to build a “Wall of Honor” on a prominent space outside Miller Park, just like the one in San Francisco. Fifty-eight former Brewers players and executives, from Hall of Famers to Mike Fetters, will be inducted prior to a June 13 game against the Reds.
“Maybe they’re not Hall of Famers, but they are players who spent some time here and achieved certain standards,” Counsell said. “When I saw it in San Francisco, I thought it was great for the fans, seeing some of the players they had watched when they were kids, or when they brought their own kids to the games. It’s a way to document the history of the franchise.
“I always think that the teams that can create a history are the teams that connect with their fans better. That’s why I liked this.
Because his own name is part of that history, Counsell abstained from the tricky part — setting the criteria for induction. The idea was to make the Wall of Honor different than the Walk of Fame, which is debated by all and voted upon by media and Brewers officials each winter, and instead, as COO Rick Schlesinger put it Thursday, to recognize “the many individuals who either spent a significant portion of their career with the Brewers, or have a significant legacy with the organization through various achievements.”
After some debate, the Brewers chose players who met any of the following standards:
- 2,000 or more plate appearances as a Brewer
- 1,000 or more innings pitched
- 250 appearances as a pitcher
- Winner of a major award (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year or Fireman of the Year)
- Manager of a pennant-winning team
- Individuals memorialized with statues on the Miller Park Plaza
- Members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame who played for or managed the Brewers
Home-grown Counsell, who was raised in a Milwaukee suburb before finishing his career with his hometown team, will be part of the inaugural class by virtue of his 2,063 Brewers plate appearances.
Here is the full list of inductees:
Hank Aaron, Jerry Augustine, Sal Bando, Chris Bosio, Johnny Briggs, Jeromy Burnitz, Mike Caldwell, Bill Castro, Jeff Cirillo, Jim Colborn, Cecil Cooper, Counsell, Chuck Crim, Rob Deer, Cal Eldred, Fetters, Rollie Fingers, Jim Gantner, Moose Haas, Bill Hall, Darryl Hamilton, Teddy Higuera, John Jaha, Geoff Jenkins, Harvey Kuenn, Sixto Lezcano, Pat Listach, Mark Loretta, Davey May, Bob McClure, Paul Molitor, Don Money, Charlie Moore, Jaime Navarro, Dave Nilsson, Ben Oglivie, Dan Plesac, Darrell Porter, Ken Sanders, George Scott, Kevin Seitzer, Allan H. (Bud) Selig, Richie Sexson, Ben Sheets, Ted Simmons, Jim Slaton, B.J. Surhoff, Don Sutton, Gorman Thomas, Bill Travers, Bob Uecker, Jose Valentin, Greg Vaughn, Vina, Pete Vukovich, Bill Wegman, Bob Wickman and Robin Yount.
Seven active Major Leagues already meet the criteria and will join the Wall of Honor after they retire: John Axford, Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Yovani Gallardo, J.J. Hardy, Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks. Other current Brewers like Jonathan Lucroy (1,691 plate appearances) and Carlos Gomez (1,618 plate appearances) are already getting close.
“These are all players who played enough that fans have a story about them,” Counsell said. “You’ll remember a game he played in. You’ll share it with your son or daughter. That’s what this is supposed to be all about.”
The permanent exhibit will be installed on an exterior wall at Miller Park adjacent to the Hot Corner entrance, where fans enter year-round for access to the restaurant and team store. Honorees will be recognized with a bronze plaque affixed to the wall, with their image and a brief synopsis of their Milwaukee baseball career etched onto the marker.
The plaques are designed by Matthews International, designers of the plaques for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
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The market for first basemen continued to tighten for the Brewers on Friday, when Corey Hart and Logan Morrison were introduced as the newest Seattle Mariners and James Loney reportedly agreed to a three-year deal to return to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Loney, a good defender coming off his best season at the plate, was widely considered the top free agent first baseman and received the three-year commitment, as first reported by ESPN’s Buster Olney, that he had been seeking from the start. The Brewers had talks with Loney’s representatives on Wednesday but were not willing to go beyond two years.
Loney’s agreement was reported just after Hart and Morrison were introduced in a press conference in Seattle; Morrison acquired in a trade with the Marlins and Hart via free agency. Hart had been the Brewers’ top target this offseason, but could not turn down an offer from the Mariners that guarantees $6 million and could top out at $13 million with incentives, about double the Brewers’ best offer.
“They made a stronger financial offer than Milwaukee,” Hart said. “We probably had 8-10 offers out there and I don’t know if they were at the top, but wherever they fit, that wasn’t the reason. It was more like we felt led to come here by other things and this felt like the best place for us to be happy.”
Hart characterized it as a family decision and said he and wife Kristina prayed about it. The Mariners are led by a familiar face in GM Jack Zduriencik, who as Brewers amateur scouting director, drafted Hart in 2000. They are managed by Lloyd McClendon, whom Hart said he previously admired. The Mariners, like the Brewers, hold Spring Training near Hart’s west Phoenix home.
And unlike the Brewers, they offer the chance to serve as designated hitter once or twice a week, a chance to rest the surgically-repaired knees that prevented Hart from playing at all in 2013, the final season of his Brewers contract.
“A lot of people wrote me off because I missed a year, but it wasn’t like I came off a bad year,” Hart said. “I was a good player that just missed time because I had an injury. I’m anxious to get out there just to prove these guys right. Lloyd and Jack are behind me and they know I might need all of Spring Training just to get as many at-bats as I can to feel comfortable because I missed so much, but once I get out there, I can’t wait to prove these guys right.”
In Milwaukee, meanwhile, the search continues. With Loney off the market, the Brewers are more likely to acquire a first baseman via trade, and while the options are not limited to the Mets, the fact that Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin and New York GM Sandy Alderson met multiple times during the Winter Meetings says that that the sides see the opportunity for a fit. The Mets have Ike Davis, Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy, all of whom can play first base, and all of whom have appeared in trade rumors. The Mets proposes a swap of Davis for right-hander Tyler Thornburg this week, but the Brewers turned it down and manager Ron Roenicke told reporters that Thornburg has the inside track on Milwaukee’s No. 5 starter job.
Among the numerous other first baseman potentially available in trades are Mike Carp of the Red Sox, Adam Dunn of the White Sox, Mitch Moreland of the Rangers and Justin Smoak of the Mariners. Smoak set career highs in on-base percentage and slugging percentage last season but now finds himself part of a crowded field in Seattle, where Hart and Morrison are both coming back from knee injuries and expected to move around between first base, left field and DH.
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Brewers general manager Doug Melvin had one final sit-down with Mets GM Sandy Alderson before departing the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort on Thursday, continuing a search for a first baseman that was not resolved during these Winter Meetings.
“You filter through all the things. That’s what happens a lot of times here,” Melvin said. “If you don’t accomplish things, at least you bring them to a head or eliminate ideas or thoughts that you might have come here with.”
One idea — re-signing Corey Hart — was eliminated this week. He spurned the Brewers’ offer for a more lucrative contract with the Mariners.
Hart was the Brewers’ top Winter Meetings target, but not the club’s only target. Melvin did not dismiss the notion of pursuing a deal with the top available free agent first baseman, James Loney, whose representatives reached out on Wednesday. The Pirates and Rays are also reportedly in talks with Loney, and the asking price is high.
The Brewers are also active in trade talks about first basemen, including those discussions with Alderson and the Mets that began back at the GM Meetings last month. The Mets have a surplus, with arbitration-eligible Ike Davis and Lucas Duda both popping up in rumors. The Mets this week asked the Brewers for right-hander Tyler Thornburg, but the 25-year-old is currently ticketed for Milwaukee’s fifth starter slot. The Brewers have some other relatively advanced pitching prospects, so talks have continued.
Asked about the chances of a trade versus a free agent signing, Melvin said, “They’re both possibilities.”
He is remaining patient.
“Sometimes, the timing, we don’t control that all the time,” he said. “I guess you can if you want to overpay or you want to do something stupid, like things that happen early sometimes. I think we’ll get somebody. I’m not overly worried at this time, but that’s my demeanor, I guess.
“I like our team. I like the idea that we have guys at every position [but first base]. Our focus is on one area, and it’s just unfortunate that the availability is not as great as what you would like it to be.”
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If there was a shared message Wednesday from Brewers general manager Doug Melvin and new Seattle Mariner Corey Hart it was this:
No hard feelings.
“I can’t get into specifics right now,” Hart said in a text message after agreeing to a one-year deal with Seattle, “but this was a family decision based on a lot of factors. The Mariners showed they were sincerely interested and made a strong push. And I get a chance to DH some while still having Spring Training in Arizona near home.
“I have no hard feelings toward the Brewers and certainly have great appreciation for the team and its fans. This was just the best thing to do for me and my family.”
The Brewers, meanwhile, were moving on to Plans B, C, D and so on. The club will “probably” depart Orlando on Thursday with their first base situation still unsettled, said Melvin, who did not blame Hart for choosing a more lucrative offer from Seattle even though Hart said three months ago he’d take a discounted deal to stay in Milwaukee.
Melvin said the Mariners topped the Brewers both in terms of guaranteed money and total value, but would not divulge any details about his best offer lest it impact negotiations with other players. A source confirmed that Hart’s one-year deal with the Mariners guarantees $5-$6 million and could top out around $13 million with incentives that he is more likely to reach because of the designated hitter.
The Brewers’ offer reportedly topped out around $8 million, including incentives.
“It shouldn’t be painted as a bad picture that Corey left because he said that [about taking a discount],” Melvin said. “Because we said the same thing — we said we wanted to have him back. When it comes down to it, you have to look at the numbers, you have to look at the situation, and weigh everything into it.”
Several factors worked in Seattle’s favor. The Mariners, like the Brewers, have Spring Training in west Phoenix, near Hart’s home. Hart has familiarity with Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik, who drafted Hart in 2000 when Zduriencik was Milwaukee’s amateur scouting director. And in the American League, Hart can occasionally serve as the designated hitter, and opportunity to rest his surgically-repaired knees while still pursuing those contract incentives.
Zduriencik told reporters that Hart and newly-acquired Logan Morrison (picked up Wednesday in a trade with the Marlins) would play some outfield in addition to first base and the DH.
“The talent pool for National League clubs [is smaller],” Melvin said. “And this isn’t crying or whining or anything, it’s just the way it is. Sometimes you can get an additional 25 or 30 games in a DH role.”
Melvin met with agent Jeff Berry one last time on Wednesday morning and offered to add an option for a second season, but the Hart camp preferred a straight one-year deal.
Berry asked Melvin if the Brewers wanted to otherwise sweeten their offer.
“I said, ‘We’re too far apart to go back and forth and it’s too late in the process,’” Melvin said. “We have a good relationship. There’s no animosity. We were very upfront. There was not a whole lot of negotiating going on. They didn’t take our offer for leverage. On any player, we have a certain level we can go to. Our level of risk with players on performance and players with injuries is different than others. …
“There’s risk involved with everything you do in all this,” Melvin said. “Certain players are performance risks, certain players have injury risk and medical risk. You just give the best offer that you feel you can give and still try to put a team together. Corey was here  years — he had a very nice career. … He’s been here longer than I have.”
Asked where this left the Brewers at first base, Melvin said, “Still looking.”
He had “a few things working” as of Wednesday afternoon but does not expect the search to end before the Brewers contingent heads home Thursday. He met with representatives for free agent James Loney, who reportedly wants a three-year deal. Melvin also has had some trade talks this week with the Mets, who are listening to offers for Ike Davis. Other potential trade targets include Justin Smoak of the Mariners (though Zduriencik insisted Smoak was still part of the M’s plan) and Mitch Moreland of the Rangers.
“Whatever is the best fit, giving up the least,” said Melvin. “Giving up players is always hard. If you give up a player and have to fill that hole, we’d like to try to avoid that. If you make a trade, you do it from depth you have a certain positions.”
Loney, he said, “Is still out there. As long as players are still out there, they’re all viable options.”
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