Results tagged ‘ Jason Kendall ’
Mike Cameron and the Red Sox reached a tentative agreement on a two-year deal, per the Associated Press. Cameron manned center field in Milwaukee the past two seasons, but he earned $10 million in 2009 and the Brewers went younger, cheaper and perhaps a half-step better defensively when they traded for Carlos Gomez earlier this winter.
The Brewers didn’t wait for the start of next week’s Winter Meetings to make their first Major League free agent signing.
The team on Friday inked switch-hitting catcher Gregg Zaun to a one-year deal with a club option for 2011 in a move that signaled the end of Jason Kendall’s tenure in Milwaukee. The sides reached terms late Thursday night and Zaun traveled to Milwaukee early Friday morning for a physical exam.
“It was an opportunity to play every day and I’m excited about that,” Zaun said. “I’m 38 years old and a lot of people have made assumptions about how much I can play, but I like that challenge. I’ll have to earn it every day, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The Brewers were the most aggressive of Zaun’s suitors, and the financial package they offered didn’t hurt. Zaun, who earned $1.5 million last season from the Orioles and Rays, is guaranteed $2.15 million in his contract with the Brewers.
He’ll get a $1.9 million salary in 2010 with the opportunity to earn $600,000 more in bonuses based on games started. The Brewers hold a $2.25 million option for 2011 with a $250,000 buyout.
“They were aggressive early,” Zaun said. “It made me feel important to them.”
He will play an important role in 2010. Kendall had been Milwaukee’s regular catcher the past two seasons but he earned $5 million in 2009 and Brewers officials decided to go with a cheaper option.
The Brewers now have to decide how to line up Zaun’s backups. The incumbents include Mike Rivera, who has been Milwaukee’s back-up since 2006 but he’s arbitration-eligible this winter and can expect a bump in pay. The Brewers also claimed left-handed hitter George Kottaras off waivers from the Red Sox this fall and have a pair of catching prospects in Angel Salome and Jonathan Lucroy. If the team decides to promote Lucroy all the way from Double-A, a possibility already raised by general manager Doug Melvin, the experienced Zaun could help him break into the Majors.
Zaun has already played for eight teams in a 15-year career that began with the Orioles in 1995. He split 2009 between Baltimore, where he mentored stud catching prospect Matt Wieters, and Tampa Bay, where he finished the year after an August trade. In 90 games he was a .260 hitter with eight home runs and 27 RBIs.
Zaun is a Type B free agent and Tampa Bay offered him arbitration. Because he signed before Monday’s deadline for players to accept or decline the offer, the Rays will receive a compensatory pick between the first- and second rounds of next year’s Draft.
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As general manager Doug Melvin forecast on Monday, the Brewers did not extend arbitration offers to any of their ranked free agents ahead of Tuesday’s deadline to do so. That means the club won’t reap any Draft compensation in the event that outfielder Mike Cameron, catcher Jason Kendall, infielder Felipe Lopez or pitchers Braden Looper and David Weathers sign with other clubs.
All five players were Type B free agents. Had the Brewers extended arbitration offers and the players declined, the team would have received a compensatory pick between the first and second rounds of next June’s First-Year Player Draft. Since no offers were made, the Brewers won’t reap any extra picks in 2010.
That’s disappointing for amateur scouting director Bruce Seid, who is already deep into preparation for the Draft. But the risk in extending such offers is that the player can accept, making him signed for the following season at a salary to be determined either in negotiation, or if talks prove unsuccessful, in an arbitration hearing. Players almost always get raises through the process, and that would have certainly been the case for all five of the Brewers’ ranked players.
Four of the decisions were likely easy ones. Melvin has already made it clear he wouldn’t pursue Cameron (who earned $10 million in 2009) or Kendall ($5 million), and the Brewers already paid buyouts to Looper and Weathers instead of exercising club options. The options ($6.5 million for Looper and $3.7 for Weathers) could have cost than what the players would have earned via arbitration, so an offer didn’t make sense.
Lopez, though, was a matter for debate as late as Monday afternoon, when Melvin and his assistants met to finalize their decisions. Lopez earned a reasonably $3.5 million base salary in 2009 and had a career year, batting .310 for the D-backs and Brewers with nine home runs, 57 RBIs, 88 runs scored and a .383 on-base percentage. He was at his best after a July trade from Arizona to Milwaukee, batting .320 for the Brewers with a .407 on-base percentage and filling the void atop the lineup that had existed since second baseman Rickie Weeks was lost to season-ending wrist surgery.
Based on that strong finish, Lopez, who is represented by Scott Boras, will almost certainly seek a multi-year contract. But the Brewers’ decision to not offer him arbitration on Tuesday was a sign that Milwaukee officials, after analyzing which teams will be looking for second basemen this offseason, aren’t convinced he’ll get it.
That left open the possibility that Lopez could accept the offer, and a multimillion dollar bench player probably wouldn’t fit Melvin’s plans. The Brewers are committed to Weeks at second base and are set elsewhere on the infield with first baseman Prince Fielder, shortstop Alcides Escobar and either Casey McGehee or Mat Gamel at third base. Lopez has some outfield experience, but Ryan Braun is a fixture in left field for the Brewers and Corey Hart is the incumbent in right. Hart earned $3.25 million last season and is arbitration-eligible once again.
Payroll is tight for the Brewers despite recent cost-cutting measures because Melvin intends to use the bulk of his remaining resources to fix the team’s starting rotation.
“You would love to have that depth,” Melvin said Monday in previewing his looming decisions. “But is [Lopez] going to want to be a part-time player? He’s going to want to be an everyday player, and Rickie is going to want to be an everyday player. In some sense, you also ask, are you willing to trade the possibility of [acquiring] a pitcher for Felipe Lopez? That’s the question.”
On Tuesday, Melvin answered his own question. He’d prefer to save resources for the pitcher.
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Brewers officials met Monday afternoon to make final decisions, but it appeared they were leaning against extending arbitration offers to any of their five compensation-eligible free agents, including infielder Felipe Lopez.
“Where would he play?” general manager Doug Melvin asked.
Before exploring that question, an arbitration primer is in order:
Lopez, outfielder Mike Cameron, catcher Jason Kendall and pitchers Braden Looper and David Weathers all qualified as Type B free agents, meaning the Brewers could reap a compensatory pick in next year’s First-Year Player Draft should any of those players sign with another team.
But in order to qualify for compensation, the Brewers would have to first extend an offer of arbitration to those eligible free agents. If the player declines, the Brewers would be compensated when he signs elsewhere; former teams get a first- or second-round pick from the player’s new club plus a so-called “sandwich pick” between the first two rounds for a Type A free agent, or just a sandwich pick for a Type B player.
But if the player accepts the offer, he is considered signed for the next season at a salary to be determined, usually higher than the previous season. That possibility can present a risk teams are unwilling to take.
That risk is why the Brewers have been expected all along to decline making offers to Cameron ($10 million salary in 2009) and Kendall ($5 million). The team already declined club options on Looper ($6.5 million) and Weathers ($3.7 million), making an arbitration offer extremely unlikely. Why would the team pay those players buyouts only to bring them back several weeks later?
But many expected that the team would offer arbitration to Lopez, who is coming off a season split between Arizona and Milwaukee in which he batted a career-best .310 with 88 runs scored and a .383 on-base percentage. Lopez was relatively reasonable at $3.5 million.
Lopez is likely to seek a multiyear contract, and would have to decline an arbitration offer from the Brewers to get one. Because he narrowly missed qualifying for Type A compensation, he is actually more attractive to rival clubs because they would forfeit a Draft pick.
But the Brewers are wary of what they would do if Lopez were to accept. The team is committed to Rickie Weeks at second base and already has two players (Casey McGehee and Mat Gamel) to play third. Lopez has some experience in the outfield, but the Brewers have Ryan Braun set in left field and Corey Hart in right.
Melvin is already working on a tight budget and wants to preserve as much payroll space as possible to improve the team’s pitching. A multi-million-dollar reserve infielder might not fit Melvin’s plans.
“You would love to have that depth,” Melvin said. “But is [Lopez] going to want to be a part-time player? He’s going to want to be an everyday player, and Rickie is going to want to be an everyday player. In some sense, you also ask, are you willing to trade the possibility of [acquiring] a pitcher for Felipe Lopez? That’s the question.”
Melvin has proposed a series of changes to Major League Baseball’s Draft process, and free agent compensation is one of his beefs. He doesn’t expect any changes to come out of next week’s Winter Meetings in Indianapolis.
“If we want to sign a Type A free agent, we would lose a second-round pick, but we don’t have a way to get picks back,” Melvin said. “Our whole Draft process needs to be redone.”
The deadline for teams to extend arbitration offers to their free agents is 10:59 p.m. CT on Tuesday. Players who get offers have until Dec. 7 to accept.
Thursday is the final day for teams to negotiate exclusively with their own free agents, but Brewers general manager Doug Melvin is not anticipating striking any deals before the market opens in earnest.
“No,” he said Wednesday. “I don’t think they want to sign, personally. They want to wait until Friday and hope someone picks up the phone and makes them an offer they never thought they would get.”
Beginning Friday at 12:01 a.m. ET, free agents are free to field those calls from all 30 teams. Before then, during a 15-day window that follows the World Series, other teams can only express general interest but are technically barred from making any offers.
The Brewers have nine outgoing free agents: Outfielders Mike Cameron, Frank Catalanotto and Corey Patterson, infielders Craig Counsell and Felipe Lopez, catcher Jason Kendall and pitchers Braden Looper, Claudio Vargas and David Weathers. Looper and Weathers hit the market after the Brewers declined their options.
Melvin wouldn’t say which of those players he would like to bring back to avoid giving other teams an idea of the Brewers’ thinking. He did say this month that the Carlos Gomez acquisition likely closed the door on Cameron, that the Brewers might not be able to afford Kendall unless he takes a serious pay cut and that the team remains committed to Rickie Weeks at second base, making a Lopez return very unlikely.
Counsell seems the most likely incumbent on the Brewers’ radar but a report this week said that as many as 12 teams had expressed interest. That’s not surprising at all given Counsell’s defensive versatility and his outstanding 2009 season at the plate, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could field multi-year offers.
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Surprise, surprise. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin spent his time at this week’s General Managers Meetings in Chicago focused on pitching.
Melvin spoke this week with agent Arn Tellem, who represents free agent left-hander Randy Wolf, and Steve Canter, the agent for free-agent left-hander Doug Davis, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. At some point he also expressed interest in left-hander Jarrod Washburn, Washburn’s agent Scott Boras told the newspaper.
According to a Major League source, Melvin also met with Steve Hilliard, who represents righty John Lackey, the top available pitcher. In a chat with the Journal Sentinel before heading home to Milwaukee, Melvin downplayed the Brewers’ chances of landing Lackey.
“It depends what they’re asking for,” Melvin said. “I don’t know if it could fit or not. I might have to make some other moves to make it fit.”
The Brewers may have jumped to the top of the list of teams expected to pursue Lackey last week, when Melvin brought up Lackey’s name in a discussion of his plan to bolster a pitching staff that ranked next-to-last in the National League in 2009.
Melvin said he would have to focus on bounce-back candidates coming off poor- or injury-plagued seasons, and indeed he has already checked in with the agent for Mark Mulder, who missed all of 2009 with shoulder woes. At some point Milwaukee could also check in with former Brewer Ben Sheets, who never pitched in 2009 after undergoing elbow surgery.
But at the same time, Melvin would not rule out a look at the top shelf of free agents.
“There’s one guy that stands out and it’s John Lackey,” Melvin told reporters on a conference call last Friday. “He’s head and shoulders above the others. … You look at the consistency of pitchers who are out there and John Lackey is a great competitor, but we’ll have to take a look at that and see.”
Since Melvin raised Lackey’s name without being asked, he was pressed on the matter. Is he a free agent of interest to the Brewers?
“We’ll leave that discussion internally for ourselves,” Melvin said. “When you get involved in free agency and you talk about people, then all you’re doing is letting people know you’re interested and it drives the prices up. So I’m not going to say who we’re interested in or who we’re not.”
It’s a two-way street, said Melvin, who believes most free agents enter the market with a short list of teams they prefer.
“It’s our job to find out if we’re on that list of teams,” Melvin said.
If the Brewers are on Lackey’s list, then Melvin might have to move some more payroll, as he suggested to the Journal Sentinel on Wednesday.
Melvin has already said he won’t pursue center fielder Mike Cameron, who earned $10 million last year, and has hinted that Jason Kendall’s $5 million salary might not fit next year, either. His highest-paid returning players are starter Jeff Suppan (due $12.5 million in 2010, the final year of his four-year contract), first baseman Prince Fielder ($10.5 million), closer Trevor Hoffman ($7.5 million) and reliever David Riske ($4.5 million in the final year of his three-year deal).
More decisions are coming. The Brewers have until Saturday to exercise their half of starter Braden Looper’s $6.5 million mutual option, and pitcher Dave Bush (who made $4 million in 2009), outfielder Corey Hart ($3.25 million) and second baseman Rickie Weeks ($2.45 million) head the list of arbitration-eligible players whose salaries could jump again.
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I joined the crowd last night writing about Jason Kendall‘s uncertain future in Milwaukee after Brewers GM Doug Melvin once again touted prospect Jonathan Lucroy as a candidate to catch at least part-time in 2010.
I wanted to highlight one section of the story, borrowing Melvin’s comments on 1250-AM WSSP last Friday. He made some of the same comparisons yesterday in a chat with Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, so I think it’s worth passing along:
“Jonathan Lucroy is an advanced player,” Melvin told the radio station last week. “We went through the list of players who jumped from Double-A to the big leagues, and there’s a pretty large list of them, from Russell Martin to Chris Snyder of the Diamondbacks to [Kurt] Suzuki with Oakland. Jason Kendall did it in his career. Pudge Rodriguez. There are a number of catchers who have jumped from Double-A to the big leagues, and it might be because of need as much as anything.”
So I went through some of those players and, Martin certainly fits what could lie ahead for Lucroy. Martin had just turned 23 and had played only 23 games at Triple-A before debuting with the Dodgers in 2006. He batted .282 with 10 home runs and 65 RBIs in 121 games that season.
Snyder also was 23 when the D-backs promoted him in 2004, but unlike Lucroy, who never played an inning over the Class A level before 2009, Snyder had played parts of two seasons at Double-A before his Major League debut. Snyder struggled at the plate in his first full big league season in 2005. Suzuki was also 23 when the A’s came calling in 2007 and put up numbers in his final Double-A season extremely similar to Lucroy’s output in 2009, but Suzuki played more than two months at Triple-A before his promotion.
Kendall was only 21 when the Pirates made him their Opening Day catcher in 1996 after a season-plus at Double-A. Kendall hit .300 in his first big league seasons, but the Brewers don’t necessarily see that kind of output from Lucroy. He profiles more as a Terry Steinbach-type.
Rodriguez had even less experience than Lucroy, with only 50 Double-A games under his belt before the Rangers promoted him as a 19-year-old in 1991.
Lucroy batted .267 at Double-A Huntsville in 2009 with nine home runs, 66 RBIs and a .380 on-base percentage. He walked 78 times versus 66 strikeouts.
“We’re probably going to look seriously at Jonathan,” Melvin told the radio station. “He can handle a pitching staff. He gets more walks than strikeouts. In fact, Ken Macha called me last week in Arizona and said, ‘I’m just calling to see how Lucroy is doing.’ And just as he asked me, Lucroy hit a line drive over the left-field fence, so the timing was good. He’s getting a lot of praises in Arizona, seriously enough that we are going to consider him a candidate.”
Lucroy, who won’t turn 23 until June 24, would skew the Brewers even younger. When Melvin traded shortstop J.J. Hardy to Minnesota on Friday he received the team’s new starting center fielder in return, and Carlos Gomez won’t turn 24 until Dec. 4. The trade also opened the shortstop position for Alcides Escobar, who won’t be 23 until Dec. 13.
Those youngsters could play behind projected Opening Day starter Yovani Gallardo, who turns 24 on Feb. 27.
Melvin was in meetings all morning on Tuesday and did not return a call from MLB.com seeking his thoughts about the team’s catching situation. Kendall, who formally filed for free agency on the first day to do so last week, also did not return a call.
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Let the offseason begin.
When the Yankees clinched the World Series on Wednesday night, it kick-started the season after the season for all 30 teams, not to mention the dozens of unattached players looking for new homes. Thursday began a 15-day period for those players to formally file for free agency, during which they may only negotiate with their current team.
The Brewers have seven such players, including two — center fielder Mike Cameron and catcher Jason Kendall — who have been fixtures in the starting lineup in the past two seasons. The other players eligible to file are outfielder Frank Catalanotto, infielder Craig Counsell, second baseman Felipe Lopez, outfielder Corey Patterson and pitcher Claudio Vargas.
Two others must wait to learn whether they will join the free agent pool. The Brewers have 10 days after the World Series to decide whether to exercise their half of Braden Looper’s $6.5 million mutual option and whether to pick up reliever David Weathers’ $3.7 million club option.
Looper, who led the team with 14 wins and tied for the National League with 34 starts but ran up a 5.22 ERA and led the Major Leagues by allowing 39 home runs, is a particularly interesting case. The Brewers would have to pay a $1 million buyout if they declined his option.
In August it seemed a foregone conclusion that the Brewers, who are short on pitching prospects at the top levels of the Minor Leagues, would bring Looper back. But a high-ranking club official indicated during the final week of the season that Looper’s future with the team was now up for debate. He went 5-2 in September/October but posted a 6.58 ERA and a .349 opponents’ average. With general manager Doug Melvin intent on bringing in two new starters — his stated goal last month — and the Brewers’ four other ’09 starters under contract for 2010, Looper could conceivably be one of the odd men out.
If the Brewers decline Weathers’ option, they owe him a $400,000 buyout.
Among the players already eligible for free agency, Cameron, Counsell, Kendall and Vargas are the likely priorities. Lopez was excellent after a July trade from Arizona to Milwaukee — .with a 320 batting average and a .407 on-base percentage in 297 plate appearances — but Melvin made it clear that he is committed to Rickie Weeks at second base. If that’s the case, it appears the Brewers don’t have a spot for Lopez.
Also on Thursday, the Brewers learned that Cameron, Kendall and Lopez all qualified as Type B players in the Elias Sports Bureau’s ranking system and that Looper and Weathers would also rank as Type Bs should they reach free agency.
That system considers a player’s last two seasons of statistical output and is used to determine which free agents are eligible for Draft compensation. In order to qualify, a free agent must be offered arbitration by his former team, but decline the offer and then sign elsewhere.
The former club of a Type A free agent receives the player’s new team’s first- or second-round pick in next year’s First-Year Player Draft, depending on where that team finished in the standings, plus a “sandwich pick” between the first- and second rounds. The former club of a Type B free agent receives only the sandwich pick.
Lopez was one spot shy of qualifying as a Type A player. National League second baseman, shortstops and third basemen are grouped together by Elias, and Lopez was the first Type B, with a rating of 71.889. Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla was the final Type A, at 72.350.
For more on the Brewers’ free agent-eligibles, see my story on Brewers.com.
Of the players in question, who would you like to see back? Who should the Brewers let go?
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The discussion about whether the Brewers would trade Ryan Braun or Prince Fielder was the most interesting part of general manager Doug Melvin’s year-end wrap-up with the media, but here’s a taste of the other topics discussed:
- The Brewers officially announced their new deal with closer Trevor Hoffman, who re-signed for one year plus a mutual option for 2011. The contract guarantees $8 million and could pay as much as $16.5 million over two years.
“By signing Trevor Hoffman, that was a big splash for us,” Melvin said. “If our pitching is going to improve, we have to keep the success we had at the back end of our bullpen. And also, to attract free agent starting pitchers, one of the first questions they always want to know is, ‘Who is the closer?’”
- Melvin hinted that the focus on pitching could make it difficult for the team to re-sign its key free agents, including center fielder Mike Cameron and catcher Jason Kendall. Rickie Weeks is the second baseman, Melvin reiterated, making it likely that free agent Felipe Lopez will also be let go.
Assistant GM Gord Ash conceded that it’s difficult for teams to win with unproven players up the middle but insisted it can be done. He mentioned Lorenzo Cain and Logan Schafer as the team’s top center field prospects and said Jonathan Lucroy was the team’s top catching prospect. Interestingly, Angel Salome’s name was not brought up.
- Jeff Suppan, the Brewers’ 2009 Opening Day starter, is not guaranteed a spot in the 2010 starting rotation despite his $12.5 million salary. It will be the final season of his four-year contract, and he projects as the team’s highest-paid player for the second straight year.
“I think Jeff is a professional and he knows that he will come into camp and [compete],” Melvin said. “You have to give him some credit for the fact he’s been given the ball a lot of years. He’s very seldom injured. … I don’t think there will be very many guarantees about who will be in the rotation. We probably have to make it more competitive to get better.”
- Free agent righty Ben Sheets, who missed all of 2009 following elbow surgery, is still on the Brewers’ radar.
“Ben is somebody who would have to be on anybody’s list when it comes to improving your pitching staff,” Ash said. “We’re not up to date with his physical condition right now since he’s no longer in our care, so that would have to be Step 1. But from our point of view, we enjoyed Ben as part of the Brewers and there’s been, ‘once in a while’ conversations with his agent to remind him that we still have that ongoing interest. It hasn’t been followed-up yet.”
- Melvin already interviewed one potential pitching coach on Monday and was to travel with Ash on Thursday to interview another candidate. He wouldn’t say whether he had already spoken with former A’s and Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson, an early favorite for the position because of his past working relationships with Brewers manager Ken Macha and bench coach Willie Randolph.
“We don’t want to advertise who we’re looking at,” Melvin said. “The cat’s out of the bag on one guy. I interviewed him on Monday and another team interviewed him the next day.”
- Ash shed more light on the options that faced third baseman Casey McGehee, who underwent successful surgery on Tuesday. McGehee has a lesion in his knee, Ash said, that causes fragments of bone to break away. He could have had a more intensive procedure to inject healthy cells into the knee to promote re-growth but it was a riskier procedure that could have sidelined McGehee weeks or even months into the 2010 season.
“He elected, after consulting with a couple of surgeons, to have kind of the intermediary procedure done, and that was to take out all of the fragments and hope that area of his knee remains intact,” Ash said. “We don’t have 100 percent guarantee on that. What we do know about Casey is that he’s an excellent worker and he’s motivated.”
- Melvin did little to dispute the notion that shortstop J.J. Hardy will be traded this winter to make room for Alcides Escobar. Hardy’s value is down both because of his poor 2009 season (he batted .229 and was optioned to the Minors in August) and because the rest of the league knows that the Brewers are ready to install Escobar.
“It might be down a little bit,” Melvin said of Hardy’s value. “But there are still clubs that have interest in him. Shortstop is a big hole to fill.”
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The inventory of Jason Kendall bobbleheads to replace the thousands damaged in the June flood at Miller Park have arrived, and fans may redeem the collectible beginning at Friday’s Brewers-Giants game.
Fans must present a voucher for redemption. Vouchers were distributed to fans who did not receive a Kendall Bobblehead on the date of the June 28 all-fan giveaway.
There are two redemption methods available for fans:
- For fans attending games at Miller Park: Vouchers can be turned in at a redemption table located on the Field Level concourse on the first base side. The table will be staffed from the time gates open through the end of the second inning.
- For fans not attending a Brewers game: Fans may redeem their voucher at the Brewers Team Store by Majestic during regular store hours. The store, which is located adjacent to Friday’s Front Row restaurant, is open on non-game days from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, on Saturday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
The All Fan Jason Kendall Bobble Head was presented by Palermo’s and Pick n’ Save.