Brewers could be done with ‘pen renovations

January 9, 2013

> For a while, I was worried that the Brewers weren’t going to be able to pick up a lefty reliever this offseason. They haven’t had a consistent left-handed arm out of the bullpen in years, and Manny Parra being non-tendered left them with almost no possibilities on their 40-man roster.

But, while I was away, the Brewers turned it around and signed two left-handers with very solid track records: Tom Gorzelanny and Mike Gonzalez.

Gorzelanny, a name Brewers fans may know from his time with the Pirates and Cubs, thrived out of the Nationals’ bullpen last season, his first full season as a reliever. He went 4-2 with a 2.88 ERA in 45 games (72 innings). He won’t strike out a hoard of batters, but hasn’t had a K/9 below 7.3 since 2008. Gorzelanny also gives the Brewers a bit of versatility out of the ‘pen- he can be a lefty specialist, a long reliever, or even a spot starter. Gorzo’s contract is for two years and $6 million.

Gonzalez, on the other hand, is a true lefty specialist, or “LOOGy” (lefty-one-out-guy). He was also with the Nats last year, but didn’t sign until midseason. In 47 games (35 2/3 IP), he posted a 3.03 ERA. But the primary stat to look at for a guy like Gonzalez how left-handed batters fare against him, and in 2012 they didn’t have much success. Gonzalez held them to just a .179 average. He did allow righties to hit .297 against him, but, assuming Ron Roenicke uses him correctly, that won’t be much of an issue.

Gonzalez

The additions of these guys should seal up the revamped Brewers bullpen, which is actually starting to look like a strength, in my opinion. If the season started tomorrow, this is how I’d assemble it:

John Axford (closer)
Jim Henderson (primary setup man)
Burke Badenhop
Mike Gonzalez
Tom Gorzelanny
Brandon Kintzler
Michael Olmsted

The first five are locks, but the last two spots could be up for grabs in Spring Training. The Brewers actually have a wealth of power righties to choose from for those two spots, however- aside from Kintzler and Olmsted, there’s Johnny Hellweg, Josh Stinson, Jesus Sanchez, or even Mark Rogers (I’ll touch on his case in the coming days). But Kintzler, who has parts of three big league seasons under his belt, will definitely be a favorite. Same goes for Olmsted, who posted god-like numbers at Boston’s Double-A affiliate in 2012.

> The Brewers also signed multiple players to minor league deals while I was away: right-handed reliever Jim Hoey, shortstop Ozzie Martinez, and outfielders Rene Tosoni and Cole Garner.

> Arcenio Leon was designated for assignment yesterday after the Brewers made the Gonzalez signing official.


Brewers making lefty relievers a priority

December 3, 2012

> The Brewers went a long time without announcing it publicly, but we all knew left-handed relief pitching was a necessity for the Brewers coming into this offseason. In fact, getting an established, healthy lefty for the bullpen has been a huge issue for the Brewers ever since early 2011. Going into that season, the Brewers thought they were going to have Zach Braddock, Manny Parra, and Mitch Stetter as left-handed options out of the ‘pen, but injuries (and personal issues, in Braddock’s case) plagued all of them. Parra missed all of 2011, Stetter had season-ending hip surgery early on, and Braddock never quite regained his 2010 form. So, for their playoff run in 2011, the Brewers went without a lefty arm out of the ‘pen (until the postseason, when Chris Narveson was available). 

Now, all three of those lefties are gone, and the Brewers will have to begin from scratch. They’ll probably have to do so via the free agent market, where there’s a solid crop of left-handers. Those options include Sean Burnett, Randy Choate, Mike Gonzalez, J.P. Howell, and Tom Gorzelanny.

Choate would probably be the toughest guy to sign, because the Dodgers have expressed interest in bringing him back, and we all know the Dodgers are going to get whoever they want this offseason. I thought it was going to be the same situation for Burnett and the Nationals, but now that we know he’s not actually seeking a four-year deal (which would have been ridiculous), I see him as a possibility for the Brewers. Howell would also be decent, but the market for him is reportedly at least eight teams; same goes for Gonzalez. Gorzelanny would be the easiest and cheapest option, but I see him as more of a lefty long reliever, which the Brewers might already have if they decide to move Narveson to the bullpen.

In my opinion, the best guy on that list is Burnett. Ever since 2009, he’s been one of the best left-handed relievers in the game. In 2012, he had a career year with the Nats, going 1-2 with a 2.38 ERA in 70 games (56 2/3 IP). He also had a 1.9 BB/9 and 9.1 K/9, which are exactly the stats you want to see out of a specialist like Burnett. My only concern regarding those numbers are they were far better than his career statistics in each of those categories- he has a career 3.6 BB/9 and 6.6 K/9, which leads to believe he could regress back to those numbers eventually. Regardless, Burnett is probably the best option on the list.

Burnett

There’s only one issue with the Brewers and the left-handed relief market: the Cardinals are also in dire need of a lefty reliever. Marc Rzepczynski flamed out under the pressure of being the only lefty reliever the Cards could rely upon in 2012. The Cardinals tried to fix that with minor leaguers Barret Browning and Sam Freeman, but neither of them really panned out, either. Hence, the Cards are also in the market for a lefty reliever.

It was reported the other day that Burnett came out and asked the Cardinals for a four-year deal, but his agent shot that down immediately (thank goodness). Still, that could mean the Cards also think Burnett is the best lefty available, so it could end up being a bidding war between them and the Brewers.

> When asked about the recent acquisition of Burke Badenhop, Doug Melvin called him a “young, cheaper Kameron Loe-type pitcher.”

I like the younger and cheaper part, but there was absolutely no need to insult the new guy right away. It’ll be tough for him to be as bad as Loe was.

> The Rockies are interested in another lefty reliever, Daniel Schlereth, who I almost forgot about. Schlereth hit the free agent market the other day after being non-tendered by the Tigers. He doesn’t have the greatest career numbers, but, if the other options thin out quickly, he could become a potential option himself.


Brewers, Parra go their separate ways

December 1, 2012

> As expected, the Brewers officially cut ties with their second-longest tenured player, Manny Parra. The Brewers had five arbitration eligibles, the others being John Axford, Marco Estrada, Chris Narveson, and Carlos Gomez, and Parra was the only one to be non-tendered.

Parra, a lefty who has always had great stuff, had a very frustrating Brewers career, to say the least. He went 10-8 with a 4.39 ERA in his first full season in 2008, but has posted a 5.61 ERA in the years since. In 2009, 2010, and 2012 (he missed 2011 because of injuries), he had an ERA above 5.00. It appeared Parra was going to blossom into an ace, especially after he threw a perfect game in his first Triple-A start back in 2007, but he never panned out.

Maybe Parra just needs a change of scenery, and that’s probably something he’s going to get. Though a lot of Parra’s career stats are alarming- his 5.12 ERA, 5.4 BB/9, and 1.645 WHIP are the highlights of them- he has a career 8.4 K/9. That, coming from a power lefty who also has a splitter, is going to draw interest from teams regardless of the other stats.

So best of luck to Parra wherever he ends up; it simply didn’t work out in Milwaukee.

Parra

> There have been a few mega-deals/large extensions signed over the past few days. Today, David Wright’s seven-year, $122 million deal with the Mets followed Evan Longoria’s six-year, $100 million extension with the Rays. Both of these are similar to the extensions Ryan Braun and Joey Votto signed in recent years.

> Minor moves: 

Diamondbacks: Released Brad Bergesen.
Angels: Acquired Tommy Hanson from the Braves; claimed Scott Cousins off waivers from the Mariners.
Braves: Acquired Jordan Walden from the Angels; claimed David Carpenter off waivers from the Red Sox; non-tendered Jair Jurrjens and Peter Moylan.
Marlins: Claimed Joe Mahoney off waivers from the Orioles.
Indians: Claimed Mike McDade off waivers from the Blue Jays; designated Chris Seddon for assignment; signed Fernando Nieve to a minor league deal; non-tendered Rafael Perez and Jack Hannahan.
Blue Jays: Outrighted Cory Wade, who elected free agency; outrighted Joel Carreno and Mike McCoy to Triple-A.
Astros: Claimed Philip Humber off waivers from the White Sox.
Yankees: Claimed Jim Miller off waivers from the Athletics; designated Mickey Storey and Jayson Nix for assignment.
Orioles: Acquired Yamaico Navarro from the Pirates; designated Stuart Pomeranz for assignment; non-tendered Omar Quintanilla and Mark Reynolds; re-signed Taylor Teagarden, Steve Pearce, and Alexi Casilla to one-year deals.
Pirates: Acquired Jhondaniel Medina from the Orioles; acquired Zach Thornton from the Athletics; non-tendered Jeff Karstens.
Athletics: Acquired Chris Resop from the Pirates; re-signed Daric Barton and Adam Rosales to one-year deals; designated Sandy Rosario for assignment; non-tendered Jermaine Mitchell.
Cubs: Non-tendered Ian Stewart, Jaye Chapman, and Zach Putnam; outrighted Casey Coleman to Triple-A. Padres: Non-tendered Juan Oramas.
Mets: Non-tendered Mike Pelfrey, Andres Torres, and Manny Acosta.
Phillies: Non-tendered Nate Schierholtz.
Royals: Outrighted Ryan Verdugo and Adam Moore to Triple-A; re-signed Chris Getz to a one-year deal; non-tendered Derrick Robinson.
Twins: Outrighted Deolis Guerra to Triple-A.
Red Sox: Non-tendered Rich Hill, Ryan Sweeney, and Scott Atchison.
White Sox: Non-tendered Anthony Carter and Dan Johnson.
Tigers: Non-tendered Daniel Schlereth.
Nationals: Non-tendered John Lannan, Tom Gorzelanny, and Jesus Flores.


Crew will have to compete for Dempster

November 30, 2012

> Turns out the Brewers aren’t the only team expressing interest in Ryan Dempster. In fact, the other two teams could be very tough to bid against, seeing as they each reside in relatively big markets.

The two teams the Brewers will have to deal with are the Angels and Red Sox, both of whom are in desperate need of a starting pitcher; perhaps even more so than the Brewers.

If the Brewers don’t end up signing a veteran starter this offseason, it isn’t the end of the world. The Brewers still have a nice crop of big league-ready starting pitching prospects to choose from, including Mike Fiers, Wily Peralta, Mark Rogers, and Tyler Thornburg. The same can’t be said for the Angels or Red Sox, however. The reason the Angels acquired Zack Greinke at the Trade Deadline was because of their lack of prospects ready to start at the big league level, and now they’re in jeopardy of not being able to re-sign Greinke. The Red Sox, on the other hand, have just had all sorts of starting pitching issues over the past few years, and now they’re trying to dip into the free agent market to fix it.

Despite the fact both of these teams have bigger markets than Milwaukee (though we have a ton of payroll flexibility right now), the Brewers could hold a few advantages. The first is that the Brewers are the only of these three teams in the National League. After posting a 5.09 ERA with the Rangers in the second half of 2012, which is his only extended period of pitching in the American League, it goes without saying that Dempster is an NL pitcher. Dempster’s success at Miller Park could also factor into the decision.

Or, the Brewers could get lucky and one of the other teams will drop out of the bidding. Last year, it was speculated early in the offseason that the Phillies- who needed a third baseman- were targeting Aramis Ramirez. There was no doubt in my mind that they were going to sign him and the Brewers would be left hanging, but the Phils unexpectedly dropped out and left Ramirez for the taking. It’s unlikely, but perhaps similar circumstances will ensue this offseason.

Anyway, like I said earlier, it isn’t the apocalypse (not until December 21st, that is) if the Brewers don’t sign Dempster. Their farm system is ready to occupy a few of the rotation spots if need be. And Dempster isn’t the only guy on the market. There are guys like Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson out there, who could also be potential fits for the Brewers (though, as I’ve preached, Dempster is the much safer play).

Dempster isn’t a neccesity, but could be a very nice asset to the 2013 Brewers.

> Tomorrow is the deadline to tender or non-tender arbitration-eligible players. John Axford, Marco Estrada, and Carlos Gomez appear to be locks to be tendered contracts. Chris Narveson will probably be given a contract. The only guy who isn’t so likely to be tendered is Manny Parra, who I wouldn’t mind seeing the Brewers cut ties with at this point.

> Minor moves: 

Pirates: Signed Russell Martin to a two-year deal.
Rays: Signed Mike Fontenot to a minor league deal.
Royals: Outrighted Chris Volstad and Brayan Pena, both of whom elected free agency; re-signed Felipe Paulino to a one-year deal.
Rangers: Signed Collin Balester and Yangervis Solarte to minor league deals.
Padres: Signed Travis Buck, Eddy Rodriguez, and Daniel Stange to minor league deals.
Athletics: Signed Scott Moore to a minor league deal.
Yankees: Re-signed Mariano Rivera to a one-year deal.
Nationals: Acquired Denard Span from the Twins.
Twins: Acquired Alex Meyer from the Nationals.
Indians: Re-signed Blake Wood to a one-year deal.


Brewers have arby decisions to make

November 26, 2012

> It came upon us rather quickly, but the arbitration deadline is already this Friday. Coming into the offseason, the Brewers had nine players to whom they would have to decide whether or not to tender them contracts, but that list has since been cut to five. Nyjer Morgan, Jose Veras, Travis Ishikawa, and Kameron Loe were all arbitration-eligible, but were cut loose earlier this month, so they’re no longer the Brewers’ problems to deal with. All of those names would have probably been non-tendered anyway.

But, there are still five arbitration-eligible players on the Brewers’ roster: John Axford, Chris Narveson, Marco Estrada, Manny Parra, and Carlos Gomez. Back in October, MLB Trade Rumors projected the possible salaries each will earn in 2013: they had Axford at $5.1 million, Narveson $800,000, Estrada $1.6 million, Parra $1.6 million, and Gomez $3.4 million. Most of them- save for Axford- should come relatively cheap.

The only immediate non-tender candidate that comes to mind is Parra, who I have to guess the Brewers are sick of at this point. He has great stuff, he’s a lefty, he once threw a perfect game in the minors- so why hasn’t he been able to find it during his first few years in the Majors? I thought shifting him to the bullpen permanently would benefit Parra mentally, and help the Brewers as a team, seeing as they went most of 2011 without a left-hander in the ‘pen. But, in 2012, Parra was unable to maintain consistency, and Ron Roenicke was hesitant to use him in tight situations (for good reason). $1.6 million isn’t much (though I get the feeling Parra will attempt to demand more), but he should follow Veras and Loe out the door.

I’m sorry, but Axford isn’t going to get $5.1 million. The case for him is that he saved 35 games in 2012, but then you have to remember he blew a Major League-leading nine saves. Axford is going to get the closer’s role back in 2013, but not at that price.

Gomez is going to be the Brewers’ starting center fielder in 2013 (unless they somehow pick up Josh Hamilton) following his breakout season at the plate, at least power-wise (he slugged a career-high 19 home runs). I’d take that and his dangerous abilities for $3.4 million, no doubt.

Lastly, there’s Narveson, who will certainly be back in 2013 (although it’s uncertain whether he’ll be in the bullpen or rotation). MLBTR is predicting that his season-ending rotator cuff surgery will keep him below a salary of $1 million once again, so the Brewers should be able to bring him back easily.

All of these guys will probably avoid arbitration. The Brewers’ last arby hearing came last spring with Veras, but the Brewers won it easily.

> According to Jim Bowden, Zack Greinke’s “camp” expects him to become the richest right-handed pitcher in history, while even possibly passing Cole Hamels’ six-year, $153 million deal with the Phillies.

OK, I love Greinke, but let’s step back and look at this from another perspective. Greinke’s career ERA is 3.77. That’s a good ERA, no doubt. But is it honestly worth giving him the richest contract in history for a pitcher? Matt Cain, who currently has the biggest contract out of any righty in history, has a career 3.27 ERA. Hamels’ career ERA is 3.34.

Another thing to keep in mind about Greinke: that career ERA is with his AL Cy Young year in 2009, during which he put up a 2.16 ERA. Take that away, and he his career ERA is borderline of 4.00. Not to mention Greinke’s lowest single-season ERA other than the CYA year is 3.47.

Again, not trying to hate on Greinke or anything; I’d love for the Brewers to bring him back (though now I know it’s not going to happen). But does he deserve to be the richest right-handed pitcher in the history of the game? No way.

> Minor moves: 

Indians: Outrighted Brent Lillibridge, who elected free agency.


Potential relief options for the Brewers

November 25, 2012

> As I stated the other day, relievers could be hard to come by this offseason, largely in part to the multi-year deals that Jeremy Affeldt and Brandon League have already signed with the Giants and Dodgers, respectively. But the Brewers are certainly going to need at least one relatively-known name in the bullpen by the end of the offseason in order to shore up what proved to be the anchor of the team in 2012.

Here’s a list of potential closers who are on the market this offseason. Some of them are far out of the Brewers’ reach because they won’t fit financially, some are middle-of-the-pack (the most likely for the Brewers to sign), and some should be stayed away from for other reasons.

Jonathan Broxton
Matt Capps
Francisco Cordero
Kyle Farnsworth
Ryan Madson
Juan Carlos Oviedo
J.J. Putz
Mariano Rivera
Francisco Rodriguez
Joakim Soria
Jose Valverde

You can probably immediately tell who the Brewers are interested in and who they aren’t. In my opinion, the Brewers’ best bet would be Farnsworth, because he’d come relatively cheap and showed huge potential as the Rays’ closer in 2011. It’s doubtful that he’d close for the Brewers, since they seem pretty intent on keeping John Axford in the role, but Farnsworth could fill a gaping hole in the eighth inning if the Brewers fail to sign another setup man (which I’ll get to later). Oviedo- or Leo Nunez, who most probably still know him as- might not be a bad option for that role either, but he hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2011 because of identity issues and injuries. Soria and Madson also haven’t pitched in a big league game since 2011. Capps, Valverde, Cordero, and obviously K-Rod were all flat-out ineffective in 2012. I suppose I wouldn’t mind Broxton after the 2012 he had, but I have to wonder where his asking price would be.

So, of that group, Farnsworth would be the most logical signing for the Brewers. I’ll admit my confidence in him wavered after his 2012, but what more do the Brewers have to lose?

Next is a list of free agent right-handed pitchers, ranging from guys with previous closing experience to near no-names. There are far more names on this list that I wouldn’t mind the Brewers bringing aboard.

Jeremy Accardo
Mike Adams
Luis Ayala
Miguel Batista
Todd Coffey
Jose Contreras
Juan Cruz
Chad Durbin
Jason Frasor
Kevin Gregg
LaTroy Hawkins
Clay Hensley
Bobby Jenks
Brad Lidge
Matt Lindstrom
Mark Lowe
Brandon Lyon
Mike MacDougal
Guillermo Mota
Micah Owings
Vicente Padilla
Chad Qualls
Ramon Ramirez
Jon Rauch
Fernando Rodney
Takashi Saito
Rafael Soriano
Yoshinori Tateyama
Carlos Villanueva
Dan Wheeler
Jamey Wright
Jason Grilli

My wish list from this series of names (while trying to stay within the Brewers’ budget) would be Adams, Frasor, Lindstrom, Grilli, and/0r Padilla. Adams, a former Brewer, has become a different pitcher since he left, featuring a nice cutter to go along with nasty breaking stuff. He would slot perfectly into the eighth inning role. Grilli, Frasor, Lindstrom, and Padilla are all power arms, which is what the Brewers are looking for this offseason.

Anyway, Rodney is by far the best name on the list, but he’s going to draw far too many suitors for the Brewers to compete with; same goes for Soriano. I wouldn’t be completely opposed to bringing Hawkins or Saito back on one-year deals, but health is obviously an issue for both of them at this point in their careers. I also wouldn’t mind seeing Villanueva in a Brewers uniform again, but he’s reportedly looking for a job as a full-time starter.

If it weren’t already obvious, the guys the Brewers need to stay away from include Durbin, Jenks, and Qualls.

Lastly, here is the list of lefty relievers on the market. Seeing as Manny Parra might not be back next year (and he wasn’t effective as the only lefty in the bullpen anyway), I’d like to see the Brewers pick up at least one of these guys.

Sean Burnett
Tim Byrdak
Randy Choate
Pedro Feliciano
J.P. Howell
Will Ohman
J.C. Romero
Hisanori Takahashi

Two of these lefties- Burnett and Choate- would be nice additions for the Brewers, but both are more than likely going to re-sign with their current teams. I’d love for the Brewers to sign Howell- which they are probably capable of doing- but the market for him is reportedly at least eight teams. Feliciano, however, could be a very interesting option. He hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2010 with the Mets due to injuries. But, before that, he was one of the best lefty specialists in the game, and led the league in appearances from 2008-2010. Even though there are some question marks surrounding him, he might be the best option for the Brewers.

The bottom line is the Brewers need to add at least one or two of these relievers, but there are certainly more than enough to choose from.

(Note: these free agent lists are courtesy of SportsCity)

> Minor moves: 

Indians: Signed Nate Spears and Jose Flores to minor league deals.


The Gold Glove continues to be a screwy award

November 4, 2012

> If there’s going to be an award called a “Gold Glove” handed out to a player at each position every year, it should go to the best defensive player at that position for that given year, no?

Apparently not. Before I get into my point, here are the 2012 GG winners for each position:

American League:

C: Matt Wieters, Orioles
1B: Mark Teixera, Yankees
2B: Robinson Cano, Yankees
SS: J.J. Hardy, Orioles
3B: Adrian Beltre, Rangers
LF: Alex Gordon, Royals
CF: Adam Jones, Orioles
RF: Josh Reddick, Athletics
P: Jeremy Hellickson, Rays/Jake Peavy, White Sox

National League:

C: Yadier Molina, Cardinals
1B: Adam LaRoche, Nationals
2B: Darwin Barney, Cubs
SS: Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
3B: Chase Headley, Padres
LF:
Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies
CF: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
RF: Jason Heyward, Braves
P: Mark Buehrle, Marlins

Plenty of guys were considered “snubbed” at their respective positions because of their reputation for making spectacular defensive plays. Take Mike Trout, for instance. He robbed home runs (literally going up the wall and bringing the ball back into the park) on three occasions this year as the center fielder for the Angels. But why did Jones win?

Statistically, Jones actually had a better defensive season than Trout; Jones had the better defensive WAR. Denard Span of the Twins also had a better defensive WAR than Trout.

In my opinion, that’s the way it should be- the guy who is statistically the best defender at each position should win. That happened in a few cases this year: Rollins had the best fielding percentage among NL shortstops, Barney committed just two errors at second base (which led NL second baseman, obviously), Teixera had just one error all year, Cano was tied for first in fielding percentage at second base, and so on.

But, of course, when it came to the possibility of a Brewer getting a Gold Glove, he got screwed. Aramis Ramirez led the NL in fielding percentage and had the fewest errors among qualifying third basemen. So who obviously wins the award at third base? Headley, duh.

But why? If one player has better defensive statistics than another player at a certain position, that player should win the Gold Glove. This is the one award I think should be strongly influenced by statistics, because there’s always going to be one player who is definitively better than another (statistically) at each position. Most of the defensive statistics go hand-in-hand, so it’s unlikely there’s going to be two players who each have one better defensive statistic than the other. This is a far different award than something like the MVP or Cy Young Award, in which there are a series of different statistics that don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with each other. That makes for more of an argument for who should win those award, which is why it’s okay for there to be voters.

But there shouldn’t be a vote for the Gold Glove. There’s a best defensive player at each position, and that’s that.

THE NEWS

> The Brewers signed free agent righty Michael Olmsted to a minor league contract.

> Travis Ishikawa officially elected free agency.

> Two Brewers were selected to play in the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars game- Hunter Morris and Johnny Hellweg. Morris hit clean-up and went 1-for-1 with an infield single and a sacrifice fly.

> The Cubs nearly sent Carlos Marmol to the Angels in exchange for Dan Haren last night, but the deal wound up not going through. The Angels were looking for anything they could get before they had to decline Haren’s option for 2013, but, since the trade didn’t come to fruition, they were forced to decline the option. Haren is now a free agent and could be a possible fit for the Brewers.

> 10 teams are reportedly interested in lefty free agent Mike Gonzalez. I’d take him, seeing as the Brewers will be very thin on lefty relievers once again next year (if they have any). Manny Parra, the only lefty in the Brewers’ bullpen in 2012, is probably going to be one of the next guys to go.

> Minor moves:

Rockies: Outrighted Carlos Torres to Triple-A; reinstated Josh Sullivan, Todd Helton, Juan Nicasio, and Christian Friedrich from the 60-day DL.
Orioles: Outrighted Lew Ford, Zach Phillips, and Steven Tolleson to Triple-A.
Mets: Outrighted Mike Nickeas to Triple-A.
Twins: Outrighted Sam Deduno to Triple-A.
Royals: Outrighted Manny Pina to Triple-A; reinstated Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino from the 60-day DL.
Mariners: Signed Hisashi Iwakuma to a two-year extension; re-signed Oliver Perez.
Blue Jays: Acquired Esmil Rogers from the Indians.
Indians: Acquired Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes from the Jays.
Cardinals: Outrighted Steven Hill, Bryan Anderson, and Adam Reifer to Triple-A.
Pirates: Outrighted Ali Solis to Triple-A.
Astros: Outrighted Chuckie Fick to Triple-A; outrighted Brian Bogusevic, Jorge De Leon, and J.B. Shuck, all of whom elected free agency.
Athletics: Re-signed Bartolo Colon to a one-year deal.
Marlins: Signed Kevin Kouzmanoff and Jordan Smith to minor league deals.


Brewers mount comeback to hold ground

September 21, 2012

POSTGAME

> It’s now safe to say that the Brewers are never out of any game. Despite a large early lead, they had to play comeback today, and they were successful. The Brewers managed to take a 9-7 win in a four-hour, back-and-forth contest with the Pirates.

The Brewers got off to a quick start, jumping on Wandy Rodriguez for three runs- including an Aramis Ramirez two-run blast- in the first inning. But, with a 4-0 lead in the third, Mike Fiers gave up a three-run homer to Andrew McCutchen. Fiers, who needed 81 pitches to get through just three innings, was removed after that.

After tying the game in the fourth, the Pirates rallied against Kameron Loe for three in the sixth inning, with a home run from Clint Barmes and an RBI single by Starling Marte.

Going into the eighth inning, the Bucs had a comfortable 7-3, but you could just tell the Brewers were going to mount a rally against struggling reliever Chad Qualls. And they wasted no time in doing so, as a two-run double from Norichika Aoki and a two-run triple from Rickie Weeks quickly knotted the game up at 7-7. Ramirez then gave the Brewers the lead with an RBI single. Logan Schafer tacked on an insurance run with an RBI single in the ninth as well.

John Axford nailed down the save for the second straight night, as he worked around a Jean Segura error to strike out the side.

MY TAKE

> Segura’s error in the ninth inning should have probably been charged to first baseman Travis Ishikawa. Segura’s throw was slightly high, but it’s a throw that Ishikawa has to be able to handle.

> After the bullpen got off to a rough start (Brandon Kintzler gave up the lead following Fiers’ exit, then Loe nearly let the Pirates blow it open), they settled down nicely to shut down the Pirates for the rest of the game. Jose Veras got out of Loe’s jam in the sixth, Manny Parra threw a scoreless seventh, Francisco Rodriguez handled the eighth, and Axford got another save as he continues his return to form.

> I hate to say it, but Fiers is starting to look legitimately fatigued on the mound. He hasn’t pitched more than five innings in any of his last three starts. As I noted on Twitter earlier, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ron Roenicke pull the plug on his season any day now.

> Jason Grilli plunked Ryan Braun in theseventh inning- when the Pirates had a three-run lead. That drew a standing ovation from the Pittsburgh crowd. Hope they enjoyed the eighth-inning rally too.

So now I’ve concluded that their fanbase doesn’t deserve a playoff berth, or a mere .500 season. If they act like that, they can stay in the cellar of the NL Central for the next 20 years as well- or longer.

Stay classy, Pittsburgh.

THE NEWS

> Corey Hart made an unexpected return to the lineup today. He went 1-for-3 with a single, but it was noticeable that he was uncomfortable at the plate. Hart was removed in the fifth in exchange for Ishikawa.

> Axford said that the Zack Greinke trade “sharpened the Brewers’ focus.”

> Roenicke made a case for Aoki’s Rookie of the Year chances.

THE NUMBERS

> The Brewers’ current five-game winning streak is their longest on the season.

> This is the first time all year the Brewers have been give games over .500.

> Here’s the explanation for the Brewers passing up the Bucs in the standings: the Brewers have won 23 of their last 29 games. During that same stretch, the Pirates have won seven games.

> Oh, and the Pirates fell a game under .500.

> The Dodgers lost to the Nats, so the Brewers have leap-frogged them in the Wild Card race.

> The probables for the upcoming series against the Nationals:

Shaun Marcum (5-4, 3.91 ERA) vs. Edwin Jackson (9-10, 3.89 ERA)

Wily Peralta (2-0, 2.14 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (19-8, 2.95 ERA)

Yovani Gallardo (16-8, 3.59 ERA) vs. ???

Marco Estrada (4-6, 3.56 ERA) vs. ???

THE EXTRAS

> MLB Network’s Intentional Talk interviewed Axford the other day. But I was more amused at the murderous look on Jim Henderson’s face the entire time. Click here; you’ll know what I mean.

> This year’s edition of rookie hazing. They’re supposed to be the Flintstones… I think?

(It would appear Carlos Gomez took the photo.)


Brewers pull within one of .500

September 9, 2012

POSTGAME

> With the way the Brewers were playing just a few weeks ago, I never would have guessed they’d even be in shouting distance of the .500 mark at any point the rest of the season. Yet, here they are at 69-70, after taking a key series from the Cardinals.

The Brewers won tonight, 6-3. Mike Fiers was on the mound, and he certainly didn’t have his best stuff, but it was enough to get by. He needed 96 pitches to get through just five innings while giving up a run on five hits. He walked three and struck out five.

The Brewers got on the board first in the second inning on a Carlos Gomez squeeze bunt, followed by Fiers getting an RBI single of his own. They also got a few runs late, with a Rickie Weeks home run in the seventh inning and Aramis Ramirez’s solo homer in the ninth.

THE NEWS

> Manny Parra says he’s doing OK after taking a line drive to the face in the ninth inning of last night’s marathon.

> Speaking of line drives to the head, Athletics starter Brandon McCarthy is recovering in the hospital following what looked like a life-threatening play.

> The Nationals shut down Stephen Strasburg early. Now I would love to see them lose the World Series by one game.

A few big names have tried to indirectly talk some sense into the Nats’ front office. Former pitcher Jim Kaat wrote Stras an open letter talking about why he thought the decision was incorrect. Heck, even freaking Tommy John himself disagrees with the decision.

THE NUMBERS

> The Brewers’ 3-4-5-6 hitters went 11-for-20 in tonight’s game.

> Ramirez went a perfect 3-for-3 in his return to the lineup. He also brought his average up to .300 for the first time this season.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Shaun Marcum (5-4, 3.53 ERA) vs. Joe Kelly (5-6, 3.54 ERA)


Offense crushes McDonald early

September 3, 2012

POSTGAME

> You could tell from the early innings on that today was going to be a slugfest, and that’s exactly what happened. Thankfully, it came out in favor of the Brewers, who downed the Pirates, 12-8. It was home runs galore, as a grand total of eight of them were hit between the two teams.

The Brewers absolutely murdered James McDonald, tagging him for eight runs (seven earned) in just 2 2/3 innings. Ryan Braun hit a mammoth three-run blast off him in the first inning, then Jeff Bianchi and Rickie Weeks each hit bombs off him in the second (all three were tape-measure shots). Carlos Gomez added one in the third inning, which spelled the end of the day for McDonald.

But the offense wasn’t done after that. Aramis Ramirez added two RBi singles before it was all said and done, and even Yovani Gallardo- the starter- hit a solo blast.

CUTCH DOESN’T DESERVE THE MVP- AT THE MOMENT

> So recently I’ve been preaching that, if the National League MVP award was handed out today, I would not give it to Andrew McCutchen. Today I finally put something on Twitter regarding that, saying that I laugh at the people who were handing him the award two months ago.

Naturally, I received gas for voicing my opinion that, more often than not, differs from others. My main point was that you shouldn’t assume whoever is having the best season in freaking June is going to win the MVP award. But I also wanted to state that McCutchen has been in a bit of a tailspin lately. He was hitting roughly .370 last month, but dropped all the way to the .340 range in August. Like I said, .340 is still great, but people seem to be forgetting that it’s still a drop of .3 in average points, which itself is horrible.

And, not surprisingly, during McCutchen’s drop in average, the Pirates have dropped in the standings. They’re 11 games back of the Reds in the National League Central, and let the Cardinals pass them in both the division and Wild Card standings (obviously). Yes, the Pirates are still just 1.5 games out of a WC spot, but that’s courtesy of some sheepish play on the Cardinals’ part.

I stated this in an article a few days ago, but I don’t see the Pirates being relevant come October. If they can’t beat teams like the Brewers and Padres, then they don’t belong in the postseason. And it’s pretty much a given that, if the Pirates don’t make it, McCutchen won’t take home the award. That’s just the way the voting works nowadays. Say the Cardinals and/or Giants make it. Then someone like Matt Holliday or Buster Posey will win it because of the value they had on their team’s postseason run.

There were some false assumptions on Twitter today; I did NOT say McCutchen is having a bad season by any means. Even after his slump (by his standards), he’s up there among league leaders in most offensive categories, and his defense is spectacular in center field. But, if the Pirates don’t make it, there’s plenty of reason to doubt he’ll still win the MVP award.

MY TAKE

> Today proved that Ron Roenicke has no idea how to manage a pitching staff. He left in Gallardo to get the crap beaten out of him for 4 2/3 innings, forcing him to throw 119 pitches. But would he ever be allowed to throw a 119-pitch complete game? No, because that’s too many innings.

Makes sense, right?

> Manny Parra continues to state his case for not being on the team next year. He came on to start the ninth with a four-run lead, but allowed a hit and a walk. RRR decided not take any chances and put in John Axford, who managed to bail out Parra and record the save.

But what caught me was the way Parra reacted to being removed. He whipped the ball back at Martin Maldonado before leaving the field, then appeared to be angry with Roenicke. But honestly, what is Parra expecting? Going out and throwing like crap every other outing isn’t going to win your manager’s confidence (no matter how mindless that manager may be). He’s become strangely cocky about himself this year, despite the fact this is arguably his worst year in the Majors. His attitude and performance definitely don’t match.

THE NEWS

> Pirates manager Clint Hurdle claims that the Brewers are still dangerous in the pennant race.

“Toughest thing to do in sports is repeat. I know that going in. They’ve had a lot of injuries, and some pitching challenges, which never bodes well for a club. They’re a very dangerous club right now, very dangerous. Offensively, they can beat you a number of different ways. One of the best dynamics to have offensively is speed and power, and they have that. The speed shows up every day.”

“They’re playing with a lot of pride, playing together. And whether you like it or not, sometimes you get in situations where your best opportunity is to finish strong, and wreck other people’s seasons.”

> Chris Narveson began a throwing program today.

> Randy Wolf made his debut for the Orioles today, against the Yankees. He came on in relief of the injured Chris Tillman, and threw 3 1/3 innings while giving up a run and notching the win.

THE NUMBERS

> Every starter in the lineup- except Maldonado- had a hit.

> The Brewers have gone on an 11-2 run in which they went from 12.5 games back in the WC standings to 6.5. But, according to CoolStandings.com, they still have only a 0.6 chance at making the postseason.

> Braun tied his career-high in homers (37), and we still have a month to go. It’s also worth mentioning he’s two away from 200 dingers for his career.

> The probables for the upcoming series against the Marlins:

Mike Fiers (8-6, 2.85 ERA) vs. Ricky Nolasco (10-12, 4.78 ERA)

Shaun Marcum (5-4, 3.35 ERA) vs. Jacob Turner (1-3, 7.33 ERA)

??? vs. Nathan Eovaldi (4-10, 4.48 ERA)

Marco Estrada (2-5, 3.85 ERA) vs. Josh Johnson (7-11, 3.86 ERA)

The ??? will probably be Wily Peralta, since Mark Rogers has been shut down for the year.


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