> Yesterday was a productive day for the Brewers’ front office. In the morning, they signed free agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Then, by night, they traded third baseman Casey McGehee to the Pirates for reliever Jose Veras. Both of these moves will have a huge impact on the Brewers will look next year- and it’s probably going to be much different than they looked in 2011.
> But these moves also opened up a few opportunities for young players, while closing them for other players.
The question at third base in 2012 was obviously answered when the Brewers signed Ramirez. After McGehee, who’d been the Brewers starting third baseman from 2009-2011, had a rough year last year, there were questions about whether or not the Brewers would get decent production from that position. McGehee had been one of the Brewers’ most consistent hitters in 2009 and 2010, hitting .301 and .285 (in the respective years). But, he slumped down to a .223 average in 2011, and, by the playoffs, had lost his starting position.
Despite the fact he’s 33, Ramirez should give the Brewers good production at third base. He hit .306 with 26 homers and 93 RBIs in 2011, and has proved over the years that he can hit 25-30 homers on a consistent basis. Which is what the Brewers needed to fill in the void that Prince Fielder left in their lineup.
Speaking of Fielder. The Ramirez signing pretty much closed the door on the possibility of Fielder returning to the Brewers in 2012. But, as much as we all wanted him back, I think we knew he was as good as gone.
And, with Fielder and McGehee officially gone, that opens an opportunity at one of the most important offensive positions- first base.
The Brewers seem determined to give Mat Gamel a shot at first. Gamel’s been stuck as a “prospect” for awhile now, as he’s torn up the Minors over the past few years. But, he’s been pretty inconsistent at the Major League level when given the chance.
Maybe consistent playing time will do him good, though. When he was given a chance in the Majors, he didn’t get consistent playing time, which probably didn’t help.
Another good thing about Gamel is that he’s versatile. While he’s most likely to play first base, he can also play third and the corner outfield positions, which could give him the ability to be a utility player if he doesn’t win the job at first.
Taylor Green may also be given a chance at first base. We saw a bit of him at the Major League level this year, and it looks like he’ll have a bright future. He’s also torn up the Minors, especially this year, when he hit .336 before being called up at the end of August. Green is also somewhat versatile, as he can play third, second, and first base.
The shortstop question was also answered this week, as the Brewers signed Alex Gonzalez to a one-year deal, and he’s much better than Yuniesky Betancourt. I did an article a few days ago explaining my opinion on why Gonzalez was better than Betancourt, but, to sum it up in one sentence: Gonzalez is a far superior defender to Betancourt.
Onto the bullpen, which appeared to be going downhill when Takashi Saito and LaTroy Hawkins signed with the Diamondbacks and Angels, respectively. The Brewers began to address that last night in acquiring Veras from the Pirates, but I think they’ll need at least one or two more solid relievers to make me feel good about the bullpen, and more help to set up for the 1-2 punch of Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford.
And that’s about it. I think the Brewers did a good job of addressing all of their major needs early in the offseason, which could give them time to ponder additional moves and trades over the rest of the offseason.
> By the way: the Brewers tendered the contracts of all their arbitration-eligible players. That means George Kottaras, Shaun Marcum, Kameron Loe, Manny Parra, Rodriguez, Veras, Carlos Gomez, and Nyjer Morgan all avoided arbitration.
> The Brewers also announced this week that they’re still interested in extending both Marcum and Zack Greinke, another one of their top priorities this offseason.
> I don’t have much to say about the Braun issue today, as most of the news is the same as it was yesterday. But, if you’re worried that he’ll still receive that 50-game suspension, read this article– it definitely made me feel better.
> And one last thing- I heard today that the Rockies are interested in free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran. That has nothing to do with the Brewers, I know- but if a team other than the Cardinals signs him, it’s beneficial to us.
> That’s about it. Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.