The temperature may be dropping, but the rumors keep heating up for the Milwaukee Brewers.
With a number of question marks concerning Ron Roenicke’s crew moving forward, GM Doug Melvin must resolve to fix the most prominent holes concerning his club through free-agency. There have been a number of whispers and inquiries as to who Melvin may be targeting, but nothing is for certain at this stage.
Who are the Brewers’ most admired targets this offseason?
7. Prince Fielder
Speculation aside, the Brewers fully intend on bringing back Prince Fielder in 2012. Melvin and owner Mark Attanasio both remain confident that their club will be contenders with or without slugger. That said, they do remain optimistic about a potential re-signing. Last Tuesday, Attanasio had this to say to reporters:
There are potential free agents but for right now, we want to leave that spot open for Prince.
Last season, the 27-year-old garnered 38 HR and a team-high 120 RBI. He also maintained a .299 BA and drew a league-leading 32 intentional walks. Although clubs have yet to contact him personally, it is expected that Fielder’s high demand will be too much for the Brewers to contend for his services next season.
The Brewers were able to contend last year in large part due to their upgraded pitching, but make no mistake about it — a dynamic lineup propelled Ron Roenicke’s crew to the NLCS.
With December just around the corner, Prince Fielder will only begin to receive hefty offers from desperate teams. Without his presence in Milwaukee’s lineup in 2012, their offensive output would take a serious blow.
To ease the pain, Melvin could be interested in inking Aramis Ramirez to a lucrative deal. Last season, Ramirez, 33, batted .306 with 26 HR and 93 RBI on his way to a .510 SLG. GM Theo Epstein turned down Ramirez’s $16 Million option last month.
5. Jose Reyes
Brewers fans have been raving about the prospect of Reyes potentially joining forces with Ryan Braun and company for quite some time now, but only recently has it become notably prominent.
Last week, ESPN’s own Adam Rubin reported that Melvin acknowledged he had “one phone call” with Reyes’ agent. Melvin also said he has not decided whether or not the two sides would continue discussions.
Regardless, it is expected that Milwaukee will be in on the Reyes sweepstakes this winter. Upgrading at shortstop prior to 2012 is a genuine need for the Brewers — no matter how unlikely a signing will transpire.
4. Frank Francisco
With the declining of Francisco Rodriguez’s hefty 2012 option, expect the Brewers to be lobbying for a power-type setup man to take his place next season.
Truth be told, this winter’s free-agent class isn’t what one would deem extraordinarily talented. There are a number of names worth mentioning, though.
Francisco, 32, is one such reliever that should catch Melvin’s eye. He made 54 appearances with Toronto last season, notching 53 punch-outs in just 50.2 IP.
Veteran shortstops are among the hottest free-agent commodities this winter, and the Brewers are well immersed in nabbing one for 2012. Rollins, a long-time Phillie who is currently at the ripe age of 32, is reportedly looking for somewhere near a five-year deal this winter.
While the Brewers have no business offering that type of contract to an aging glove like that of Rollins, Melvin said he would be willing to offer a hefty one-year deal and then test the market next winter once more.
In 2010, Rollins managed a .268 BA, 16 HR, 63 RBI and notched 30 stolen bases in 38 attempts. His great defensive range would be ideal for Milwaukee in 2012.
2. Yuniesky Betancourt
As haphazard as his 2011 campaign may have been, the Brewers still hold Yuniesky Betancourt in high regard. Could that mutual adoration turn into a new contract?
Melvin turned down the 29-year-old’s $6 Million 2012 option last month, but says he is very open to the idea of bringing him back at the right price.
Betancourt amassed 13 HR and 68 RBI — second most among all NL shortstops last season. His free-swinging mentality led to a .252 BA and .271 OBP, additionally. He certainly isn’t the ideal shortstop for Milwaukee moving forward, but he still remains a candidate this winter.
1. Rafael Furcal
As we’ve already alluded to, the Brewers are in hot pursuit of quality gloves that would solidify a horrendous infield from a season ago.
Veteran shortstop Rafael Furcal is currently among the vast number of players Melvin intends on targeting.
As a trade-deadline upgrade for Tony La Russa last July, Furcal, 34, batted .255 with 7 HR and 29 runs scored in 50 games. His production in the batter’s box wasn’t why St. Louis brought the former speedster in, however. Holding true to a .958 FPCT and a 4.86 RF while turning 36 double plays, Furcal was absolutely critical in the Cardinals’ World Series run. His disciplined experience makes him a sublime free-agency candidate for the Brewers.
Follow Alec Dopp on Twitter: @alecdopp.