MLB Free Agents 2012: 5 Players Milwaukee Brewers Will Target at Winter Meetings

Jimmy Rollins could be a potential signing for the Brewers at this year's Winter Meetings

Next week (Dec. 5-8), the baseball cosmos will shift it’s collective focus to the 2011 MLB Winter Meetings, where many of the top available free-agents from the 2012 class are likely to ink brand new deals.

Between the apparent need for a veteran shortstop and eighth-inning setup man, GM Doug Melvin and the Milwaukee Brewers aren’t likely to be big players at this winter’s meetings (unlike last winter).  However, there are needs that will be addressed and noteworthy names that could be acquired.

Here are five names Melvin and the Brewers will target at next week’s crucial meetings.

Rafael Furcal

Furcal, 34, is clearly on the downswing of professional career, but that doesn’t mean the Brewers aren’t interested in signing him.  The speedster was a centerpiece to the Cardinals’ late regular season push toward the postseason, batting .255 with 7 HR and 16 RBI, drawing 17 walks and only striking out 18 individual times.  While he’s in no way the threat he once was on the bases, many believe he can still hold his own in the field.  His durability may become a cause for concern, as he’s played just 174 games over his last two seasons.  Melvin has been in brief discussions with Furcal’s agent, Paul Kinzer.

Frank Francisco

Outside of finding an upgrade at shortstop, there’s no doubting that Melvin’s No. 2 priority is to find a power reliever that can adequately replace Francisco Rodriguez next season.

Former Texas Rangers closer Frank Francisco could catch Melvin’s eye, as he’s proven to be one of the best strikeout relievers in all of MLB over the past few seasons.  With the Blue Jays, Francisco garnered a 3.55 ERA while striking out 53 in 50.1 IP.  He also notched 17 saves to go with a 9.41 K/9 ratio in 2011.

The market shouldn’t be too demanding for his services, so if the Brewers aren’t able to lock him up next week, they should be able to compete for him shortly thereafter.

Jerry Hairston

If not for the acquisition of Jerry Hairston at the trade deadline last season, who knows how the Brewers’ season would’ve ended.

Acquired from the Nationals, the 35-year-old veteran utility-man extraordinaire batted .385 with 4 RBI and a .961 OPS in 11 postseason games as the full-time starting third baseman with Milwaukee.  Reports suggest Melvin has already offered Hairston a one-year deal to return as a Brewer next season, however the price and duration have not yet been disclosed.

Obviously, Hairston will look to explore his options with such a high demand for quality infielding gloves this winter.  His time for beating around the bush won’t last too much longer.  Expect the Brewers to offer him a new-and-improved deal at next week’s meetings.

Aramis Ramirez

With the uncertain future of Casey McGehee at third base and Prince Fielder likely on his way out, now could be the time for the Brewers to act and sign a prominent name to bolster their lineup.  Aramis Ramirez might be that chief addition.

Ramirez’s agent, Paul Kinzer, has said that at least four or five teams are seriously interested in signing the former Cub this winter.  Could the Brewers be one of them?  According to sources, Milwaukee could very much be a potential destination for Ramirez.

Last season, the long-time Cub batted .306 with 26 HR, 93 RBI and a .510 OPS.  He’s reportedly seeking a four-year deal or three-year deal with an option.  While the Brewers may or may not be willing to bestow such a contract, Ramirez remains a top target for Milwaukee at next week’s meetings.

Jimmy Rollins

I’m not sure if there’s any one player more qualified to fill Milwaukee’s shortstop void than Rollins.

Even at 33 years of age, the long-time Phillie can still swing the bat with great efficiency (.268 BA, 16 HR, 68 RBI last season).  He’s also relatively volatile on the basepaths, notching 33 stolen bases last season with Philadelphia, which would work wonders in Ron Roenicke’s aggressive-style of running on the basepaths.  More importantly, though, his seasoned glove would be a sumptuous add-on to Milwaukee’s infield.  Yielding a .988 FPCT and 2.9 UZR last season, Rollins was still one of the top defensive shortstops in all of baseball.

Reports have shown Rollins is looking for a five-year deal this offseason, which is probably out of Milwaukee’s price range.  However, Melvin has said he intends on touching base with Dan Lozano, Rollins’ agent, on a possible short-term deal.

Follow Alec Dopp on Twitter @alecdopp

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