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.
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According to SI.com’s MLB columnist Jon Heyman, the Brewers and Marlins are now among the leading contenders for the former Mets’ superstar shortstop.
“Sources indicate that Reyes tops the free-agent lists of the Marlins and Brewers, and other teams are likely to come into play, as well.”
Reyes, who will likely seek at least a new deal at or near 7-years this offseason, remains one of the most highly sought-after free-agents available of signing this winter, after Fielder and Albert Pujols, and will certainly command a considerably expensive contract this winter.
Last season, the speedy shortstop made $11 Million on his way to winning the NL batting title by just decimal points over Brewers slugger Ryan Braun. He also validated his worth by notching 7 HR, 44 RBI, 16 triples, .384 OBP and 39 stolen bases.
His defensive capabilities also make him a sublime addition for Milwaukee as they attempt to replace former shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt after a disastrous 2011 campaign with the Brewers.
In 2011, Reyes held his own in the field, maintaining a .968 FPCT and 4.32 range factor with New York. He also turned 75 double plays and committed 18 errors in 124 games played.
With each passing day, it’s becoming more likely that Milwaukee will be without Fielder next season and beyond. He is reportedly “aiming to beat Mark Teixeira’s $180 Million, eight-year deal”, and there’s a good chance his new paycheck could be coming from Theo Epstein and the Cubs.
Outside of Reyes, the free-agent market is essentially void of any shortstop options for Melvin to act on. That said, there’s a serious chance Milwaukee pulls the trigger on Reyes this winter. Only time will tell if a deal comes to fruition.
Last week, Milwaukee Brewers GM Doug Melvin officially kicked off the club’s 2011-2012 offseason by declining now former shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt’s 2012 club option.
While the move was largely anticipated by Brewers fans to no end, Melvin must now probe the free-agent market for a replacement. Betancourt, who amassed 13 HR, 68 RBI and a .252 BA last season, proved to be more of an inconvenience than a productive shortstop last season, and should be replaced in a timely fashion this winter.
Here are five free-agent shortstops Melvin and the Brewers will target this offseason.
Reports show that the Astros are interested in bringing back the 32-year-old Barmes for a second go-around with the club in 2012, but all indications say they probably won’t have the money to re-sign him.
Despite missing essentially the entire month of April, Barmes batted .242 with 12 HR and 39 RBI last season, and also maintained the ninth-best fielding percentage (.978) among all MLB shortstops. Excluding Jose Reyes, there’s no disputing that Barmes is the best free-agent talent available at shortstop this winter. Moreover, his affordability is staggering, making the Brewers prime contenders for his services.
Although his production at the plate waned from 2010 to 2011 considerably, note that Gonzalez has maintained a reputation for being one of the best defensive shortstops in MLB over the past few seasons. Last season, Gonzalez committed just 12 errors in 149 games, resulting in a truly impressive .981 fielding percentage.
Based on the market outlook, there’s a good chance the Brewers could snag the 34-year-old if Melvin likes what he sees. Needless to say, Gonzalez would be a sublime defensive replacement for Betancourt.
A virtual afterthought just prior to the trade deadline, Furcal was largely responsible for the Cardinals’ postseason run toward their 11th World Series title. In 50 regular season games with the Cards, the 34-year-old notched 7 HR, 16 RBI, 17 BB and batted .255. In the postseason, Furcal batted a lowly .195, but would hold true to a perfect fielding percentage and would turn 11 double plays.
He’s obviously still a viable option to play at shortstop, and while he may not be as much of a power-hitter like Betancourt, he’s a steadfast talent out in the field that won’t make costly defensive mistakes.
The Pirates were willing to buyout Cedeno’s contract just a few days back, making the 28-year-old shortstop an unrestricted free-agent for the first time in his six-year career.
Like so many shortstops sprawling the free-agent market this winter, Cedeno lacks true power at the plate, but makes up for it with a nice glove in the field. His .978 fielding percentage ranks eight-best among MLB shortstops last season, and his 5.04 range factor rank second only to Troy Tulowitzki.
With so few viable free-agent options on the market, Cedeno will likely be a last-resort signing if the Brewers are unable to ink Barmes or Scutaro to a deal. Nevertheless, his young age makes a potential signing all the more intriguing.
At this juncture, the Brewers’ chances of signing Jose Reyes seem more like foolery than actuality. However, isn’t that what we said when Melvin pulled the trigger on one C.C. Sabathia back in 2008?
The fact is, until Reyes is literally signed to a new contract by another team, you can’t count Milwaukee out of the bidding war. Milwaukee doesn’t look to have enough money to bring back Prince Fielder this winter, so Melvin may settle for the next-best-thing.
Granted, Reyes will be looking for a long-term contract somewhere near seven years — which is probably out of Milwaukee’s price range. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if owner Mark Attanasio finds away to increase payroll to sign the speedy shortstop. Ryan Braun seems optimistic. Maybe you should, too.
Follow Alec Dopp on Twitter: @alecdopp.
After a largely successful 2011 season in which numerous franchise records were rewritten, Milwaukee Brewers GM Doug Melvin finds himself in a bit of a predicament heading into the offseason.
First-baseman and MVP-candidate Prince Fielder is now set to become an unrestricted free-agent this winter, leaving open the possibility of a whole new offensive outlook for the Brewers in 2012. Many rumors suggest that Milwaukee will use their additional payroll to upgrade their bullpen. However, there are a number of issues hampering Milwaukee moving forward.
The Brewers are likely to upgrade the left side of the infield via free-agency this winter, particularly at shortstop. The club currently holds a $6 Million 2012 club option on shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt with a $2 Million buyout.
Melvin said Betancourt was “a better player than what his critics said” earlier this month, but there’s simply no disputing his horrendous .965 FPCT, which came via 21 errors in 2011.
With such a need for an upgrade at shortstop, could the Brewers actually go after a big-name free agent this offseason to shore things up?
Earlier this month, Milwaukee Brewers superstar left-fielder and MVP-candidate Ryan Braun disclosed is admiration for New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes.
Braun told the New York Post:
“I think there’s a better chance we sign [Reyes] than we re-sign Prince,” Braun told The Post yesterday, referring to slugging first baseman Prince Fielder.
Reyes, who managed to hold of Braun for the NL batting title by mere decimal points, is, like Fielder, set to become an unrestricted free-agent this winter. The speedy shortstop amassed 7 HR, 44 RBI, 101 R and 39 stolen bases, much to the enjoyment of Braun.
“[Reyes] is dynamic, man — he is one of the most exciting players in the game,” Braun said. “He plays with a lot of energy and a lot of emotion and I enjoy watching him play. He’s one of my favorite players to watch. Whenever their games are on, I love watching him, man. He always plays the game the right way. He always plays hard. He runs everything out.”
According to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, both Melvin and owner Mark Attanasio will meet in early November on what they plan to offer Fielder in the offseason.
If the two sides aren’t able to come to an agreement early in the offseason, it may not be out of the question to suggest that Melvin could go after Reyes.
For now, though, we’ll just have to wait and see.