Where We Stand

Going into the Winter Meetings, Doug Melvin's to-do list is pretty well known:

  1. Dump an outfielder.
  2. Dump another outfielder.
  3. Dump another outfielder (optional, but strongly recommended).
  4. Dump another outfielder (optional).
  5. Find a pitcher to compete with Carlos Villanueva for the fifth spot.
Simple, right? Well, let's take a look at what the Brewers would look like today, if there were no Winter Meetings and we had to start the season without making any further changes. This lineup and roster construction is my best guess at what Ned Yost would do, tempered with a bit of what Jeff really wants him to do.

Lineup:

  1. Rickie Weeks, 2B ($2M?)
  2. JJ Hardy, SS ($0.4M)
  3. Bill Hall, CF ($3M*)
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B ($0.4M)
  5. Kevin Mench ($2.8M*) or Geoff Jenkins ($7M), LF
  6. Corey Hart, RF ($0.4M)
  7. Corey Koskie, 3B ($2M)
  8. Johnny Estrada, C ($3M*)
(I realize the order is completely up in the air, and will probably change a lot from day to day, especially if there's a platoon or two going on. I figure this guess is as good as any.)

Total: $21M

Bench:

  1. Mench or Jenkins, LF/RF
  2. Brady Clark, OF ($2.8M)
  3. Craig Counsell, IF ($2.8M)
  4. Jeff Cirillo, IF ($1.5M*)
  5. Damian Miller, C ($2.75M)
Total: $8.65M

Starting Rotation:

  1. Ben Sheets ($10M)
  2. Chris Capuano ($3M*)
  3. Dave Bush ($0.4M)
  4. Claudio Vargas ($3M*)
  5. Carlos Villanueva ($0.4M)
Total: $16.8M

Bullpen:

  1. Francisco Cordero (closer) ($5M)
  2. Matt Wise (primary set-up) ($1M)
  3. Jose Capellan ($0.4M)
  4. Brian Shouse ($1M)
  5. Derrick Turnbow ($2.3M)
  6. Greg Aquino ($0.4M)
  7. Zach Jackson ($0.4M)
Total: $10.5M

Total payroll, as of December 4: ~$57M

Mark Attanasio has said that we can go up to $60M, so it would appear that we're just about set. Note that many of these are estimated: I don't have a good grip of what players like Hall and Capuano get in their first year of arbitration, so I may have overshot those a bit. (I aimed to be a bit high.) I also had to guess on Cirillo's presumed signing.

I have several thoughts about all of this:

  • If we can dump Jenkins and most of his salary, we should absolutely do it. If a team wants to pay Jenkins, say, $5M or more next year, I would happily accept whatever A-ball non-prospect they are offering. If we could get clear of the Jenkins contract, we wouldn't lose much in terms of production (Gabe Gross could probably be just as good next year for the minimum), but we'd get a huge amount of salary flexibility.

  • The lineup isn't particularly scary, but it also is much more consistent than what we've had in the past. If we keep Mench and Jenkins, that has the potential to be an enormously productive platoon, as I've written elsewhere. If Fielder and Hart take the next step, that's a pretty solid middle of the order, especially for a grand total of $14 million.

    It's also a very good bench. I'm not thrilled about spending $3M each on a backup infielder and a backup catcher, but it does give us great depth, as both Counsell and Miller could start for a few teams. Heck, Clark probably should, too. And while Cirillo may not be able to play every day, he'll be more productive than, say, Wes Helms.

  • The rotation? I love the 1-2-3. You can count on Moustache bringing in some competition for Vargas and Villanueva, though. Expect #4 and #5 to be an open fight in spring training: Vargas, Villanueva, Jackson, Hendrickson, plus a couple of veterans. I wouldn't mind having Rick Helling back again on a non-roster invite; there'll probably also be an out-of-nowhere random minor league vet again, along the lines of Jared Fernandez.

  • The bullpen is much more established than I thought it was. I really have no idea who the 7th guy will be--I put Jackson in there because we don't really have a long man otherwise, and he would also serve as the second lefty, something we know Moustache covets. I suppose Turnbow and Aquino aren't guaranteed jobs, but I'd be surprised to see Aquino left off the opening day roster, or see Turnbow dumped, unless somebody is really confident that he'll bounce back, and will give us a lot of trade swag accordingly.
In sum, this is a pretty decent team, and there's potentially some payroll flexibility if a) a team is willing to to Jenkins and his contract, or b) we trade or non-tender Mench. If this were my team to run, I'd go hunting for a taker for Jenkins, accept nothing in return, and enjoy my $50M payroll. Then I'd sign the very best starter I could get for a 2-year or less deal. (After all, none of our starters are going anywhere until at least 2009 unless they're traded. And we've got Yovani Gallardo on the way up.)

Who that guy is is another story, but if Greg Maddux could be convinced to sign for a 2-year, $18M deal, I'd do it. I'm not sold on many of the other free-agent pitchers--if you sign a starter in this market, you either take a risk on age (Maddux, Woody Williams, etc.) or too many years (Ted Lilly probably, Adam Eaton, Jeff Suppan, heaven knows what Gil Meche will get). I prefer to sign the guy who we know can eat innings, will be a great clubhouse presence, and may be above league-average, to boot.

Go Doug Go!

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