Rafael Furcal, pictured doing something Yuniesky Betancourt is bad at. Could the Brewers progress talks with Furcal during MLBs winter meetings?
The MLB Winter Meetings are one of my favorite times of the year for baseball. I love all the speculation and rumors going around, and enjoy seeing the moves that different teams make to improve their teams. Often, the meetings are the first time we really start seeing the shape that teams will take the next season as many of the big free agents are signed during this time, along with many trades.
During his career with the Brewers, GM Doug Melvin has been fairly active during the meetings. Here is a look at his Winter Meetings history since the Brewers hired Melvin as GM.
Doug Melvin was hired as the Brewers general manager in September of 2002. He inherited a last place, 106-loss team whose best pitcher had a 4.15 ERA. The team had Richie Sexson and Geoff Jenkins, but not a whole lot of firepower after that. Melvin had been aggressive his first two months in acquiring new talent. Some of his more notable moves include picking Scott Podsednik up off waivers, signing Brooks Kieschnick and Royce Clayton, and trading for Javier Valentin and Matt Kinney. That year, Melvin was also active during the Winter Meeting.
During the meetings, Melvin signed several players including Matt Ford, who would pitch in 23 games for the Brewers the next year. He also acquired Enrique Cruz in the Rule 5 draft. Cruz would end up hitting .085/.145/.099 in 73 plate appearances for Milwaukee in 2003. Melvin's biggest move during the 2002 meetings was trading left handed relief pitcher Ray King to the Atlanta Braves for Wes Helms and John Foster. Helms had not received consistent playing time before, but earned the Brewers starting third base job the next season. That year, he hit 23 home runs while hitting .261/.330/.450. Helms was the first Brewers third baseman since the team's first year in Milwaukee to hit 20 homers in a season. Tommy Harper was the first to do it, hitting 31 home runs in 1970. Foster pitched in 23 games for the Brewers in 2003 with a 4.71 ERA.
Melvin was not quite as active in 2003. In fact, he only made two small moves. The bigger of the two was likely selecting hard throwing reliever Jeff Bennett in the Rule 5 draft. Unlike many rule five picks, Bennett received a very good amount of playing time, pitching in 60 games and throwing over 71 innings in 2004. Still, he had a poor 4.79 ERA and 5.15 FIP and wouldn't pitch in the Brewers organization again. Melvin also signed relief pitcher Brian Bowles, though he wouldn't pitch in a game for the Brewers.
2004-2010 are after the jump.
Melvin made some major trades for the Brewers this year. He opened up by trading closer Dan Kolb, who had saved 60 total games with 1.96 and 2.98 ERAs the previous two years, to the Atlanta Braves. In return, the Brewers received flamethrowing pitcher Jose Capellan and pitcher Alec Zumwalt. Capellan acquitted himself well with a brief stay in the majors in 2005. That year, he pitched in 17 games and had a sub-3.00 ERA. The next year, he was relied on as a setup man and had a 4.40 ERA in 61 games. Ultimately, Capellan eventually ended up being a bust. Kolb also fell apart for the Braves.
Two days after that Trade, Melvin came to an agreement with the Chicago White Sox to send Scott Podsednik and, in return, receive Carlos Lee. The Brewers had been looking for a right handed power bat to complement Geoff Jenkins, and left fielder Lee seemed to fit the bill. Lee would hit 32 home runs and 114 RBI for the Brewers in 2005, though he had a meager .324 OBP. Eventually, Lee would be traded to the Rangers in the middle of the 2006 season.
Melvin traded second baseman Keith Ginter for Justin Lehr and Nelson Cruz. Ginter had hit 19 homeruns for the Brewers the previous season, but was blocking Rickie Weeks. Lehr was a power pitcher who struggled with control and pitched in parts of two seasons with the Brewers with mixed success. Cruz would, of course, eventually be included in the Lee to the Rangers trade. While this deal didn't technically occur until a day or two after the winter meetings closed, it's pretty likely that discussions had been started during the meetings.
Melvin also signed Tommy Phelps, who would pitch 23 innings with a 4.63 ERA and 4.73 FIP for the Brewers as a bullpen lefty.
Lyle Overbay had been the Brewers first baseman since being acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Rickie Sexson deal. In 2005, he had hit .276/.367/.449 after a .301/.385/.478 2004. He had also been a doubles machine for Milwaukee. However, with Prince Fielder showing that he needed to be called up, the Brewers had no room for Overbay. During the 2005 winter meetings, Melvin found a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Brewers sent Overbay Ty Taubenheim and, in return, received Dave Bush, Zach Jackson, Gabe Gross. Dave Bush would be in the Brewers rotation for several (sometimes painful) years, and would be the first Brewers pitcher to win a playoff game since 1982. Jackson, a well-regarded pitching prospect, never lived up to the hype and was eventually traded to the Cleveland Indians as part of the C.C. Sabathia deal. Gross played very well as a bench outfielder in 2006, hitting .274/.382/.476 that year. Gross dropped to a .766 OPS in 2007 and was traded near the beginning of the 2008 season to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Melvin made one other deal during these meetings, re-acquiring Dan Kolb in exchange for Wes Obermueller. While Kolb struggled the previous year with the Braves, Melvin and the Brewers thought that a return to Milwaukee might get him back to form. That proved to be wrong as Kolb had a 4.84 ERA and 4.45 FIP in 53 games.
The only move Melvin made in 2006 was selecting Ed Campusano in the Rule 5 draft. He never played for the Brewers as his rights were later traded to the Detroit Tigers for cash considerations.
During the 2007 meetings, Melvin made two signings. One was David Riske, whom the Brewers signed to a three year, $13 million contract. He would have a 5.31 ERA and 5.47 FIP in 45 games during the 2008 season, then suffer injury problems and pitch a total of 24 games between 2009-2010. The other signing, Chris Narveson, turned out a little better as he has become a very good fifth starter the the Brewers.
A couple deals came immediately following the Winter Meetings as talks likely begun during them. The first was a trade for Solomon Torres. The second, the much-maligned signing of Eric Gagne to a one year, $10M deal. Gagne was given the closer role to begin the season but struggled mightily. Overall, he would have a 5.44 ERA and 6.13 FIP in 50 games during the 2008 season. He would also lose the closer job early in the year. As it turns out, Torres ended up being a saving grace for Milwaukee. He took the closer reins and never looked back, compiling 28 saves and a 3.49 ERA while being one of the only reliable relief pitchers the Brewers would have in 2008.
Melvin made just one fairly inconsequential signing during the 2008 meetings after the Brewers made the playoffs for the first time in 26 years. That was the signing of Mike Lamb, who had just 11 plate appearances for Milwaukee the next year.
The Brewers also selected Eduardo Morlan from the Tampa Bay Rays in the Rule 5 draft, though he was returned before the season started.
Much of the focus for the Brewers was on C.C. Sabathia, who would eventually sign with the Yankees during the meetings.
Melvin made two important signings during these meetings to help shore up the teams pitching. First to be announced was the signing of LaTroy Hawkins to a 2 year, $7.5M contract. While Hawkins missed almost all of 2010 due to injury, he was immensely important for the Brewers bullpen in 2011, when he had a 2.42 ERA and 2.76 FIP in 53 games.
Then, Milwaukee announced an even bigger deal as they came to an agreement with Randy Wolf to a three year, $30M contract. Wolf was coming off a 3.23 ERA season with the Los Angeles Dodgers and was a known innings-eater. The Brewers expected him to step in and help solidify their rotation behind Yovani Gallardo. Wolf would have a mediocre year in 2010, with a 4.17 ERA and 4.85 FIP as the Brewers number two pitcher. He would have a much better year in 2011, posting a 3.69 ERA and 4.29 FIP.
The Brewers also signed Luis Cruz during these meetings. Known for having a great glove, Cruz played in seven games for the Brewers in 2010, hitting .235/.235/.353.
The Brewers and New York Mets discussed a John Maine/Corey Hart trade during the meetings though, thankfully, nothing came to fruition. This was also the offseason of Mark Mulder, when it seemed like the Brewers and Mulder were perpetually in discussions with each other. The two sides met during the winter meetings. Nothing, of course, ended up happening.
On the very first day of the 2010 Winter Meetings, Doug Melvin showed that he was serious about a playoff push in 2011. That day, he traded top prospect Brett Lawrie to the Toronto Blue Jays for Shaun Marcum. Marcum was great for the Brewers in 2011, pitching over 200 innings and posting a 3.54 ERA and 3.73 FIP. He also seemingly kept the Brewers' heads above water the first month of the season as Zack Greinke sat out due to injury and the rest of the pitching staff struggled. An unfortunate collapse in the playoffs marred what should have been an excellent season for the lefty.
The only other deal the Brewers and Doug Melvin made during the 2010 meetings was the signing of Wil Nieves. Nieves started a handful of games when Jonathan Lucroy was out with an injury early in the season, but hit .140/.189/.180 in 54 plate appearances. He wouldn't last long on the team and was eventually traded for one dollar.
While nothing was agreed upon for another week or two, the initial meetings between the Brewers and Kansas City Royals about Zack Greinke began during the winter meetings. The acquisition of Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt would be officially announced December 19, ten days after the close of the meetings.
The Brewers had also been heavily involved in discussions for Carl Pavano during these meetings. Rumors had also swirled about Prince Fielder, with the Dodgers having been mentioned as serious candidates for a trade.
Well there has been talk about Doug Melvin and the Brewers not being very active during the meetings this year, I'm not buying it. The Brewers have several holes to fill as they are still completely lacking a shortstop, may be looking for a third or first baseman, and will possibly want to strengthen their bullpen and bench. With numerous needs, it appears likely that Doug Melvin will be in plenty of meetings with players, agents, and other GMs during the next week. Melvin has a history of making plenty of deals during the winter meetings, and I suspect this year will be no different.