Some things to read while coasting.
We are 64 days away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Maryvale, giving Johnny Narron a couple of months to learn to write in Mandarin before the Brewers' newest addition reports to camp. The Brewers selected Taiwanese native lefty Wei-Chung Wang from the Pirates organization in this morning's Rule 5 Draft. Wang is 21 and was eligible to be selected because of a loophole dealing with his original contract, which was voided.
Wang will come to camp with an opportunity to make the Brewers' roster despite never having pitched above the lowest level of rookie ball. Brewers pro scouting director Zack Minasian told Tom Haudricourt the Brewers were comfortable with the move because of his upside, and noted that young players in Taiwan technically pitch professionally before coming to the US. John Sickels of Minor League Ball says "It seems like a long shot that he would stick, but give the Brewers credit for deep knowledge of the draft rules."
Maybe Wang can sit in Corey Hart's locker. The spot Hart has occupied for most of a decade became suddenly vacant yesterday when he signed a one-year deal with the Mariners. Adding insult to injury, the Mariners removed another of the Brewers' first base options from the equation by acquiring Logan Morrison from the Marlins.
Despite his previous statements about being willing to take a discount to stay in Milwaukee, Hart followed more money to Seattle. @Haudricourt reports his new deal with the Mariners features a $6 million base salary with $7 million in incentives, while his best offer from the Brewers was $4 million with $2.5 million in incentives. Hart texted Adam McCalvy to say the move to Seattle was "the best thing to do for me and my family."
Here's more on the Hart deal:
- Jeff Sullivan of Lookout Landing has a look at the high-risk, high-reward situation of giving a significant contract to a player coming off a pair of knee surgeries.
- @JPCadorin said letting Hart go "feels like a big mistake already" for the Brewers.
- Lookout Landing wonders how Hart and Logan Morrison will fit in the lineup with the Mariners' incumbent first baseman, Justin Smoak.
- @howiemag wonders how this will impact local reaction the next time an athlete suggests a hometown discout.
- @AdamMcCalvy notes that Rickie Weeks is now the longest-tenured player in the Brewers' organization, having been selected in the 2003 draft.
- @Rubie_Q made what might be the last Hart tattoo joke.
- Jess Lemont of The Brewers Bar wrote a comic about the situation.
In the end, the biggest side effect of Hart's departure might be a loss of time that could have been spent pursuing other options. Consider this tweet from before Hart's decision from Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish:
Agent who plans on meeting with #Brewers said he was told "schedule for today is uncertain at the moment". Hart really holding them hostage.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) December 11, 2013
With Hart off the table, the Brewers will now have to look elsewhere to improve at first base. Yesterday Doug Melvin told Adam McCalvy he had "a few things on the table" but didn't expect a deal to be done before leaving the meetings today.
Even after missing out on Hart and Morrison, though, the Brewers still do not appear to be interested in former Mariner Kendrys Morales, who rejected a qualifying offer and would cost the Brewers their first round draft pick. (h/t @AdamMcCalvy) Grant Brisbee of Baseball Nation says the Yankees, who have already forfeited multiple picks, are now the only team that makes sense for Morales.
Earlier this week we also discussed Michael Morse as a possible replacement for Hart, but he's off the board now too: @JohnSheaHey reports he's signed with the Giants.
One thing is relatively certain: After spending most of a year with players playing out of position at first base, Doug Melvin appears convinced to find a true first baseman for 2014. Jaymes Langrehr had some fun with that in our Tweet of the Day:
I get what Doug Melvin means, but "I'd like to find a 1B who can play first" is pretty hilariously sad. Your 2014 Brewers, buy tickets NOW!— Jaymes Langrehr (@JaymesL) December 11, 2013
One of those players out of position at first was Yuinesky Betancourt, and he may have been the subject of yesterday's best news: Doug Melvin told @Haudricourt that Yuni will not be back in 2014.
Melvin's comments about playing someone out of position at first base should also end the minor speculation about playing Rickie Weeks there. A rumor popped up this week suggesting the Marlins had interest in trading for Weeks, but @Haudricourt says there's "nothing to the rumors." He also said that the Brewers' best chance to move Weeks could come this spring, if he's healthy and playing well.
Khris Davis won't be moving to first either. Jonathan Judge of Disciples of Uecker wonders if we're making too much of Davis' initial hot streak in the majors, comparing it to infielder Donnie Murphy's run with the Cubs in 2013.
Meanwhile, every day the Brewers go without acquiring a first baseman increases Juan Francisco's chances of playing a meaningful role with the 2014 Brewers. Yesterday we looked at a home run he hit on July 5, the fifth longest by a Brewer in 2013.
In the minors:
- The Brewers made a pair of selections in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft today, selecting former Marlins outfielder Kevin Mattison and former Athletics third baseman Vinnie Catricala.
- Kevin Mattison is a 28-year-old, six year professional who has played 563 of his 635 minor league games in center field. He's a career .240/.317/.378 hitter in the minors and has spent parts of each of the last four seasons with the Marlins' AAA affiliate in New Orleans.
- Catricala is 25 and a veteran of five MLB seasons. He spent 2013 in AA with the Mariners and A's organizations and hit .235/.292/.328 in 109 games.
- A tip of the cap to @joe_block, by the way, for noting that Mattison is on Twitter as @stachemaster4. He also noticed that Catricala is a little less creative as @vinniecatricala.
- Mattison and Catricala are both likely to play under a new manager in 2014. The Nashville Sounds announced that Rick Sweet has been hired to manage the team next season. The former big league catcher has managed 24 seasons in the minors as a member of seven organizations.
- Meanwhile in Puerto Rico, Martin Maldonado went 1-for-3 with a run scored and two RBI in Mayaguez's 8-4 win over Carolina (box score). Hiram Burgos allowed a single earned run over 4.2 innings for the victors, while Irving Falu went 0-for-5 in the game.
- In the Dominican Republic, Juan Francisco had a pair of hits in Licey's 5-1 win over Cibao (box score).
- Elian Herrera was also in action yesterday, going 1-for-2 with a double and scoring a run in Oriente's 4-2, 12 inning loss to Escogido (box score).
Back in Orlando, Wednesday was the last full day of the Winter Meetings before executives start to filter out today. Mike Vassallo has a photo of all 15 National League managers posted together in the lobby yesterday.
Angels: Acquired Rule 5 selection Brian Moran from the Blue Jays for international bonus money.
Astros: Acquired pitcher Anthony Bass and a PTBNL or cash from the Padres for a PTBNL or cash. The Padres' PTBNL was Rule 5 selection Patrick Schuster.
Braves: Avoided arbitration with pitcher Jordan Walden (one year, $1.49 million) and signed pitcher Yunesky Maya to a minor league deal.
Cardinals: Signed pitcher Angel Castro to a major league deal.
Cubs: Acquired outfielder Justin Ruggiano from the Marlins for outfielder Brian Bogusevic.
Mets: Signed pitcher Bartolo Colon to a two-year, $20 million deal.
Nationals: Acquired reliever Jerry Blevins from the Athletics for a minor leaguer.
Phillies: Are expected to sign pitcher Roberto Hernandez (fka Fausto Carmona).
Pirates: Signed pitcher Charlie Morton to a three year, $21 million contract with a club option for 2017 (avoiding arbitration) and signed pitcher Edinson Volquez to a one-year, $5 million contract.
Tigers: Designated pitcher Luis Marte for assignment.
The biggest news from this week's Winter Meetings may not have been a transaction. Yesterday MLB announced that they're changing the rules to eliminate collisions at home plate. The plate will now be treated like any other base, with runners required to slide in and catchers banned from blocking their way.
The second biggest news story may actually have happened outside. Word spread quickly about a fight between two agents in the hotel parking lot.
Today in former Brewers:
- The Indians and Orioles are both believed to have made contract offers to John Axford.
- J.J. Hardy is currently scheduled to become a free agent following the season, but the Orioles are believed to be considering an extension for him.
- Baseball America is listing Jake Odorizzi as the top prospect in the Rays organization for 2014.
- Tomo Ohka is attempting to make a comeback as a knuckleballer, and signed a minor league deal with the Blue Jays.
- Jerry Hairston Jr. is retiring to take a job on the Dodgers' broadcast team.
- Randy Lerch and Jim Lonborg are among the players featured in Chris Mehring of Rattler Radio's collection of Phillies cards.
Finally, with help from the B-Ref Play Index, we'd like to wish a happy birthday today to:
- 2000-02 Brewer Mike Buddie, who turns 43.
- 1973-83 Brewer Gorman Thomas, who turns 63. We covered his birthday in Today In Brewer History two years ago.
- Beloit College alum and 1901 Milwaukee Brewer Tully Sparks, who would have turned 139.
Today is also the 33rd anniversary of one of the greatest trades in Brewers franchise history, as the Crew acquired Rollie Fingers, Ted Simmons and Pete Vuckovich from the Cardinals. We covered that event in Today in Brewer History last year.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have more lessons to teach.