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Some things to read while Craig T. Nelson takes you to the top.

This morning we're 75 days away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Maryvale and spring training tickets are on sale. With that said, for the next few days the center of the baseball universe will be the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas (pictured here), where baseball's annual Winter Meetings kick off today. Rob Neyer is in attendance for the first time, but might be missing the point. Tom Haudricourt talked to Doug Melvin about his preparation for the event.

Even before Brewer representatives arrived in Dallas, though, we had the meetings' first major rumor. Word is circulating that the Brewers may have offered a three year deal with a club option for a fourth to former Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez (FanShot). However, it seems unlikely they're the high bidder at this point: Ramirez's agent said they're "getting serious" with four teams, and the Phillies appear to be one of them. The Tigers are also expected to meet with him this week.

I'm really hoping one of those teams produces a better offer, because I'll be strongly disappointed if the Brewers give a long term deal to Ramirez. He's 33 years old and one year removed from a season that was only a little better than Casey McGehee's 2011 campaign. If the Brewers have that kind of money available, there are better places for them to spend it. With that said, View From Bernie's Chalet has Ramirez playing third and batting cleanup in their hopeful 2012 Opening Day roster. Keep Turning Up the Heat! is closer to my side.

However, the Brewers probably can't go into 2012 counting on a bounce-back season from Casey McGehee. Nick Prill of The Brewers Bar has a look at several other players who had sudden and precipitous drops like he did, and the results aren't pretty.

I'm sure there will be plenty of Prince Fielder notes from Dallas this week. Here are today's installments:

Elsewhere in free agent notes: David Fung of Beyond the Box Score has a graphic showing how the Brewers could replace the runs they're losing this offseason via free agency (FanShot).

Jimmy Rollins is one of the players on that graphic. MLB Depth Charts wonders if the Brewers should make him a priority.

Meanwhile, could a trade actually help the Brewers more? Jon Heyman tweeted this morning that the Astros are willing to eat most of the money due in the remaining season on Carlos Lee's contract if a team will take him off their hands. He could be an interesting stopgap solution for a year at first base, and the .275/.342/.446 batting line he posted for Houston last season would fit nicely in the lineup.

Elsewhere in market speculation, MLB Trade Rumors is reporting that the Brewers are interested in former Cardinals reliever Octavio Dotel. He's already 38 and has received a one year offer to return to St. Louis, so the Brewers would probably have to offer two years to get him. Pass. With that said, Jon Heyman says few teams want bullpen help more than the Brewers and Padres.

And, of course, the Brewers still need to figure out what they're doing at shortstop. @GiantsNirvana compiled a list of things Yuniesky Betancourt does well.

Francisco Rodriguez, Prince Fielder and all other rated free agents have until Wednesday at midnight to accept or decline arbitration offers from their former teams. MLB Trade Rumors reports the Mets have contacted K-Rod about a possible reunion.

  • 2011 second round pick Jorge Lopez made his winter league debut yesterday, allowing a run on two hits and four walks over 1.1 innings in Mayaguez's 5-3, 14 inning loss to Ponce in Puerto Rican play. You can read about that and more in today's Winter League Notes.
  • We also haven't spent much time talking about it, but Frankie De La Cruz is having a really rough winter in the Dominican Republic. He was knocked around again on Saturday and carries an ERA over eight through five appearances.
  • Nashville pitching coach Chris Bosio told the Appleton Post Crescent over the weekend that he's the Cubs' new pitching coach. He'll join former Brewers Dale Sveum, Jamie Quirk and Pat Listach on that staff.
  • @Mass_Haas directed our attention to this 2009 story from the Spokane Spokesman-Review about recent free agent signee Miguel Velasquez and his troubled past. As he notes in the tweet, there must be more to the story because Velasquez also missed the 2011 season.
  • Last year I sat down with the schedules before the season and bought tickets for eleven Timber Rattlers games that I could go see without missing the Brewers. This season there appears likely to be 25 such games.

This is what happens when we don't have enough news to discuss: Miller Park Drunk has a point-counterpoint on Remetee.

If you weren't around this weekend, you might have missed Noah's look at Doug Melvin's history at the Winter Meetings. There are some great names in there I'd completely forgotten. And Adam McCalvy remembers that the last time the meetings were in Dallas the Brewers traded Lyle Overbay to make room for Prince Fielder.

Around baseball:

Angels: Acquired pitcher Brad Mills from the Blue Jays for catcher Jeff Mathis.
Astros: Signed infielder Diory Hernandez to a minor league deal.
Cardinals: Hired John Mabry as their new assistant hitting coach.
Dodgers: Signed pitcher Chris Capuano to a two year, $10 million deal.
Indians: Signed catcher Matt Pagnozzi to a minor league deal.
Mariners: Signed outfielder Darren Ford to a minor league deal.
Marlins: Signed shortstop Jose Reyes to a six year, $106 million deal (FanShot).
Phillies: Signed outfielder Laynce Nix to a two year deal.

One of this week's final events from Dallas will be Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. Bucs Dugout has a great look at 28 players left unprotected, including former Brewer prospects Erik Komatsu and Rob Bryson. Ben Badler of Baseball America also tweeted brief scouting reports on Angels pitcher Steve Geltz and Indians pitcher Elvis Araujo.

While the baseball world focuses on Dallas this week, across the ocean another interesting storyline is brewing. The bidding for negotiating rights with Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima has concluded, and it appears the Rays might have been the only team who participated.

Today in baseball economics: The new CBA is taking a lot of criticism, but it looks like the Yankees might be using it as a reason to cut payroll before 2014. If that happens, the new deal has to be considered at least a partial success.

It still appears somewhat inevitable that Major League Baseball will expand their playoff system to include a second Wild Card, but the timing is still up in the air. Jayson Stark has a list of reasons it might not happen in 2012.

Here's something else that might not happen in 2012: Home runs in the Marlins new ballpark. FishStripes has a graphic showing that the new facility is actually larger than Petco Park in San Diego.

Today in former Brewers:

This morning's edition of Today in Brewer History celebrates what would have been the birthday of Beaver Dam native and 1901 Brewer Pink Hawley. Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times notes that today is also the anniversary of the Brewers selecting Ned Yost from the Mets in the 1977 Rule 5 Draft, and that it's been 9000 days since Juan Nieves' no-hitter.

In the link above, Jaffe also notes that it's been 25 years since the Illinois legislature "stopped the clock" to get extra time to pass a bill that funded a new stadium for the White Sox and prevented them from moving to St. Petersburg. You know all about that if you've been reading The Extra 2% as part of the BCB Book Club. Here's a reminder to read chapters 4-6 and meet back here tomorrow night to discuss them.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must report the facts.

Drink up.