Saturday, December 15, 2012

Bargain Hunting with the Brewers

The 2012 MLB offseason has had its fair share of fireworks so far. Not only have top free agents Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton been signed already, but there's also been some monster trades that could shift the landscape of each league for the following year.

Of course, for those who follow the Brewers, this offseason hasn't been as much fireworks as it has been watching paint dry. Aside from the Badenhop deal, there's been little mention of the Brewers involvement in anything other than some off-kilter rumors involving Josh Hamilton. Let me give a quick reaction to that now that it's over...

Do I think that the Brewers were ever really interested in Josh Hamilton? Yes. Was there ever a realistic chance they would get him? No. The situation would have had to made sense not just for the Brewers, but for Hamilton as well, and the circumstances surrounding such a situation would likely not have been isolated to Milwaukee alone. It was fun while it lasted (sort of), but the possibility of it happening had a snowman's chance in hell to begin with, and at the end of the day, it just wasn't meant to be. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

In lieu of all the madness following the Greinke and Hamilton signings, Doug Melvin told reporters that he would likely not pursue any other top free agent starting pitchers. The Brewers did make an offer of two-years to Ryan Dempster, who they had reportedly been in contact with for a while, but inevitably lost out to the Red Sox on what we can assume was a more lucrative offer. Melvin also stated that the team would likely not be pursuing recently departed starting pitcher, Shaun Marcum, whom they had acquired just two years prior for the hefty price of former top prospect, Brett Lawrie.

The lack of movement from the front office has left many Brewers fans wondering what exactly their plan is this offseason, as the team currently has holes in both the rotation as well as the bullpen. My thought all along, which appears to be the case to date, is that Melvin is simply waiting out a heavily inflated free agent market in hopes of landing some better players later on for cheap. But after all this chaos to date, including even more activity as of right now, what's left?

Here are a couple pretty decent players that could be targeted in some bargain hunting:

1. RHP Tim Stauffer: You might recognize this name, though don't blame yourself if you don't. Stauffer has has been with the Padres since 2005, bouncing back and forth between AAA and the majors for performance and health-related reasons. Recently though, Stauffer had found some success both in the bullpen as well as the rotation, combining for 2.4 WAR in 2010-11. Woo. Stauffer generally sat 90-91 with his fastball, and induced groundballs at a good rate for a starter, which really helped him succeed outside the friendly confines of Petco Park.

This past year, however, Stauffer spent most of the season on the DL with an elbow injury. He had surgery on it in August (not Tommy John), and will hopefully be healthy just in time for Spring Training. This signing wouldn't exactly blow anybody away, but on the cheap, he could be a solid Marco Estrada-type guy who could turn in a better-than-expected year.

2. LHP Francisco Liriano: I can hear your reaction now, and I believe it sounds something like this.
But come on, is it really that bad? Well...maybe. But then again, maybe not.

Liriano was once a big up and comer way back in 2006. Then the following year, he had Tommy John surgery, developed some bad control issues, and he's never really been the same. Or has he? Did you know he was worth 6 WAR in 2010? He threw 191 innings that year, recorded a 3.62 ERA, 2.66 FIP, and a 3:1 K to BB. However, the following season he was plagued by shoulder issues and his K to BB went haywire (an atrocious 1.5:1). This past season, he started striking more people out again, but the walks remained an issue. So why should the Brewers have an interest in him?

Talent. The Brewers are on this kick where they're trying to pick up every pitcher with control issues and hope to either help them figure things out, or catch lightning in a bottle. An effective idea with relievers; far tougher with starters. The medicals should be enough to scare one off, although he hasn't experienced any injury issues in over a year. He's 29, still throwing 93 mph on average with his fastball, and striking folks out. On a one-year deal, I say why the hell not. If he stinks or gets hurt, they have other options. If things suddenly click again like they did in 2010, oh baby...

3. RHP Jon Rauch: I did two starters, now for a couple relievers. The reliever market has been a little emptied out, but it's far from barren. Rauch isn't a guy who will really blow any batters away, but he's got a good slider to keep hitters off balance, as well as experience in the late-inning role. Sort of Villanueva-y, in a really poor comparison kind of way. In actuality, he's probably a little closer to K-Rod, but don't let that scare you. Rauch is what he is. He has a healthy career 7.16 K/9, but also won't walk many. Hooray for no leadoff walks in late innings!

On the whole, this isn't as much of a steal as it is a guy still hovering out there who could be a solid addition for the 7th or 8th inning. The thing that attracts me most is that he'd also likely accept a one-year offer, which are my favorite kinds of offers to relievers. Melvin should probably look into doing soon.

4. LHP Tom Gorzellany: Tom Haudricourt gets credit for mentioning this one a week or so back. I had to chuckle a little bit at it because I have some fond memories of the Brewers demolishing Gorzellany back when he was with the Pirates (Remember that "rotation of the future" Pittsburgh had in '07? Good times).

After a bit of research though, this doesn't seem like all that terrible of an idea. The thought is that he could be affective against both sides, but I think that's a bit of a stretch with RHH slugging .435 off of him in his career. As a lefty specialist though, he gets the job done, holding lefties to a career .227 opp. avg. and .291 wOBA. He might not be the LOOGY Milwaukee deserves, but he's the one they need right now.

5. 2B Kelly Johnson: Last but not least, I thought I'd toss in a position player. Surprised? Confused? I kind of am, too, but bear with me here. We're going to travel through my thought process, together.

Johnson was once a good player, then an underrated player, then a rated player, and now kind of 'eh'. That's not to say he's a BAD player now, but he just posted his lowest career wOBA (.299) and his 2nd lowest wRC+ (86). Not good. At 30-years old and seemingly without a home, you have to wonder if Johnson is still an everyday player. There isn't a great need for 2B from anyone right now, and even then, Johnson's defense has kind of tailed off. If he were willing to do so, Johnson would be a mighty fine bench player. He has experience playing OF, and he might even be able to play some 3B. His greatest assets, though, are in his offensive game. Johnson gets on base (career .338 OBP), is a lefty, and has 20-homerun power. Pretty valuable things all on their own.

I fully expect Johnson to land somewhere as a starter, and it will likely be with someone random like the Orioles or Marlins. Still, were he to settle for a reduced role, he would definitely be a pretty desirable target that could offer some solid help to the bench.

Well, that's all I have for you today, everyone. Hopefully the Brewers decide to do SOMETHING to improve these areas before the start of the season, because there is a real fear that the team will go into the season without ever doing anything again. Ever. They won't draft anyone, sign anyone, or even play. They'll just become stagnate and waste away like a retired salesman on Waikiki Beach. RIP Milwaukee Brewers, you masters of inactivity.


  1. It's=it is.
    Interesting post, grammar error in first sentence is off-putting.

    1. Ooof, thanks, fixed now. Apologies! Apparently I need to hire an editor :-P