Brewers general manager Doug Melvin participated in an online chat with fans Friday afternoon. Among the topics discussed were the Winter Meetings, offseason signings, Bill Hall's move to the outfield and plans for the 2007 season.
Doug Melvin: Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining me for today's chat. Let's begin.
Base_Ball: Myself and other Brewer fans I know are having trouble understanding the move of Bill Hall to the outfield. It seems to me that his production makes him one of the best shortstops in the league and that his defense is adequate at that position.
Melvin: We are looking to move Bill Hall to the outfield with the idea of keeping J.J. Hardy in the lineup. We feel that if J.J. is healthy he has the chance to be an average to above-average shortstop in the Majors. J.J. is probably also our best defensive player on the club. With Hall, the most important thing is to keep his bat in the lineup, and we feel his athleticism allows him to play anywhere.
Base_Ball_2: There were rumors that the Brewers made an attempt to sign Jason Schmidt, was that ever a possibility?
Melvin: Yes, we made an offer to Schmidt. The offer was similar to the offer we gave to Carlos Lee, but Jason preferred to stay on the West Coast.
Base_Ball_2: Apart from yourself, what teams seemed to be most active at the Winter Meetings pursuing trades?
Melvin: There was very little activity at the Winter Meetings in regards to trades. Most of the activities involved negotiations with free agents.
tvd65: What did the Mets offer for Ben Sheets?
Melvin: I did not have any trade discussions with the Mets in regard to Ben Sheets.
pkrup: Will it be difficult for you to deal Kevin Mench if it is not done before Tuesday?
Doug Melvin: No, Mench has created a lot of trade interest.
jermyv: Hi, Mr. Melvin. Now that Tony Graffanino has accepted arbitration, is he a possible trade candidate. Thank you.
Melvin: Our plans are to keep Graffanino at this time. But there is always the possibility for trades in the future.
drv1959: What do you think the outfield will look like on Opening Day?
Melvin: We're still trying to filter through different ideas. It's pretty confident to say that Corey Hart and Bill Hall will be a part of it. We're fortunate to have more depth than we thought.
tvd65: What do you think of Zach Jackson's Major League chances in '07? I think Carlos Villanueva is the real deal, please don't deal him.
Melvin: Zach Jackson will have the opportunity to compete for a job in Spring Training. Carlos Villanueva pitched extremely well last season and probably is the front-runner for the fifth spot in our rotation as it currently stands.
pkrup: If you have five outfielders, seven infielders and two catchers, that only leaves room for 11 pitchers. Is this something that might happen with the Opening Day roster?
Melvin: That's a possibility. If every one stays healthy, that could be the makeup of our club. Early in April, we should be able to get by with 11 pitchers.
ronbelliard10: What former/current players would you compare to Hardy and Rickie Weeks?
Melvin: I've heard people making Alan Trammell comparisons to Hardy and I've heard Ray Durham comparisons in regards to Weeks.
crewohsevenalltheway: Doug, I am one of the very few supporters of Mench, is it possible he and Geoff Jenkins could platoon.
Melvin: I would find it difficult to platoon both players. Both Jenkins and Mench have been front line players in the past. I can see resting them against certain pitchers, but they would both be more effective getting 450-500 at-bats.
crewohsevenalltheway: Doug, a lot of fans are disappointed with the way the Winter Meetings went. Where do you go from here?
Melvin: If we came home from the meetings with Johnny Estrada, Craig Counsell and Tony Graffanino we would have been pleased. We were fortunate that those deals were made prior to the Winter Meetings giving the impression that nothing happened in Orlando.
Brent_Lautenbach: Doug, there has been talk about Brad Penny being available from the Dodgers. If so, would the Brewers have any interest payroll-wise to go after a big name pitcher like that?
Melvin: If a trade could be worked out for a pitcher with Penny's contract, we would have the ability to take that on.
Daren_P: What's the outlook on the bullpen?
Melvin: Francisco Cordero is the closer. We hope that Derrick Turnbow can turn things around in Spring Training and pitch the way he did in his first year and a half. Matt Wise and Jose Capellan should bounce back. And we like the arm of Greg Aquino. Brian Shouse was also very effective for us as a left-handed specialist.
pkrup: Obviously it was hard to draw Dave Roberts or Schmidt to Milwaukee. Do you find that with a lot of free agents?
Melvin: I find that most free agents select four or five cities that they want to go to once they file for free agency. They instruct their agents to see if they can get jobs with those particular teams first. There are a lot of aspects that go into their selection process beyond just the money.
wibrewer: Any update on signing Jeff Cirillo?
Melvin: We anticipate hearing from his agent in the next day or so.
crewohsevenalltheway: Are there any teams out there at least interested in trading an outfielder to us right now?
Melvin: We're basically looking to solve our log-jam of outfielders and have not looked at acquiring any outfielders.
Thomas_Decker: What is your relationship like with other GMs? Are there any you get along with particularly well?
Melvin: I feel that I have a good relationship with most GMs. I spend a lot of time on the phone talking with them. I spend more time with St. Louis GM Walt Jocketty, Brian Cashman of the Yankees, San Diego GM Kevin Towers and Jim Hendry with the Cubs. I spend a lot of time with these GMs, probably because we all have a number of years of experience in the game.
drv1959: Are you still committed to Corey Koskie at third in '07?
Melvin: If Corey is healthy and passes all of the tests, then we consider him to be our starting third baseman.
papo106193: Hello. Any updates on the trade that you mentioned was just a phone call away. What are the chances that you will accept it.
Melvin: We're still in discussions and I don't anticipate making a trade this weekend.
Thomas_Decker: What other hobbies or sports are you interested in?
Melvin: I'm too old to play any sports. I like watching movies, particularly "classic" movies. I like movies featuring actors such as John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. I like following all types of sports, but I like following basketball the most.
rw9917_yahoo_com: What role will Gabe Gross play for the '07 Brewers?
Melvin: Gabe did a great job for us last year and we're hoping to find more playing time for him in the '07 season.
gabegrossmvp2007: Do you plan to get a first baseman to back up Prince Fielder or are you settled there?
Melvin: We plan on using Tony Graffanino or Jeff Cirillo (if he signs) as a backup for Fielder.
d3ft0ne: Is the Chorizo's offseason workout program going according to plan and will he be ready by Opening Day?
Melvin: The most recent report is that he's still a few pounds overweight. We plan to send Brewers' strength and conditioning coach Dan Wright to Mexico to present the Chorizo with our offseason conditioning program.
drbarlow: Do you plan on using Craig Counsell as mostly a utility player?
Melvin: We plan on using Craig all over the infield -- at second base, shortstop and third base. His ability to play shortstop was an integral part in signing him.
crewohsevenalltheway: What basketball teams do you like?
Melvin: The Bucks and Mavericks.
Daren_P: Do you think that some teams overspent?
Melvin: It's obvious that some teams have overspent.
crewohsevenalltheway: Would it be possible for Rickie Weeks to bat leadoff and play center field, putting Hall in left.
Melvin: We're still confident that Rickie will improve defensively and his offense should allow him to be an above-average offensive player for his position. Billy Hall also has a chance to be an above-average offensive player for a center fielder.
Terrence_Neumann: Before last year, Hart was viewed as someone who could play center field. Has this changed? Why is he being looked at only at a corner outfield spot?
Melvin: We think if Corey is kept in one position, then he can focus on learning that position and it should help him become a productive Major League player. He has played first base, third base and center field and he's at a point where we would like to give him some stability by playing at one position.
Darin_Renner: Which of the current Minor League players do you anticipate giving legitimate shots to make the Opening Day roster? Yovani Gallardo? Ryan Braun?
Melvin: Gallardo and Braun are our two best young players that could see some playing time in Milwaukee this season. Ryan had an outstanding Arizona Fall League season and was rated one of the top prospects. Yovani could possibly pitch for us next year -- very similar to some of the young pitchers that pitched for the Marlins in 2006.
Matt_Thiel: The Brewers, Twins, and A's are all low on payroll. The Twins and A's are perennially making playoff runs and the Brewers are just playing spoiler at the end of every year. Why is that?
Melvin: I think the Brewers are getting very close to where the Twins and A's started winning. Our young players are about a year and a half behind their young players. For example, by the time Prince Fielder reaches the age of Ryan Howard, he may have 125 home runs under his belt.
Terrence_Neumann: What does the depth chart look like behind Corey Koskie? If Koskie goes down for an extended period of time, would Ryan Braun get a shot?
Melvin: Graffanino and Counsell could platoon if Koskie was unable to play. But we will also take a long look at Ryan Braun in Spring Training.
Melvin: Our time is winding down. I have time for a couple more questions.
rw9917_yahoo_com: Will Vargas have to compete for a spot in the starting rotation in Spring Training?
Melvin: We're counting on Claudio Vargas to be the No. 4 starter behind Chris Capuano, Sheets and Dave Bush. We like his arm and his durability.
Daren_P: I hear talk of getting another starter, but what about relief guys?
Melvin: We're just trying to add pitching depth -- both at the starting and relief positions. We do feel there are some Minor League pitchers that could make our big-league team, but we're a little thinner on starting pitching at the Minor League level.
hurt: How many at-bats do you foresee Corey Hart getting this year?
Melvin: We'd like Corey to get 450-550 at-bats this season.
nickneugerbauer: How much of the day-to-day lineup is decided by you and how much is decided by Ned Yost?
Melvin: I rely on Ned to make the day-to-day decisions in regards to the lineup. There are times when I make suggestions, but I have confidence in Ned to make those decisions.
Melvin: Thank you for joining me for today's chat. We're all counting the days to Spring Training.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.