Brewers holding pat entering Meetings
Club waiting on Sabathia's decision before moving forward
MILWAUKEE -- It's fitting, on the eve of the Winter Meetings at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, that general manager Doug Melvin and the Brewers are holding their cards so close to the vest.Melvin said he and his staff have been discussing free agents and trade opportunities all along, but the Brewers have been somewhat paralyzed by the slow-going CC Sabathia sweepstakes. Milwaukee submitted one of the two known offers (the New York Yankees put up the other offer) for the free-agent left-hander, who has been waiting for a number of West Coast teams to join the bidding. At the same time, the Brewers do not have many obvious holes to fill. Melvin points out that all of the hitters who departed via free agency were either backups or platoon players, meaning new manager Ken Macha could field a viable 2009 lineup with players already in the fold. If Seth McClung were to rejoin the rotation after a successful end to last season in relief, the Brewers also have five starters, even if free agents Sabathia and Ben Sheets move on. In the bullpen, assuming players such as Mitch Stetter and Tim Dillard are promoted to the Major Leagues permanently, there are only a handful of spots available, including the closer's role, and Melvin believes those can be filled later in the offseason. The Brewers also would need to restock the bench. So Milwaukee's contingent headed to Vegas in a bit of a holding pattern, waiting for Sabathia's decision to help decide their course for the rest of the offseason. If he takes less money to remain in Milwaukee (reportedly $100 million over five years, compared to six years and about $140 million offered by the Yankees), then the Brewers' starting rotation is dramatically improved and Melvin can focus more of his efforts to add left-handed bats to a right-handed-heavy lineup. But in the very likely event that Sabathia signs elsewhere, the Brewers would reap a pair of high Draft picks and Melvin would likely refocus on building depth in the starting rotation for 2009. Yovani Gallardo, Dave Bush, Jeff Suppan and Manny Parra are set to return, and McClung could be an option, but it's likely that Melvin would be more motivated to either pursue another starter on the free-agent market or try to add an arm via trade. "We're meeting every day to go over things," Melvin said. "We know what we can do and what we can't do. "The big thing for us is that it has changed somewhat from a year ago, when our younger players were not making money. Now a lot of our younger players are arbitration-eligible and that has changed our focus on what we can do free agent-wise." At the head of that list is first baseman Prince Fielder, whose 2008 contract was renewed by the club at $670,000 but who now stands to make something in the neighborhood of 10 times that amount in arbitration. Right fielder Corey Hart and second baseman Rickie Weeks are also eligible for arbitration for the first time, and Hart in particular will get a big bump from his $444,000 salary. Shortstop J.J. Hardy ($2.65 million salary in 2008) and starter Dave Bush ($2.55 million) can also expect bumps in their second years of arbitration.
Ready to go
|The Brewers enter the Winter Meetings with enough players under control for the 2009 season to field a starting lineup and a full rotation without making a move.|
|3B||Bill Hall/Mat Gamel|
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.