Brewers agree to terms with Hawkins
GM Melvin adds reliever with closing experience for two years
INDIANAPOLIS -- Brewers officials met in person with free-agent reliever LaTroy Hawkins at the Westin Hotel on Wednesday morning. Just after lunch, they had a deal.
Hawkins' agent, Larry Reynolds, confirmed via Twitter that his client had agreed to a two-year, $7.5 million contract with Milwaukee, pending a physical exam that will likely be scheduled for Tuesday. It was the Brewers' second significant signing of the day, coming less than two hours after starter Randy Wolf agreed to the framework of a three-year deal."I'm pretty excited about it," Hawkins told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. "I have a physical [next week], so I need to figure out a way not to get hit by a bus between now and then, but other than that I'm good." The right-hander will turn 37 on Dec. 21, but he is coming off his best season since he saved 25 games for the Cubs in 2004. In 65 appearances for Houston, Hawkins posted a 2.13 ERA and 11 saves as a fill-in for closer Jose Valverde. Hawkins attended the Winter Meetings in person to push for a multiyear deal. The Astros were interested in bringing him back, but would only offer one year with an option. The D-backs also had interest, but would not go beyond one year. "I'm disappointed," Astros GM Ed Wade said. "I think the world of LaTroy, not only from the standpoint of what he brought to our club from a competitive standpoint but the kind of guy he is, the makeup he brought in the clubhouse and the presence he carries. A two-year guaranteed deal is something he's talked about trying to find for the last three or four years, and he found it at what we think may have been the 11th hour. "We thought we were closing in on getting a deal done. We had talked about a year and a vesting option and they actually came back and asked about a clean one-year deal and we made our proposal, but we got trumped on two-year." Hawkins could particularly help the Brewers as an additional option, along with lefty specialist Mitch Stetter, to face left-handed batters, who managed just a .203 batting average against Hawkins last season. Righties hit .303 against him. For his career, lefties have hit him at a .282 clip and righties .281. Hawkins has pitched parts of 15 seasons for seven different teams. He earned $3.5 million from the Astros last season. Among the other relievers under consideration by the Brewers this week were former Cubs closer Kevin Gregg (a right-hander who has been particularly tough on left-handed hitters the past three seasons) and left-hander Mike Gonzalez, who notched 10 saves with the Braves this year. Gonzalez is a Type A free agent who declined the Braves' arbitration offer, so he would cost the Brewers a second-round Draft pick. Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin was technically barred from discussing Wednesday's signings because the physical exams were pending. He already has his closer in all-time career saves leader Trevor Hoffman, but he likes the idea of stockpiling multiple relievers with ninth-inning experience. "It helps," Melvin said Tuesday, speaking generally about his bullpen search. "We did that with Solomon Torres [in 2008]. If someone falters, you have somebody who's done it before." Hawkins could be the final major addition to Milwaukee's bullpen. Hoffman re-signed for $8.5 million right after the season, and Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash said Tuesday that the team had a tentative deal with right-hander Claudio Vargas to return. Cost-effective lefty Stetter should also be back, along with arbitration-eligibles Todd Coffey and Carlos Villanueva. Seth McClung is also arbitration-eligible, but he can pitch as a starter or a reliever and he is recovered from an elbow injury he sustained before the end of last season. Other candidates include right-hander Chris Smith and left-hander Chris Narveson, both of whom are on the 40-man roster and had stretches of success in 2009. David Riske may return at some point in the season from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. John Axford was impressive in a late-season stint with the Brewers last season, and Macha mentioned him Tuesday as an option. A number of Brewers officials, including Macha, have touted left-handed pitching prospect Zach Braddock as an option to help the big league club at some point in 2010.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.