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12/07/09 7:50 PM EST
Relievers move up wish list for Crew at Indy
Pitching still main focus for Brewers after Day 1 of Meetings
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Brewers' primary focus this winter is acquiring at least one starting pitcher, but club officials have lined up a wish list of relievers, too.
The importance of that secondary search became clearer on Day 1 of the Winter Meetings, when the team announced that reliever Mark DiFelice -- who was devastating against right-handed hitters last season -- had undergone shoulder surgery last week that will cost him all of 2010. Milwaukee already has its closer in Trevor Hoffman and its setup man in Todd Coffey, but a reliable reliever is high on the wish list.
"We're looking," Melvin said. "We were looking before [DiFelice] was injured. We knew there was a chance at the end of the year that he would have this."
He added: "We were looking at the bullpen previous to this. We're making our list, checking it twice, trying to find out who's healthy and good."
The challenge for the Brewers is that DiFelice would have only cost something close to the league minimum salary, and finding a replacement at such a reasonable price will be difficult.
Most of the Brewers' available dollars are ticketed for starters, a fact Melvin has made clear from the beginning of the offseason. Melvin has made overtures to all of the key free agents this winter, but he would not speak to the progress of his search on Monday afternoon before club officials had dinner with representatives of the organization's Minor League affiliates.
The Brewers were making "a strong push" for former Dodgers left-hander Randy Wolf, FoxSports.com reported, though Melvin said Wolf's agent, Arn Tellem, and his associates had yet to arrive in Indianapolis as of Monday afternoon. The Brewers also continued to be linked to left-hander Doug Davis, and agent Steve Canter confirmed that Milwaukee was indeed in the mix.
Melvin, though, is playing his Winter Meetings cards uncharacteristically close to the vest. He declined, for example, to say whether the Brewers were even pursuing John Lackey, who's widely considered the top available arm. He also declined to reveal whether he had any offers on the table for a pitcher, saying that such proclamations hurt negotiations.
Asked how his search for starters was progressing, Melvin replied simply, "Tough."
Melvin met with reporters in a makeshift conference room adjacent to the presidential suite at the Westin. That kept scribes from seeing the "big board" in the main suite, a list of available players sorted according to a number of attributes.
"We have a priority board, and we look at it and go down the list and put it in order," Melvin said. "It's signability; do we think the dollars that they're asking for or the length of contract is worth their ability? You've got the health factor for some of them, their consistency to career, you've got [whether] they have an interest in going to the National League. Some want to train in Arizona, some in Florida. Some want to go to the West Coast, some to the East. There are a lot of different factors."
Brewers manager Ken Macha arrived Monday afternoon and so did new pitching coach Rick Peterson. They joined the group of club executives debating players in the team's suite.
Macha could sure use the help. He worked with a starting staff in 2009 that posted the highest ERA of the 16 NL clubs.
"Ideally, you'd like to go out and get a No. 1 guy or a No. 2 and go from there," Macha said. "Is that guy out there? If you're just looking at free agency, probably not. But I'm sure that Doug [Melvin] is using all of his guys to gather information about pitchers that might be able to come to us via trades to fill those shoes."
Besides the pitching, Melvin's other targets include an infielder to back up rookie shortstop Alcides Escobar, with veteran free agent Craig Counsell remaining the team's first choice. Melvin has already submitted an offer, and while there's no deadline, he would prefer to know before the end of the week from agent Barry Meister whether Counsell is looking to re-sign.
Melvin and his group is working in peace. While 26 teams are headquartered in the downtown Marriott, Melvin and baseball's three other senior-most GMs -- Walt Jocketty of the Reds, Andy MacPhail of the Orioles and Dave Dombrowski of the Tigers -- have their bases in the Westin next door.
Their work will continue Tuesday.
"We've contacted a few agents, but we don't contact them unless there is something seriously to it," Melvin said. "There's a lot of fishing going on out there, both by ballclubs and by agents."