12/09/09 6:46 PM EST
Wolf, Brewers agree on three-year deal
Left-hander to slot in as No. 2 starter after solid '09 season
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
Wolf agreed to terms on a three-year contract with the Brewers on Wednesday that according to numerous reports includes a fourth-year club option and guarantees $29.75 million. The Brewers can't confirm the agreement because Wolf has yet to pass a physical, but Wolf himself went on Sirius XM radio and said he was, "excited" to be a Brewer.Not to mention relieved to have some job certainty. "It was only natural to be a little bit apprehensive about where the market is considering what happened last year," Wolf said in the satellite radio interview. "It was a crazy offseason last year, especially with me. It made it really easy the way the Brewers came in very aggressive and made it really clear they wanted me there. So I kind of knew things were going to happen with them." When finalized, it will be the third-richest pitching contract in Brewers history, next to Jeff Suppan's four-year, $42 million deal that expires after next season and Ben Sheets' four-year, $38.5 million deal from 2005-08. Agent Arn Tellem apparently shopped the Brewers' offer at the Winter Meetings on Tuesday but found no other teams willing to match the terms for Wolf, a 33-year-old coming off a near career year with the Dodgers. He signed late last winter to a one-year deal and went on to post an 11-7 record with a 3.23 ERA in a career-high 34 starts. Wolf was rated a Type A free agent but the Dodgers declined to extend him arbitration. That means the Brewers will not have to surrender a compensatory Draft pick -- it would have been a second-rounder -- to sign him. The Brewers also agreed to terms with reliever LaTroy Hawkins on Wednesday, but starting pitching was the clear priority this winter. When it became evident that the top free-agent pitcher, John Lackey, would be too expensive, club officials moved to the next tier and decided that Wolf was their best fit in a group that included right-handers Jon Garland, Rich Harden and Joel Pineiro and left-handers Doug Davis and Jarrod Washburn. A report Wednesday morning on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Web site said Garland would have been the Brewers' Plan B had Wolf rejected their offer. Instead, Wolf accepted, and he will slide into Milwaukee's starting rotation behind 23-year-old ace Yovani Gallardo (13-12, 3.73 ERA in 2009). Brewers manager Ken Macha said Tuesday that he also expects left-hander Manny Parra (11-11, 6.36) to be back, but couldn't confirm the fate of Suppan (7-12, 5.29) or Dave Bush (5-9, 6.38 ERA in a year marred by a fluke injury). Bush is arbitration-eligible and the Brewers have to decide by Saturday whether to tender him a contract or let him go. He earned $4 million last season. The only other in-house options include Seth McClung and Carlos Villanueva, each of whom are arbitration-eligible and pitched mostly in relief last season. In Los Angeles, Wolf helped mentor stud left-hander Clayton Kershaw. He said he was looking forward to a similar relationship with Gallardo. "Well, it's funny, I think they're both very similar pitchers," he told Sirius XM. "They both have those high-riding, four-seam fastballs and those big, hard curveballs. I think they're both going to be good pitchers for a long time." The Wolf deal comes with some red flags attached. No reports emerged this week from the Winter Meetings of any other team willing to offer Wolf a three-year deal, an indication that the Brewers were extremely aggressive with their offer. Now the team owes guaranteed dollars over the next three years to a pitcher who made 33 starts in each of the past two seasons after falling short of that plateau for each of the four years prior. Wolf has been on the disabled list at least five times in his career, according to his bio in the Dodgers 2009 media guide, including a long stint that stretched from 2004 to 2005 when Wolf underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left elbow. He also had minor shoulder surgery in 2007. But Wolf was healthy through most of 2009, missing only one start after tweaking his elbow on a batting practice swing. The Brewers hope he'll stay healthy over the next three seasons to help contend in the National League Central. Milwaukee's starters combined for a 5.37 ERA in 2009, the worst mark in the league, and finished 80-82. "I think with the Brewers [they are] the first to tell you they had an off year with the starting pitching," Wolf said. "I think that might be somewhat of a fluke. I don't think it could be bad again. I think Doug wanted me there to help out the starting pitching but I think the guys there will do better and I think there's a lot of potential to do better. I think they have some good pitchers there that just had off years and they had some injuries as well. I think things will get a lot better."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.