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02/04/10 4:51 PM EST
Brewers have history of waiver wire magic
From Podsednik to McGehee, Crew has plucked winners
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Winter waiver claims often go unnoticed amid the bigger bubbles on the Hot Stove. Not in Milwaukee, where the Brewers over the years have quietly acquired some key players over the wire. On Wednesday, Milwaukee claimed right-hander Marco Estrada from the Nationals, a week after picking up infielder Joe Inglett from the Rangers. Back in December, the Brewers added another infielder, Luis Cruz, from the Pirates. Estrada and Cruz are likely ticketed for Minor League assignments, but Inglett, who has Major League experience with Cleveland and Toronto, has a chance to make the team as an extra infielder or outfielder. "We've got a lot of guys coming to camp but he's a left-handed hitter and we have a right-handed-hitting lineup," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "I told him he would come to camp with a chance to win a job." Inglett would not be the first. Since Melvin took over as GM in September 2002, the Brewers have claimed 17 players off waivers beginning with Melvin's first acquisition: outfielder Scott Podsednik. The speedy center fielder parlayed the opportunity into a career resurgence, and he's not the only one. Here's a look at Melvin's waiver works: The hidden gems Podsednik: Plucked away from the Mariners on Oct. 11, 2002, Podsednik was a prospect whose star was fading. He turned into one of Melvin's best additions. "I'm sure I've got a shot here, but I can't focus my attention on who's playing where, who's getting their hits and who's not," Podsednik said once he reported to Milwaukee's Spring Training camp. "You start putting too much pressure on yourself, and that takes you out of your game. "I can't get caught up in those decisions. I know that I'm playing hard. We'll see what happens." What happened is he made the team as a reserve, then moved to the starting lineup in mid-April when right fielder Jeffrey Hammonds went down with one of his myriad injuries. Podsednik shifted to center field a month later in place of a slumping Alex Sanchez and never let go. The Brewers traded Sanchez to the Tigers on May 27 and Podsednik ended up batting .314 with 43 steals and finishing second to Dontrelle Willis in National League Rookie of the Year balloting. In 2004, Podsednik led the Majors with 70 stolen bases and was packaged with reliever Luis Vizcaino in a trade that brought All-Star slugger Carlos Lee to Milwaukee. Podsednik won a World Series with the White Sox the following season and this winter hooked on with the Royals. Brady Clark: Three months after he found Podsednik, Melvin grabbed Clark from the New York Mets. At the time, Clark was a .307 hitter in parts of six Minor League seasons, but his bid to make the Brewers' roster was derailed by a groin injury in Spring Training. Hammonds' injury opened a roster spot for Clark and he made the most of it. He batted .277 with a .360 on-base percentage in two seasons spent mostly as a backup and became the everyday center fielder when Podsednik was traded to Chicago. Clark hit .306 and scored 94 runs in 2005, then scored again the following February, when Melvin gave him a two-year contract. The Brewers traded him to the Dodgers in March 2007 after deciding to move Bill Hall to center field. Clark has bounced around since his Brewers tenure and did not play at all in '09, but last week inked a Minor League contract with the White Sox. Derrick Turnbow: Turnbow was all promise but no polish when the Brewers claimed him off waivers from the Angels on Oct. 14, 2004. Brewers fans probably remember him best for his wild hair, but there was a window in '05 and early '06 when he was a pretty effective pitcher, too. Turnbow took the closer's role from Mike Adams early in '05 and went on to post a 1.74 ERA and 39 saves, tying the franchise saves record set the previous season by Dan Kolb. Turnbow parlayed his popularity and success into a multiyear contract, and he had a 1.35 ERA and was a perfect 12-for-12 in save chances entering a May 13, 2006, game against the Mets. The second-largest crowd in Miller Park history packed the stadium for Derrick Turnbow bobblehead night, and all of them received a doll with "real" hair. Turnbow took the loss that night and unraveled. From May 13 through the end of the season, he posted an 8.58 ERA with eight blown saves. He lost the closer's job for good when the Brewers acquired Francisco Cordero ahead of the non-waiver Trade Deadline in July. Milwaukee designated Turnbow for assignment on May 2, 2008. Last week, he signed a Minor League deal with the Marlins. Todd Coffey: The Reds designated Coffey for assignment on his 28th birthday in '08 and the Brewers claimed him off the waiver wire the following day to help with the team's stretch run to the NL Wild Card. Coffey worked nine scoreless appearances to help the Brewers end their postseason drought, then emerged as the team's primary setup man in '09 in front of closer Trevor Hoffman. Coffey led Brewers pitchers with 78 appearances and led the NL with 83 2/3 relief innings while posting a 2.90 ERA and sparking the home fans with his trademark sprint from the bullpen. Last month, Coffey avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $2,025,002 contract for 2010. Casey McGehee: When the Brewers claimed McGehee off waivers from the Cubs on Oct. 29, 2008, he was coming off a 92-RBI season for Chicago's Triple-A affiliate but was blocked at third base by Aramis Ramirez. He reported to Brewers camp as a long shot to make the club because the team had subsequently added veteran Mike Lamb. McGehee not only won an Opening Day roster spot, he played his way into regular duty at third base, batted .301 in 116 games and led Major League rookies with 66 RBIs. He finished fifth in NL Rookie of the Year balloting. "If I got a chance, I thought I would be successful," McGehee said back in September. "I've always believed that, that's for sure. By no means do I feel like I have it figured out, but I knew that if I got a chance to be a part of the team, I could be a big contributor." He's penciled in as a big part of the team for 2010. Assuming he doesn't have any setbacks from postseason knee surgery, McGehee has the inside track to start at third base. All of Melvin's waiver claims have not had the same impact. But the following four found a way to contribute: Left a mark Chris Spurling: Plucked from the Tigers on May 16, 2006, Spurling appeared in 49 games the following season with a respectable 4.68 ERA. Grant Balfour: Balfour was in the Turnbow mold, all power and little finesse, when the Brewers claimed him from the Reds on Oct. 5, 2006. He pitched only three times in a Brewers uniform before getting shipped to Tampa Bay for fellow power righty Seth McClung in a trade that worked for both sides. Balfour found success with the Rays in '08 and put up a 1.54 ERA in 51 games on the way to the World Series. McClung, meanwhile, was solid as a swingman for Milwaukee and pitched some important innings down the stretch in '08 that helped the Brewers hang on for the Wild Card. Marino Salas: Claimed from the Orioles on Feb. 1, 2007, Salas never threw a pitch for the Brewers but he was traded in December 2008 for veteran reliever Salomon Torres. When the Eric Gagne signing proved a bust, Torres stepped into the closer's role and saved 28 games. He was key to the Brewers' first postseason appearance in 26 years. Sam Narron: Narron, a lefty, never made it to the big leagues with the Brewers but spent five years in the organization after Milwaukee claimed him from Texas on Oct. 14, 2004. Narron signed as a Minor League free agent with the Tigers this winter. Didn't pan out Five of Melvin's waiver claims fit safely into this category, from infielder Zach Sorensen in November 2005 (from the Angels) to catcher J.D. Closser in September 2006 (Rockies) to catcher/infielder Eric Munson in October 2008 (Astros) to sidearmer Wes Littleton last March (Red Sox). But the dubious "leader" of the group might be right-hander Chris Mabeus, who was claimed from Oakland on May 16, 2006, and seemed cursed from the start. His promotion to Milwaukee was delayed because Major League Baseball informed the Brewers that he hadn't spent the required 10 days in the Minor Leagues, and when Mabeus finally got into a game, it didn't go very well. Here is his line from May 29, 2006, a 14-3 Brewers loss at Pittsburgh: 1 2/3 innings, four hits, four earned runs, three walks, three wild pitches, one home run. He did strike out two batters, but never pitched in the Majors again. Inglett, Estrada and Cruz will hope for better luck.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.