No action for Brewers before holiday
General manager Melvin reports little progress with Looper, Fuentes
MILWAUKEE -- It does not appear that there is a match between the Brewers and free-agent starter Braden Looper.
General manager Doug Melvin headed into the Christmas holiday engaged in "one or two" serious negotiations with free-agent pitchers but said that talks with Looper had not risen to that level."It's been pretty quiet," Melvin said on Tuesday afternoon before his break. "I've been in the office the last few days, and the phone probably hasn't rung more than twice." One of those calls was from Looper representative Alan Hendricks, but that Monday conversation led to little progress, and Melvin -- who revealed his interest in Looper to reporters on Sunday -- said that talks had yet to turn into negotiations. "I don't think anything is going to happen [with Looper]," he said. "I think he's going to wait until after the holiday, too. Players are all still looking for multiyear deals and waiting for other players to sign." Hendricks did not return MLB.com's e-mail seeking comment. The same wait-and-see mentality may hold true for Brian Fuentes, the top closer on the free-agent market. Melvin met with agent Rick Thurman during the Winter Meetings about Fuentes and had follow-up talks last week, but again, there was little follow-through, and by Tuesday Melvin was not exactly optimistic. Melvin characterized his conversations with Thurman as "talks," not "negotiations," indicating that Milwaukee had not formally made an offer. Fuentes has been sitting on an offer from the Cardinals, but once again this week expressed his desire for the Angels to join the bidding. Fuentes was born and raised in California. "He keeps wanting to play out there. I don't anticipate us [getting him]," Melvin said. "When I go into this, we don't have to be first in line all the time, but I like to hear the player consider us." Melvin has ongoing negotiations with a player or two, but would not elaborate beyond saying that pitching would be Milwaukee's priority after the holiday. The Brewers remain in the market for starters now that CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets have bolted via free agency, and Melvin reiterated again that there's no way for the team to replace the sensational Sabathia, who went 11-2 in his 17 Brewers starts last season. That recurring comment could be setting up a somewhat quiet January for Melvin, who pointed out on Tuesday that the team's offense is in place and that new manager Ken Macha could field a five-man rotation today if he included Seth McClung in the mix. The hard-throwing McClung is also an option for the bullpen, perhaps even to replace retired closer Salomon Torres. But even with McClung as a starter, the Brewers would have precious little depth in that department.
Melvin shut the door on any thought of using Carlos Villanueva as a starter in 2009, unless in an emergency situation. Villanueva began last year in the rotation but enjoyed great success in relief, posting a 2.12 ERA in 38 games. He, too, has been considered as an option to close.Also in the bullpen, the Brewers will count on continued contributions from Todd Coffey, who finished the year strong, and a bounce-back year from David Riske, who sustained an elbow injury late in the first season of his three-year contract. Barring a flurry of additions, such younger players as Mitch Stetter and Tim Dillard, who got some big league exposure last season, will have to step up, and Melvin said that such rookies as Omar Aguilar or Luis Pena could be called on to contribute. "We have a lot of young, power arms," Melvin said. "We just don't have the experience factor like we had last year. And right now we don't have the depth." While the Brewers worried about depth, the Yankees continued to snatch up every big-name free agent in sight. First it was Sabathia and fellow ace A.J. Burnett, and on Tuesday they added first baseman Mark Teixeira to the mix. The Brewers were hoping that another team landed Teixeira. Because his ranking as a Type A free agent was slightly higher than Sabathia's, the Brewers will get the Yankees' second-round Draft pick in June instead of their first-round selection. Milwaukee also gets a supplementary Draft pick between the first and second rounds. But Brewers officials were not exactly shocked to see New York swoop in at the last moment for Teixeira. "I think it's quite clearly a product of moving into a new ballpark with tremendous revenue streams and a new person in charge who wants nothing less than a championship," said assistant GM Gord Ash. "This is very reminiscent of what they have tried before. It didn't work then, and I'm not sure it's going to work now. "The silver lining is that we're not in the [American League] East," added Ash, the former GM of the Blue Jays. "Having been in that situation before, it can get depressing. But you just have to remember that while spending can help ensure you compete, overspending does not guarantee you a championship."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.