Melvin calls Day 1 trade Brewers' first step
Marcum deal just beginning in bid to upgrade pitching
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin capped Day 1 of the Winter Meetings by formalizing a trade with the Blue Jays for right-hander Shaun Marcum, who will join right-hander Yovani Gallardo and left-hander Randy Wolf atop Milwaukee's starting rotation.But Melvin did not sound like a GM planning to spend the rest of the week poolside at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort. "We need to find some pitching to improve our ballclub, and this is our first step," Melvin said. "Hopefully, we can add some more. It was a costly deal for us in giving up a very talented young prospect in Brett Lawrie, but it was something that we felt we needed to do. We still feel we have a very talented team and can compete in our division to get to the postseason again." With that goal in mind, Melvin seemed to be looking with a less-skeptical eye toward the free-agent market, which can be particularly risky when it comes to starting pitching. That could partly be a reflection of how tightly other teams are holding their young pitching, even when offered a tempting bat like Prince Fielder's. The Brewers have had a hard time getting what they believe are fair offers for their slugging first baseman, who is only a season removed from free agency. Melvin was asked specifically about one of the top remaining arms, right-hander Carl Pavano, and declined to say whether he was interested. Here's what Melvin did say: "Adding someone like Shaun now at least allows us to sift through the remaining free agents and trade possibilities. As you know, not many teams want to give up pitching. There's not many pitchers being traded." Marcum did not come cheaply, costing the Brewers their top prospect in infielder Lawrie. But he's coming off a healthy, productive season as Toronto's No. 1 starter, and his 3.64 ERA in the American League East theoretically should translate well to the National League Central. Milwaukee officials will continue their search for pitching this week, and reportedly are willing to part with another top prospect -- Lorenzo Cain -- in the right deal, though Melvin didn't like an AOL Fanhouse report early Monday that said Milwaukee was "interested in moving" the 24-year-old center fielder. "That was bad," Melvin said. "Lorenzo called our scout, Doug Reynolds, and was all worried about it. We have to be open to any players, but we feel very good about Lorenzo Cain being our center fielder. He played very well in September. We have Carlos Gomez, and we feel good about him. Having players who are athletic and can cover ground, that's important at key positions. "Finding catchers, shortstops and center fielders is hard, and we feel we have three good young ones [in catcher Jonathan Lucroy, shortstop Alcides Escobar and Cain]."
Cain missed time in 2009 with a knee injury but bounced back in a big way in 2010, hitting .317 with a .402 on-base percentage and 26 stolen bases in 84 games at the Double-A and Triple-A levels and then .306 with seven steals 43 games in the big leagues.
The Brewers and Braves have had very informal talks that included Cain, and the Braves have pitching available. If Cain were to be available, don't count out the Mariners, whose general manager, former Brewers scouting director Jack Zduriencik, drafted Cain in 2004.
Speaking of names in trade rumors, Fielder made an appearance on Monday. ESPN Los Angeles briefly reported that the Brewers and Dodgers were "actively involved in discussions" about trading Fielder for L.A.'s closer, Jonathan Broxton, and first baseman, James Loney.
Officials from both sides quickly shot the story down. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said there was nothing to it. Melvin said he hadn't spoken with Colletti at all in Florida.
It was a false alarm, but expect Fielder's name to come up again before the Meetings break up on Thursday. The Brewers have not had any success in talks with agent Scott Boras about an extension for the 26-year-old Fielder, who is arbitration-eligible for the last time and due a raise from his $10.5 million salary in 2010. He is on track to reach free agency after the 2011 season.
Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks is on the same contractual path, but Brewers officials remain hopeful about their discussions with Weeks and agent Greg Genske about an extension. Melvin will meet with Genske at some point this week.
"Our goal is to sign Rickie long term," Melvin said, "as Rickie has indicated he would like to stay with us."
Does trading Lawrie to Toronto add some urgency to talks with Weeks? Not really, Melvin said.
"We have a very good second baseman, Eric Farris, behind him that played in the Fall League and performed very well there," Melvin said. "And Brett is a very talented player, and he was not really penciled in at second."