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12/20/07 5:46 PM ET
Brewers, Kapler agree to one-year deal
Outfielder comes out of retirement for non-guaranteed contract
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin was unimpressed by the available free-agent outfielders, so he pushed somebody else in the pool.
The Brewers on Thursday drew outfielder Gabe Kapler out of retirement, agreeing to terms on a one-year, non-guaranteed contract that pays $800,000 if Kapler makes the roster. Kapler, 32, managed a Class A affiliate of the Rex Sox last season but announced near the end of the season that he intended to attempt a comeback.
"He knows he has to come in and win a job," said Melvin, who conceded the Brewers have a bit of a crowd in the outfield. "I don't think this was about the money for him. It was about getting a chance to play again."
In parts of nine Major League seasons, Kapler is a career .270 hitter with 64 home runs and 302 RBIs in 850 games for the Tigers, Rangers, Rockies and Red Sox, and he also played briefly in Japan. Kapler was a member of three playoff teams in Boston (2003-05), including the 2004 world championship team, but suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in 2005 that threatened to derail his career.
Brewers scouts Bruce Seid and Corey Rodriguez evaluated Kapler during a West Coast workout last week. Melvin, who got to know and like Kapler after trading for him in Texas in 1999 as part of the blockbuster Juan Gonzalez trade with Detroit, said he stayed out of the evaluation process.
"Our scouts came back saying, 'This guy is going to play in the big leagues next year for somebody. We should take a shot at him,'" Melvin said. "I didn't want to put my opinion in on him without [the scouts] seeing him, but he has great work ethic, knows his role. People love the way he plays the game."
Kapler was in the Bahamas this week with his family and will not be available to talk about joining the Brewers until he returns, according to a Brewers spokesperson.
The Brewers scouts who saw Kapler last week believe he could be a right-handed-hitting version of Gabe Gross or Tony Gwynn Jr., versatile outfielders capable of playing all three positions. Kapler, though, is a long shot to be a regular starter.
Kapler's specific role "obviously depends on what else we're going to be doing," Melvin said. "But he's a guy with Major League experience and can play all three outfield positions. And this guy is in better shape than our 25-year-old guys."
Melvin has been seeking clarity in the outfield since declining the contract option for longtime Brewer Geoff Jenkins. The Brewers have been seeking lefty hitters with modest strikeout numbers and quality defensive skills. Kapler is a right-handed hitter, but he does fit the other two counts.
The team is still mulling free agents and trade options for left field, and remains willing to move National League Rookie of the Year Ryan Braun to left if the best fit is a third baseman. Melvin confirmed that club officials have talked about Kenny Lofton, who turns 41 in May, but said he had not spoken with Lofton's representation.
The possibility of acquiring Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen, a hot topic during the Winter Meetings, "is probably a dead issue," Melvin said.
"We're still looking at our options," Melvin said. "There are warts on every player when you get to this point. You're not going to find the perfect guy."