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12/08/08 7:19 PM EST
Brewers, Coffey reach one-year deal
Right-hander one of six of Crew eligible for arbitration
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
LAS VEGAS -- The Brewers agreed to terms with reliever Todd Coffey on a one-year contract Monday, avoiding the arbitration process and kick-starting the team's week at the annual Winter Meetings. Coffey, 28 and a right-hander, was excellent after the Brewers claimed him off waivers on Sept. 10 to bolster the bullpen for the final three weeks of the regular season. He worked nine scoreless appearances -- spanning 7 1/3 innings -- and then traveled with the Brewers throughout the National League Division Series even though he wasn't eligible for the postseason roster.
Contract talks did not begin until the middle of last week but concluded quickly. A baseball source confirmed that Coffey will earn an $800,000 base salary next season, plus a $200,000 bonus if he makes 70 appearances. Coffey reached that threshold once, in 2006, when he pitched in 81 games for the Reds.
"It was a real easy decision because I want to be a Brewer," Coffey said. "They believed in me last year. This is a good deal."
In parts of four Major League seasons, Coffey has a 4.46 ERA in 222 relief appearances. He won't be a free agent until after the 2011 season.
Coffey could end up playing a significant role in a rebuilt Brewers bullpen. Salomon Torres retired, and Eric Gagne, Guillermo Mota and Brian Shouse are free agents, leaving many of Milwaukee's late-inning roles up for grabs.
The Brewers have already begun to fill those holes. They signed free agent lefty R.J. Swindle last month, then picked up former Orioles closer Jorge Julio last week. Coffey is another former closer -- he briefly served that role for the Reds in '06, his first full season, notching eight saves before that club acquired Eddie Guardado -- and said he would welcome the chance to do it again.
"I would love to have that role again," Coffey said. "But the bottom line is that whenever I pitch, get outs. That's why I'm there. But I really do believe I could [close again]."
Before he signed Monday, Coffey was among the eight Brewers with fewer than six years of Major League service time eligible for arbitration. The others are pitchers Dave Bush, Chris Capuano and Seth McClung, first baseman Prince Fielder, shortstop J.J. Hardy, outfielder Corey Hart and second baseman Rickie Weeks.
Teams face a Friday deadline to tender those players contracts for 2009. The only one sure to be non-tendered is Capuano, who missed 2008 after undergoing the second Tommy John elbow ligament transplant surgery of his career. The Brewers likely will try to re-negotiate a lesser contract for Capuano, who earned $3.75 million in 2008.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.