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12/08/08 10:23 PM EST
Brewers patient as Meetings begin
Sabathia's decision limiting club's offseason progress
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
LAS VEGAS -- The foor-to-ceiling windows in Brewers general manager Doug Melvin's 35th-floor hotel suite offered a fitting symbol for the team's experience on Day 1 of the Winter Meetings. Brewers officials had an expansive view of a massive construction site adjacent to the Bellagio that appeared to be dormant. "We haven't seen those cranes move very much today," assistant GM Gord Ash said.
Aside from a pair of in-house moves, there wasn't much action inside, either.
Call it the CC standstill.
Melvin and Ash did get their first face-to-face meeting with representatives for free-agent pitcher CC Sabathia, but they had to leave the Bellagio for it. Agents Greg Genske, Brian Peters and Scott Parker hosted the Brewers at the nearby Wynn for a 30-minute discussion, and Melvin left feeling the Brewers were still in the hunt for the most sought-after arm on this year's market.
The Brewers did have some in-house activity on Day 1. They re-signed reliever Todd Coffey to a one-year contract that avoided an arbitration hearing, and by dinnertime were a few loose strings away from tying down infielder Mike Lamb for 2009. Lamb played the final three weeks of the 2008 regular season in Milwaukee and could platoon at third base with Bill Hall next year. Mat Gamel will also get "a good shot in Spring Training" for playing time at third base, Melvin said.
But the Brewers' main focus remained where it's been since the team submitted its initial proposal to Sabathia on Nov. 1. For now, it's CC or bust.
"I don't play poker, but I suppose it's a little like playing poker," Melvin said. "You're trying to read the other guy. They control all of this."
"All we can do at this point," Ash said, "is keep the lines of communication open. Continue to talk and be ready to move if we have to."
Which begged the question, is the "CC standstill" hampering the Brewers' preparations in other areas? Melvin conceded Monday that while the team could easily field a 2009 starting lineup and could cobble together a starting rotation and a bullpen, the pitching is "thin" in terms of depth and the bench has yet to be filled out.
Those are real concerns, especially in the pitching department. Even in a relatively stable year in terms of injuries (right-hander Yovani Gallardo's knee injury was the most notable exception) the Brewers used eight starting pitchers in 2008. Today, they could move Seth McClung permanently into the rotation, but they have little depth at Triple-A.
But Melvin and Ash insisted it's not a concern just yet. The rest of the market is at a standstill, they pointed out.
"I think we've been fortunate that the rest of the marketplace hasn't been moving fast, either," Ash said.
The Brewers' initial proposal to Sabathia was reportedly worth about $100 million over five years. The Yankees' six-year, $140 million proposal is the only other known offer, though the Angels, Dodgers and Giants could get involved. Yankees GM Brian Cashman met again Monday with Sabathia, and Newsday reported that Red Sox officials did, too.
Sabathia himself did not attend the meeting with Brewers, officials, but that wasn't the most discouraging development for Milwaukee's contingent on Day 1. That came hours earlier, when Dodgers GM Ned Colletti told reporters that he ran into Sabathia at the Bellagio on Sunday night and Sabathia said he wants to be a Dodger.
"How come we keep missing him?" Melvin joked. "I guess I go to bed too early."
Earlier Monday, Melvin dismissed as speculation the reports that Milwaukee either was poised to add a sixth year to its proposal or had already done so, or that the Brewers were ready to add an escape clause that would allow Sabathia to become a free agent again two or three years into his deal. Melvin said that Genske had not yet asked for an "out" clause, but the Brewers may be open to the idea.
The sides plan to meet again before adjourning on Thursday. Genske is a busy guy this week; he also represents free agents Orlando Hudson, Adam Dunn, Brad Penny and Pat Burrell.
"All I can say is we talked to them," Melvin said. "They appreciated us being patient through this process and they didn't want to rule us out."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.