© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

12/12/08 6:06 PM EST

Brewers do not tender offer to Capuano

Pitcher could return to club on Minor League contract

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers let left-hander Chris Capuano enter the free agent market on Friday, but a top official expressed "strong interest" in bringing him back.

As expected, Milwaukee did not tender Capuano a 2009 contract before Friday's 11 p.m. CT deadline for players eligible for arbitration. The Brewers did, however, tender offers to their six other eligibles, including first baseman Prince Fielder, whose salary will skyrocket in his first run through the arbitration process.

Also among the Brewers tendered contracts were shortstop J.J. Hardy, right fielder Corey Hart, second baseman Rickie Weeks and pitchers Dave Bush and Seth McClung. Fielder, Hart and Weeks are all eligible for the first time.

The decision on Capuano was purely financial; had Capuano been tendered a deal and entered the process of arbitration, the Brewers would have had to pay him at least 80 percent of his $3.75 million salary from 2008, or $3 million. The club deemed that cost too high for a pitcher coming off his second career Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery who may not be ready to pitch by Opening Day.

Instead, vice president and assistant general manager Gord Ash will negotiate with agent Michael Moye on a new contract for Capuano, likely a Minor League deal.

"There is a strong desire to have him back," Ash said. "And as Michael Moye told me, [Capuano] would like to stay. It's just a matter of finding some common ground to make that work."

Moye did not return a telephone message on Friday, and Capuano, who indicated during the regular season that he was open to renegotiating, was not available. He married his fiancée, Sarah, a former Duke University classmate, two weeks ago.

It would be difficult for the Brewers to offer Capuano a Major League contract because he is still rehabbing his left elbow, the subject of a surgical reconstruction on May 15. Capuano has been rehabilitating at the team's facility in Phoenix with physical therapist Kenny Patterson, but there is some doubt about whether he will be in pitching shape by Opening Day.

Under terms of baseball's Basic Agreement, Ash said, the Brewers could only give Capuano a maximum of 30 days on the disabled list at the start of the season before they would have to pass him through waivers.

"I'm not sure 30 days is enough," Ash said. "That's part of the problem."

Hot Stove
Friday's deadline affected players who have not yet amassed the six years of Major League service to reach free agency but did have enough time to qualify for arbitration. Typically, that requires three years of service, though a percent of players (none of them Brewers) with two-plus years qualify for "Super Two" status.

Players who were "tendered" on Friday are considered signed for 2009 at a salary to be determined, and both sides will continue negotiating. If a deal cannot be struck, the team and the player will each file a proposed 2009 salary in early January. Those figures are exchanged on Jan. 19, and a date for a salary arbitration hearing is then set for some time between Feb. 1-21.

If the sides still cannot come to terms before the date of the hearing, a representative for the team and one for the player present a case before a panel of arbiters, which chooses one salary or the other.

On the other hand, players who are not tendered a contract before Friday's deadline become free agents. Brewers officials will scour that list for potential pitching bargains.

One more player could be added to the list of Brewers arbitration-eligibles if the team moves forward with a proposed trade for Yankees outfielder Melky Cabrera. Talks were on hold Friday about a deal that would send Cabrera, who earned $461,200 in his final pre-arbitration season, to Milwaukee for Mike Cameron.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.