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11/18/09 4:26 PM ET
Brewers claim Kottaras from Red Sox
Backstop asked out of crowded catching situation in Boston
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers added catching depth on Wednesday by claiming onetime Padres prospect George Kottaras off waivers from the Boston Red Sox.
Kottaras, 26, and a left-handed hitter, reportedly asked out of Boston after it became clear that Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek would be back in 2010. Kottaras appeared in 45 games with the Red Sox last season and batted .237 with one home run and 10 RBIs.
He is out of Minor League options, and joins catchers Mike Rivera and Angel Salome on Milwaukee's 40-man roster. The Brewers also plan to give a long Spring Training look to prospect Jonathan Lucroy, whom general manager Doug Melvin mentioned this month as a candidate to jump from Double-A to the Majors in 2010.
Rivera, Salome and Lucroy are all right-handed hitters.
"If we can get better, then we'll try to get better," Melvin said. "We have to have depth. We have Salome and Lucroy, we have Kottaras and we still have Rivera, but we don't have a front-line guy."
That guy in the past two seasons was Jason Kendall, but Kendall cost $5 million in 2009 and Melvin made it clear to agent Arn Tellem that the Brewers didn't intend to spend that much behind the plate next year.
Rivera is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, but Melvin wouldn't say what the Brewers' plans are for him next season. The team has until Dec. 12 to decide whether to tender Rivera a 2010 contract.
Asked for his thoughts about the team's catching situation in general, Melvin said, "It's too early to say what we'll do. We haven't gotten to the Winter Meetings. Free agency hasn't even started yet, so we can't really talk to anyone."
Teams own exclusive negotiating rights with their own free agents for the 15 days following the World Series. They are free to negotiate with all free agents beginning at 11:01 p.m. CT on Thursday.
As recently as three years ago, Kottaras was rated the second-best prospect in San Diego's organization by Baseball America. He was traded from San Diego to Boston late that year to complete the trade that sent pitcher David Wells to the Padres.
In seven Minor League seasons, Kottaras is a .269 hitter with 66 home runs and 289 RBIs. His best year was 2007, when he batted .243 for Boston's Triple-A affiliate with a career-best 22 home runs and 65 RBIs in 107 games.
Any player plucked off waivers by Melvin has a chance to follow in a line of Brewers success stories. The latest was Casey McGehee, who was claimed from the Cubs in October 2008 and finished fifth in the '09 National League Rookie of the Year Award balloting this week. McGehee may have been the Brewers' biggest offseason waiver success since they claimed reliever Derrick Turnbow from the Angels in October '04. Turnbow saved 39 games the following season.
Melvin claimed outfielder Brady Clark from the Mets in January 2003 and Clark was a Brewers regular for the next four seasons. A year before that, Melvin claimed outfielder Scott Podsednik from the Mariners, and Podsednik went on to place second in the '03 NL Rookie of the Year balloting, eventually headlining a package that landed All-Star Carlos Lee in a trade with the White Sox.
Kottaras is the Brewers' first waiver claim since the end of the regular season.