As you may or may not have heard, yesterday, long time Major League pitcher Jeff Suppan officially retired. The durable 39 year old played for seven teams and built a reputation for being a steady middle to back of the rotation starter. Suppan made at least 30 starts for 11 straight seasons (1999-2009) and won at least 10 games in 9 of those 11 seasons. He won a career high 16 games in 2004 and 2005, but the highlight of his career most likely was in the 2006 NLCS when he won the NLCS MVP (posting a 0.60 ERA in 15 innings) on his way to the 2006 World Series Championship with the Cardinals.

Jeff Suppan was then able to parlay those results into a lucrative 4 year free agent contract worth 42 million dollars with the Brewers, unfortunatley the results were less than spectactular.
Here is a snap shot of his Brewers' career.

*It's important to note that Suppan was released in June of 2008 before the
completion of his contract.
YEAR          WINS        LOSS        GS            IP              ERA            WHIP           BAA
2007           12              12           34           206.2         4.62            1.50             .298
2008           10              10           31           177.2         4.96            1.52             .298
2009            7               12           30           161.1         5.29            1.69             .309
2010            3                8            15           101.1         5.06            1.65             .324
Total           32              42           110         647.0         4.98            1.59             .307

Obviously, this is not what Doug Melvin and Company had in mind when commiting 42 million dollars to the right hander. But, at least Suppan provided some stability, however mediocre,  in Brewers rotations that a lot of turnover and inconsistency.

In 2007, he led the Brewers in Games Started (34), Wins (12), and Innings Pitched (206.2). In 2008, tied with Ben Sheets for the team led in Games Started (31). In 2009, although he made 30 starts, his production dipped significantly and as his production continued to suffer he was eventually released in the middle of the 2008 season.

After being released by the Brewers in 2008, he finished his career with stints with the Cardinals, Giants, Royals, and Padres. Unsurprisingly, Suppan was never able to recapture his durability, consistency, or effectiveness so January 2nd, 2014 at 2pm PST (to honor his late mother), Jeff Suppan reitred from Major League Baseball.

Happy Trails

In case you missed it, was recently featured on the "Baseball Blogs Weigh In" section of As perhaps the most popular baseball blog today, it was a great honor to be mentioned on it and I look forward to continuing to share posts with their staff and hopefully have a few more mentions as this blog continues to devel
As the Milwaukee Brewers continue to search for their primary 2014 first baseman, I would like to, one last time, make a suggestion about who I believe could man the position and contribute to the 2014 Brewers.

I believe that Oakland Athletics first baseman Daric Barton would be a good fit for the Brewers and has the ability to contribute, both offensively and defensively, in 2014. The 28 year old first baseman recently avoided arbitration with the A's and is signed for 1.25 million for 2014. He has been designated for assignment twice (3/29/13 and 5/18/13) and I suspect would not be too difficult to acquire. I believe that Barton still has upside and possesses traits which would be valuable to 2014 Brewers; he is a plus defender, he can get on base, and he could be attainable at a reasonable price.

Daric Barton is a plus defender at first base. He has a career 9.4 UZR/150 in 4179.0 career innings. I think Barton would be a good compliment to an otherwise defensively suspect infield, Scooter Gennett (1.4 UZR/150 in 2013), Rickie Weeks (-16.9 UZR/150 in 2013), Jean Segura (-1.1 UZR/150 in 2013), and Aramis Ramirez (-16.0 UZR/150 in 2013).

Daric Barton can also get on base. I will concede that he does not hit for a high average (career .250 hitter) and does not have optimal power for a first baseman (career 1.22 ISO and career 3.72 SLG%), but he does has a low strikeout rate (career 16.5% strikeout rate) and gets on base (career .360 OBP). In 2013, Barton posted a .350 OBP in 120 plate appearances. By comparison, if Barton was to sustain that rate over the course of the season, he would have been slotted between Jon Jay and Chase Utley at 21st overall in the National League.  It's possible Barton's production may spike even higher if he is given a regular opportunity to play as evidenced by his 2010 campaign when he posted a .393 OBP in 686 plate appearances. A similar performance would slot Barton between Freddie Freeman and Matt Carpenter for 7th in the National League in 2013. Finally, Barton would add a, badly needed, left handed back to a right handed heavy line up. If you value Barton's ability to get on base, it seems as if he would be able to contribute to the Brewers offense in 2014.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, Barton may be available and his price will most likely not be too high. Oakland already has Brandon Moss penciled in at first base and Josh Reddick at DH. They may want to keep Barton for depth but they also have the option to use Nate Freiman at first base and a host of extra outfielders to use at DH. I suspect Barton could be had for a mediocre or mid level prospect or a relief arm to continue to support Billy Bean and Co. in strengthening their bullpen. 

In conclusion, I think that, although he is not a flashy acquisition, I think that Daric Barton could be a low risk high upside acquisition that could add to the 2014 Milwaukee Brewers. If the Brewers are not going to make a large splash at first base, I would like to sign them bring in players like Barton and hopefully catch some upside at first base. 

On December 21st, 2012, the Milwaukee Brewers signed then 30 year old Tom Gorzelanny to add an established left handed reliever to their pitching staff. Coming off a very good year with the Nationals, where he posted a very solid 2.88 ERA, 7.8 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, and 42.9% ground ball rate over 72 innings, he was able to secure a 2 year 5.7 million dollar (2.6 in 2013/2.8 in 2014) contract from Doug Melvin. Gorzelanny also brought experience as a starter and was thought to be able to serve as a starter as well as a reliever, if needed. 

On the surface, it appeared that Gorzelanny had a rough 2013 or at least not exactly what he or the Brewers had expected. He went 3-6 with a 3.91 ERA, 8.75 K/9, and a 3.27 BB/9 over 85.1 innings. He also made 10 starts at the end of the year.

Digging deeper, if one was to concede that perhaps Gorzelanny is not best suited as a starting pitcher and utilized him in the ever demanding left handed specialist/reliever role, his season may have been viewed as more successful. I also understand that you probably cannot directly carry over Gorzelanny's stats as a starter to those accrued as a relieve, so there may be some variable.  Keeping that in mind, in 2013 Tom Gorzelanny faced 98 left handed batters and limited them to a very good .184/ .283/.316 with a 44.1% ground ball. To compare his current market value, I have made a table comparing Gorzelanny to the premier left handed relievers on this year's free agent and trade market.

Name             Age        # LHH Faced in 2013       BA        OBP      SLG% Against      New Contract
Javier Lopez   36           90                                     .156      .208      .222                      3yrs 13 million
Boone Logan 29           77                                      .221     .274       .377                     3yrs 16.5 million
Matt Thornton 37         81                                      .235     .267       .370                     2yrs 7 million
Josh Outman   29          111                                    .198     .278       .261              Traded for Drew Stubbs
Gorzelanny     31           98                                     .184      .283       .316            1yr remains @ 2.8 million

I think this undoubtedly shows that Tom Gorzelanny has significant value as a left handed specialist/reliever and compares well with some of the "premier" left handed relief options who have recently been on the move.  In addition, at a cost of only 2.8 million for 2014, he unquestionably  signed at below market value.

The question of what to do with this asset is up to Doug Melvin and his staff. Obviously, they could keep Gorzelanny for at least the start of the season and re-evaluate the situation then. They could also try and sign him to a moderate extension as he has done well in his niche and left handed relievers seemed to have a long shelf life. I think two more years at 4 million per year would not be unreasonable. Or they could try and "cash in" their asset now and try an recoup a player with some upside. Much like the Rockies got with Drew Stubbs. 

I believe the Brewers has too many organizational holes to find exceptional value in a left handed specialist/reliever like Gorzelanny. I feel that if they can move him to address another need, such as infield depth, then they should. I think Gorzelanny's value would be highest on a clear competing club as a second left hander. 

For example, I could see Boston being interested? With their catching depth would they be amenable to swapping Gorzelanny for Ryan Lavarnway. Giving the Brewers extra depth at catcher and, if successful, allowing Jonathan Lucroy to spend a little more time at first.

It's these types of upside moves, that I think the Brewers should consider and will help them achieve sustained success and compete in the NL Central. 
It is no secret that the Brewers are in desperate need of a regular first baseman. With the recent signings free agent signings of Corey Hart (Mariners), Justin Morneau (Rockies), and James Loney (Rays) paired with the league trade acquisitions of Mark Trumbo (D-Backs), Logan Morrison (Mariners) and Garrett Jones (Marlins)  the Brewers are forced to scan an increasingly bare trade and free agent market for a first base man. 

Right now the trade market boasts a nice blend of annual underachievers ( Ike Davis of the Mets, Justin Smoak of the Mariners, and Gaby Sanchez of the Pirates) who are all despite some upside are very underwhelming overall. In addition, more useful players like Mitch Moreland of the Rangers, Billy Butler of the Royals, or Adam Lind of the Blue Jays are said to have very high asking prices.

The free agent market now is marked by veterans on the rebound (Kevin Youkilis, Mark Reynolds, Carlos Pena, and Casey Kotchman) or defensively challenged Kendry Morales who also received a qualifying offer from the Mariners. None of these options seem like obvious everyday fit for the 2014 Brewers.

So, with no desire to see Juan Fransico play an entire year at first base, the positions remains a priority. I, like I imagine Doug Melvin has been doing, have devised a short list of potential first base alternatives who could regularly contribute for the 2014 Brewers.

Free Agent Option1. Eric Chavez- The 36 year old corner infield has recorded a 106.0 innings at first base over the last three seasons. In that limited sample size, he has been an above average defender posting an 11.6 UZR/150. Partially due to injury, Chavez has been limited to a part time role since 2011, never posting more than 313 at bats. The big risk with Chavez surrounds his durability and it would be a huge risk to assume he could hold up over 450 at bats for the 2014 Brewers. Offensively, Chavez has always been able to post strong on base percentages and provide some power. In addition, historically, Chavez is able to handle both lefties and righties, which makes him potentially valuable in the line up. As recent as last season, Chavez posted a .281/.332/.478  offensive line over 254 at bats. Again, the main risk with Chavez is his durability and he, of course, would not be a long term solution, but the price is right (probably a one year deal in the 3 or 4 million dollar range) and he could potentially hold down the position until Hunter Morris is ready. 

Trade Options
1. Mike Carp- The 27 year old first base/outfielder has come a long way since being DFA'ed by the Mariners last off season, but still may be the odd man out in Boston's outfield. Last year, he posted an impressive .296/.362/.523 offensive line over 216 at bats. He excels against righties posting a .300/.367./.537 offensive line in 2013, but still is productive against lefties posting a .269/.321/.423 offensive line. In 858 career innings at first base, Carp has posted a slightly below average UZR/150 (-3.3), but I feel that remains in a safe defense range. By comparison, Prince Fielder posted a -4.8 UZR/150 last season. Finally, Carp is affordable and made only $500,000 in 2013, he is arbitration eligible and remains under team control. The problem with Carp surrounds the presumed desire by the Red Sox to "sell high" and reportedly require a strong return for Carp. The Brewers have already shown a reluctance to deal top prospects such as Tyler Thornburg, so finding a common ground might be difficult. Should the Brewer be able to secure Carp for one of their strong relievers, perhaps Brandon Kintzler, I might be temped to pull the trigger.

2. Adam Dunn- If the White Sox were willing to absorb a large portions (about half) of Dunn's 15 million dollar salary for 2014, would the Brewers take a flyer? I might. Adam Dunn does not seem like he fits into the White Sox long term plan. They have positioned Jose Abreu at first base for the long term and have resigned Paul Konerko presumably to DH. In that light, it seems like Dunn might be without a position. Dunn rebounded from a horrendous 2011 and posted solid numbers in 2012 and 2013. He could provide absolute power and he belted 41 homeruns in 2012 and 36 more in 2013. In addition, he posted a solid .204/.333/.468. offensive line in 2012 and a .219/.320/.442 line in 2013. I think, one year, Dunn could provide definite left handed power to the lineup and contribute consistently for the Brewers. He has always managed to stay on the field posting over 500 at bats every season since 2004 except 2011, which is invaluable. Defensively, Dunn struggles. Over his career at first bases he posts a UZR/150 around -18.0 which is incredibly unimpressive. But, could strong and regular production from the position be enough to overlook that. I think it depends on the price and what it would take to have the White Sox eat have to the remaining salary. Taking Nelson and Hellweg off the table, would trading a young reliever (Wooten or Hand) be worth of one year of Dunn. 

I fully understand that each of these options comes with risk and that neither is perfect, but I believe that each, if given the opportunity at the right price, could contribute and provide value to the 2014 Brewers. 

In case you missed it, on December 5th the Brewers traded outfielder Norichika Aoki to the Royals for 24 year old left handed pitcher Will Smith. 

After two very productive seasons, the Brewers exercised the 32 year old's modest 1.9 million dollar option for 2014. During his time with the Brewers, Aoki posted an offensive line of .287/.355./.399 averaging 80 runs scored and 25 stolen bases a year. In addition, Aoki provided above average defense in right field posting a 4.2 UZR/150 in 2013. All together, Aoki provided the Brewers with a 4.2 WAR over the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

It makes sense the Brewers would trade Aoki at this point. His value, due to his performance and salary, are very high and he is a free agent after the 2014 season. It is safe to assume that if he repeats his 2013 performance, the then 33 year old would be in line for an increasingly expensive multi year contract, something the Brewers may not be prepared to offer due to their current direction and outfield depth. 

So, on December 5th, the Brewers made the move.

In return, the Brewers received left hander Will Smith, who will add to a very right handed dominated pitching staff. I suspect that Ron Roenicke will give the Smith an opportunity to start in Spring Training (especially since Gallardo, Lohse, Peralta, Thornburg, and Estrada are all right handed), but feel as if he will most likely wind up in the bullpen in 2014.

Will Smith was drafted in the 7th round of the 2008 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He steadily climbed his way through the Angels' minor league system until July 23rd, 2010 when he was traded to the Royals (with Sean O'Sullivan) for Alberto Callaspo.

He made his Major League debut on May 22nd, 2012 and pitched for between Triple A and Major Leagues for the duration of the 2012 and 2013 season. In 2013, Smith excelled as a reliever and over 33 1/3 innings posted an impressive 3.24 ERA, 11.6 K/9, and 1.9 BB/9. He also impressed against left handed hitters, holding them to a combined .157/.204/.353 offensive line over 51 at bats. This was significantly better than the 5.32 ERA, 5.92 K/9, and 3.31 BB/9 he posted over 16 starts for the Royals in 2012. 

I think despite some struggles starting because of his starting experience and potential, Smith will continue to get some opportunities to start, but may be most valuable in the bullpen in 2014. 

Although not the flashiest return, I think he was an appropriate return for potentially one year of Aoki.  I think he is versatile, adds to the organizational depth, and can contribute immediately at the Major League Level. Finally, he remains under team control through the 2019 season, which is always a good thing.

Welcome to Milwaukee. 
Today the Milwaukee Brewers signed IF Irving Falu and C Matt Pagnozzi to minor league contracts with invites to Spring Training. Neither were added to the 40 man roster. All things considered these moves are rather minor, but each has a chance to make the big leagues as a back up out of camp and also could provide organizational depth for the Brewers throughout the 2014 season. I thought in that light, I would write briefly about each player as a reference for some readers who may not be familiar with either. 

Matt Pagnozzi- The now 31 year old catcher was originally drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 8th round of the 2003 MLB Draft. He made his major league debut for the Cardinals on September 29th, 2009. From 2009 through the 2012 season, Pagnozzi spent time in the Cardinals, Rockies, Pirates, and Indians organizations, playing sparingly at the Major League level. Before last season, he signed a minor league contract with the Atlanta Braves and posted a .210/.274/.314 offensive line in 321 plate appearances in AAA. On September 3rd, 2013, Pagnozzi was traded to the Astros for cash considerations and played out the 2013 season for the big league club. He played in 9 games accumulating 22 at bats and posting a .143/.182/.143 offensive line. On October 2nd, 2013 he was outrighted for the 40 man roster and elected free agency. That leads us today when he signed a minor league contract with the Brewers.

The right handed hitter does not bring a lot to the table offensively (but does hit lefties significant better than righties) and is only an average defender. He does bring 243 innings of big league experience to the organization which may help some of the younger catchers. In Spring Training, he will compete with Martin Maldonaldo and Robinson Diaz to be Jonathan Lucroy's back up. I suspect that he will not make the team and will spend most of the 2014 at AAA or AA providing valuable catcher's depth to the organization.

Irving Falu- The 30 year old infielder was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 21st Round of the 2003 MLB Draft. He spent the next eight seasons in the Royals organization exhibiting a strong on base percentage (from 2008-2012 posted an OBP over .325) and stolen base potential (averaging about 18 stolen bases from 2008-2012). He played mostly middle infield, but also made a couple appearances at third. Falu made his major league debut for the Royals in 2012 and accumulated 89 plate appearances over 25 major league games over the part of the 2012 and 2013 seasons. In the small size he posted a .337/.366/.346 offensive line. He made the majority of his appearances at second base and short stop but according to Fangraphs was slightly below replacement level. Although, his versatility adds value. On November 25th, 2013 he was released by the Royals and on November 4th, 2013 he signed his minor league contract with the Brewers.

The switch hitter hits left handers and right handers about the same, but displays slightly more power from the right side. In Spring Training, he will battle Eugenio Velez, Hector Gomez, Taylor Green, and Jeff Bianchi for a back up infield job and perhaps could be in the running to see considerable time if Rickie Weeks struggles or Aramis Ramirez gets injured. I think that Falu has a decent shot at making the club as a back up; due to his experience, speed, and versatility. Otherwise, I think he will played in AAA and provide solid organizational depth. 

Assuming the Brewers are not currently in the market for high priced high profile free agents, I think they should and will consider bringing in some low cost, low commitment veterans to help the current club.
I have identified three free agents which the Brewers could probably sign to a short term contract which could help the Brewers climb atop the NL Central in 2014.

1. Mike Morse: Morse is coming off a disappointing season for both the Mariners and the Orioles. He was battling a wrist injury towards the end of the season and was only able to muster a .215/.270/.381 line in 312 at bats. The 32 year old Morse is only one year removed from a solid 2012 campaign with the Nationals where he accumulated over 400 at bats and posted a .291/.321/.470 and posted a .303/.360/.550 line including 31 home runs in 2012. Defensively, Morse is an adequate defender at first base and a below average but not the worst defender in the corner outfield positions. I believe that with the 2014 Brewers, Morse could provide a viable option at first base, in the outfield, as a pinch hitter, and DH during inter league play. I believe that Morse would contribute offensively and whose defensive versatility would valuable as he would ideally back up three positions. Finally, I feel that he would be best in a secured reserve role, perhaps starting 2 or 3 times a week. I think this would help him remain healthy and able to contribute throughout the entire season. I think the market for Morse is not expansive coming off an injury and he could be signed for 1 year 4 million for 2014 and a 1 year vesting options at 500 plate appearances at 8 million for 2015, with further incentives for making the All Star team and post season awards. 

2. Brett Myers: Now 33 year old Myers is coming off a nightmarish season in Cleveland. After signing a one year deal with Cleveland the usually durable Myers hurt is elbow and only appeared in 4 games for the Tribe. He was reinstated from the 60 day DL on August 29 and promptly released as the Indians were unwilling to pitch a recovering Brett Myers in the midst of a play off push. Over his career, Myers has been durable and effective as both a starter and reliever. He made 33 starts and pitched at least 216 innings in 2010 and 2011. In 2012, for the Astros and the White Sox, he pitched 65 innings of effective relief posting a 3.31 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. Additionally, Myers has consistently posted strong ground ball rate of at least 45% in every season but last. Myers also holds up under a more Sabremetric lens although he is homerun prone posting 8.9% HR/Non-GB. In 2014, I would value Brett Myers' versatility and begin to utilize him as a long reliever/spot starter. I think he could add stability and a veteran presence to the bullpen and as serve as a realistic and effective option for starting rotation should another starter falters or becomes injured. As he is trying to re-establish his value I would expect Myers to accept another one year contract, perhaps 3 million base salary and another 3 million in incentives based on innings pitched, days on the active roster, All Star team nominations, and post season awards.

3. Kelly Johnson: Before settling on the 32 year old, I strongly considered similar free agents Michael Young and Kevin Youkilis. I read early that Young wanted a defined starting role at second or third and I am not sure the Brewers would be in a position to offer that or make the necessary moves to great that opportunity for the 37 year old Young. In addition, Young hit from the right side and does not provide the potential power that Johnson does. Youkilis is reported to be healthy and suspect he would open to a part time role, but I liked Kelly Johnson's ability to play second base in addition to the corner outfield and infield positions. Also, his left handed bat, is a nice change of scenery from a very right handed heavy line up. Johnson exhibits durability (at least 141 games played and 581 plate appearances per season from 2010 through 2012), versatility (since 2010 he has started games at first base, second base, third base, and left field), and surprising and needed pop from the left side (hitting at least 16 homeruns in every season since 2010, including 2013 when he got 407 at bats). In 2013, Johnson also posted .175 ISO (isolated power) by comparison Prince Fielder, in 2013, posted a .178 ISO. The knock on Johnson has always been that he strikeouts too often and is only an average defender at best. But, despite a career average in the .250's, he draws enough walks to keep his On Base Percentage over .300. I believe that if given the opportunity Kelly Johnson could very well take the starting job away from Rickie Weeks or Scooter Gennett if either struggles. In any case, I think Johnson could be a valuable member of the 2014 Milwaukee Brewers providing them with stability and badly needed left handed power. I think that Johnson draws comparison to recently signed David Murphy, I think he would sign a two year offer at 10 million dollars, which would represent his largest contract to date. 

In conclusion, I feel that the Brewers will continue to be cost conscious this off season and will continue search for bargains and values on the free agent market. I think each of these players could help the Brewers, with minimal financial risk, in 2014 and contribute to the campaign. At potentially a combined cost of 12 million for 2014 I believe that these players represent tremendous value for the Brewers and could contribute immediately. 
In 2013, the Milwaukee Brewers finished the season 78-88. 23 games behind the first place St. Louis and 16 games behind the second Wild Card Spot. By all accounts. it was a disappointing campaign and was largely marked by injuries to Corey Hart, Aramis Ramirez, Mike Fiers, Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, and Mark Rogers and a lengthy and well publicized suspension to Ryan Braun.

Thankfully, the season was not all bad. We saw the emergence of Jean Segura, Khris Davis, Carlos Gomez and discovered a young core of pitchers (Thornburg, Nelson, Hellweg, Wooten, Figaro, Hand, Kintzler, and Henderson). 

Subsequently, this had led to a decision that needs to be made by Doug Melvin and his staff about the direction of the Milwaukee Brewers. Does he believe that, barring major injury, 2014 Brewers are a playoff contender and look to add pieces to put the Brewers over the top. The argument could be made that having full seasons of Ryan Braun and Aramis Rammirez plus improved pitching the Brewers could contend in the NL Central.

Conversely, the argument could be made that the Brewers are too young and that the window for realistic competition has closed. This point is only exacerbated by the fact the Aramis Ramirez, Rickie Weeks,  and
Norichika Aoki could all be free agents after the the 2014 season with Yovanni Gallardo and Kyle Lohse to follow after 2015. If Doug Melvin and his staff assume this train of thought it would make sense to liquidate their expiring assets and continue to build for the future, I also understand that there is probably a very limited market for Rickie Weeks and Aramis Ramirez at this point.

Finally, and likely the most probable, the Brewers could decide to "play it by ear" and make a few low cost short term investment this off season and look to add to the existing roster without giving up draft picks to qualified free agents or giving up major prospects in trade. Then they would decide mid season whether to continue to add to the roster or too sell.

I personally believe that there are too many questions and holes with the 2014 Brewers as it stands and, that without over extending financially, it would be difficult to compete next year and increasingly difficult the year after. I value long term and sustained success and would believe that it can be obtained if the Brewers look to improve their organization roster. 

I think the Brewers could and should recoup some financial flexibility and organization depth by trading Rickie Weeks (11 million owed in 2014 and vesting options at 11.5 million in 2015), Kyle Lohse (11 million in owed in 2014 and 2015), Aramis Ramirez (14 million owed in 2014 plus a mutual option for 2015), Yovanni Gallardo (11.25 million owed in 2014 and a club option for 2015 at 13 million, and finally Norichika Aoki (1.5 million owed in 2014). I believe that if the Brewers were willing to eat some of the salaries, specifically to Ramirez and Weeks, the Brewers would be able to acquire some young, quality, and controllable players along with almost 60 million dollars in financial flexibility to help build the organization to a level of sustained success.