Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Building The 25 - Melvin shows fiscal restraint

Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin avoided salary arbitration with right-handed starting pitcher Marco Estrada and first/third baseman Juan Francisco when he signed both to one-year deals essentially guaranteeing each a spot on The 25 for 2014.  Estrada, in his second year of salary arbitration, signed a one-year deal worth $3.3 million.  Francisco, in his first year of salary arbitration, signed a one-year deal worth $1.35 million.  Sure either player could have tried for slightly more money via the arbitration process but that usually only results in a slight bump for players of their stature and it comes at the expense of hearing the club rip apart your resume in the arbitration hearing.

More important than the deal just discussed, Melvin signed a ton of guys throughout the month of January to minor league contracts with an invite to spring training, which are exactly the kind of deals that I encouraged Melvin to sign in my advice to him for how to build The 25 for 2014.  The three most notable names that Melvin signed to the low-risk, potentially high-reward deals are left-handed pitcher Zach Duke, first/third baseman Mark Reynolds, and first baseman Lyle Overbay.

As a rookie Duke posted a 1.81 era and 3.4 wins above replacement (WAR) in just 14 starts for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2005.  That performance was good enough for Duke to finish fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting that season while current Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks finished tied for sixth.  Duke posted a 4.47 ERA and 2.7 WAR in 34 starts the following year.  Unfortunately following such a promising start to his career, Duke only posted one other season of above 2 WAR, which happened in 2009.  Since then Duke battled injuries and ineffectiveness as he played for a number of teams.  There is still a chance that Duke can turn things around given that he does not turn 31 till after the start of the 2014 season, which is why I am fine with Melvin taking a flyer on Duke.

After losing Corey Hart to the Seattle Mariners, the Brewers were left with Juan Francisco, Sean Halton, and Hunter Morris fighting for the starting spot at first base.  If I were in charge, I would give Morris every chance to win the starting job at first base even though he struggled a bit moving from AA to AAA last season.  Instead of giving Morris a chance, it looks like the Brewers are going to give a pair a guys that played first based for the New York Yankees last season in Reynolds and Overbay every chance to make The 25 this season.

Reynolds posted some impressive offensive WAR numbers early in his career but those came with severe strikeouts problems and defensive limitations that made him a little more than above average major leaguer despite his impressive offensive numbers.  The upshot with Reynolds is that much like Duke, he is not going to turn 31 until after the start of the 2014 season so I like that low-risk (one-year, $2 million deal with $500,00 in incentives) signing as well.

The Brewers originally added Overbay to The 25 along with Chris Capuano, Craig Counsell, Chad Moeller, Jorge De La Rosa and Junior Spivey in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks for Shane Nance, Richie Sexson, and Noochie Varner.  After two successful offensive campaigns with the Brewers in 2005 and 2006, the Brewers traded Overbay along with Ty Taubenheim to the Toronto Blue Jays for Dave Bush, Gabe Gross and Zach Jackson.  I can't say this often but the Brewers went two-for-two in their Overbay related trades.

Ultimately I think Reynolds has the best shot to make The 25 even though the Brewers are more familiar with Overbay because teams rarely sign guys like Reynolds unless they are going to give them every chance to make The 25.  The beauty of signing veterans to minor league contracts with an invite to spring training instead of splashing big money on free agents is that if they struggle in spring training, the Brewers can walkaway with almost zero financial ramifications.  If a couple of the guys perform well in spring training, the Brewers bought themselves inexpensive veterans for 2014, which is the fiscally prudent move given that 2014 looks like it will be a transition year anyhow.

No comments:

Post a Comment