Pivotal season awaits Brewers
Originally Published: November 9, 2007By Phil Rogers | Special to ESPN.com
The long wait for another playoff appearance continues in Milwaukee, but the Brewers did give their fans an interesting summer in 2007.
GM: Doug Melvin
Manager: Ned Yost
'07 record: 83-79, 2nd NL Central
'07 payroll: $71.9M, 18th MLB
Runs scored: 801, 5th NL
Runs allowed: 776, 9th NL
OPS: .785, 3rd NL
ERA: 4.41, 9th NL
Fielding percentage: .982, T-12th NL
Primary needsAnother front-end starter: Ben Sheets never seems to hold up, and Jeff Suppan was a major disappointment after signing as a free agent. Second-year right-hander Yovani Gallardo has the stuff to be an ace, but doesn't have the experience. Bullpen depth: GM Doug Melvin was forced to trade for Scott Linebrink at midseason, and will be in serious trouble if he loses closer Francisco Cordero to free agency.
Free agentsRHP Francisco Cordero, LF Geoff Jenkins, C Damian Miller, RHP Scott Linebrink, LHP Ray King, INF Tony Graffanino, 3B Corey Koskie and RHP Elmer Dessens. In the picture: Perhaps because of his injuries, Estrada was a major disappointment last season. The free-agent market for catchers offers a variety of intriguing options that will be studied while deciding whether to tender the arbitration-eligible Estrada a 2008 contract. Jorge Posada is out of the Brewers' price range, but it wouldn't be a shock if they stepped up to sign Michael Barrett, Jason LaRue, Jason Kendall, Paul Lo Duca or Yorvit Torrealba.
Trade baitBill Hall: With J.J. Hardy at shortstop and Corey Hart available to play center field, the talented Hall is suddenly expendable. Yost is saying that Hall is still his center fielder but it won't be a surprise if Hall gets traded, possibly to a team that wants to move him back to shortstop. Chris Capuano: Snakebit all season, Capuano did not pitch as badly as his 5-12 record indicates. He could benefit from a change of scenery, but the Brewers can't expect much in return with him a four-plus arbitration player.
Farm aidLHP Manny Parra: There aren't many teams that wouldn't find a spot in the rotation for Parra, a four-pitch lefty who threw a perfect game in his first start in Triple-A. He's not considered a pure power pitcher, but he owns a fastball he can run up to the mid-90s. SS Alcides Escobar: His presence may make it easier for Melvin to deal Hall. He is considered a very solid fielder (he led Southern League shortstops in fielding percentage) and a good runner. His bat is questionable, but he could fill in for Hardy if needed.
OutlookThe Brewers have a chance to develop into a perennial contender if Yost (or his replacement) can get them over the hump. Melvin is an excellent GM and a good bet to make a move or two that will have a significant impact next season. The lack of shortstops on the market should make it easy for Melvin to move Hall for pitching, with the White Sox's Jon Garland among the possibilities. The 2008 season will mark the last year of Sheets' contract, which makes it a big year for Milwaukee. There's no guarantee the Brewers are going to reinvest heavily in Sheets. Phil Rogers is the national baseball writer for the Chicago Tribune, which has a Web site at www.chicagosports.com. His book, "Say It's So," a story about the 2005 White Sox, is available at bookstores, through Amazon.com or by direct order from Triumph Books (800-222-4657).
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