It could be perceived that the Milwaukee Brewers were dealt a pretty big blow within a span of only a few hours on Thursday afternoon.
Thought to be in the running to sign both Josh Hamilton and Ryan Dempster, each player has decided to take their talents elsewhere. Hamilton reportedly signed a five-year, $125 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels, while Dempster was reported to have signed a two-year deal with the Boston Red Sox.
Not only that, but Anibal Sanchez is also set to be off the market soon. It was a busy day in the baseball world, and fortunately for Milwaukee, none of it involved the Brewers.
The only move the Brewers have made during the offseason was trading for long-relief man Burke Badenhop, affectionately known as "The Hopper."
The bullpen is obviously where the Brewers need to improve the most for next season if they want to return to the playoffs, so trading for Badenhop, who posted a 3.03 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 62.1 IP last season with Tampa Bay, is a step in the right direction.
Jayson Stark of ESPN has also linked the Brewers to reliever Mike Adams, but with Adams as one of the most coveted free agent relief pitchers, the asking price may be too high for Milwaukee, who general manager Doug Melvin has stated isn't going to be a big spender this winter.
There's one thing Hamilton and Dempster are not—relief pitchers. It would not make much sense for the Brewers to go after Hamilton considering how Milwaukee finished with the No. 1 offense in the National League last season.
All eight starting position players are set to return next season, and while Dempster could have possibly added something to the starting rotation, the combination of Yovani Gallardo, Wily Peralta, Marco Estrada, Mike Fiers and Mark Rogers was as solid as could be down the stretch last season.
Out of those five, Gallardo, Estrada and Peralta seem like locks to make the rotation, with Fiers and Rogers having a legitimate chance to round out the starting five. Pitchers like Chris Narveson and Tyler Thornburg, as well as a potential free-agent signing could also enter the mix.
But since bringing Dempster in didn't pan out, the Brewers seem content with what they have in regards to starting pitching, and quite frankly, that isn't a bad thing.
While the sample size is small, Peralta, Fiers and Rogers took advantage of the opportunity presented last season, and all deserve a shot at making the 2013 opening day roster as starting pitcher.
Estrada threw 45 more innings than he had in any previous season and put together the best year of his career, posting a 3.64 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning while maintaining an impressive 4.93 K/BB ratio.
Despite struggling down the stretch, Fiers also averaged over a strikeout per inning and earned a sub-4.00 ERA. The same goes for Rogers, and Peralta's ERA dipped under 3.00 in limited action.
Gallardo can officially be anointed the ace of the staff, and if Peralta, Fiers, Estrada and Rogers are to join him on the opening day roster, it shouldn't be a disappointment for Brewers' fans.
With that, the Brewers still have some work to do in the bullpen. The only pitchers locked into roles for 2013 are closer John Axford, setup man Jim Henderson and long reliever Burke Badenhop, leaving four empty slots. But just as with the starting rotation, the Brewers shouldn't hesitate to look within the organization to fill the vacancies in the 'pen.
If Narveson and Thornburg aren't named starters, they could both fulfill roles in relief. Narveson has pitched in long relief before, and Thornburg could be better suited in the bullpen with his live arm as he continues to develop his other pitches.
Another option is Brandon Kintzler, who worked his way back up to the big-league club last season and posted a 3.78 ERA in 14 games.
Of course, there are some other candidates, such as Johnny Hellweg (minors) and Arcenio Leon (from Houston), and the Brewers could still try to acquire more arms via trade or free agency.
They could do that, or they could trust who they already have. With the inflated contracts being handed out by big-market teams, the Brewers can't afford to keep up, especially with the money Milwaukee already has committed to some of its players.
Would Hamilton and Dempster been nice additions for the Brewers? Absolutely, but it could also put the Brewers future financial situation in dire straights, and as a mid-market club which has already crossed its spending threshold, acquiring them could set Milwaukee back several years.
With a revamped farm system and plenty of young talent, especially at pitcher, the Brewers need not worry about landing a big free agent—starting pitcher or position player—this winter.
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