During a live web chat, Brewers GM Doug Melvin talked with fans about building upon last season for greater sucess in 2006. He discussed top Brewers prospects, the depth at first base and offseason moves to bolster the pitching staff.
Base_Ball: I am a big fan of J.J. Hardy, and I appreciate Ned Yost sticking with him after his rocky start this season. How to you explain his dramatic turnaround and do you expect him to continue to hit with so much power and consistency?
Doug Melvin: J.J.'s plate discipline was consistent even during difficult times and that made us believe that he was going to hit in the second half of the season. We do see him hitting somewhere between 15 and 20 homers and being more consistent next year.
Todd_Beier: Hello Doug. Congrats on a great year! I think you are doing a superb job in handling a small market team. What prospects do you think have a shot going into next season?
Melvin: Thanks, Todd. A lot of our young players got an opportunity this past season and I see next year not as many young players getting that same opportunity as we want to build on our winning season. So next year we will not view it as an opportunity to develop players at the Major League level like we did this year. Keep your eyes on the following players: Nelson Cruz, Dave Krynzel, Jeff Bennett, Mike Adams and Ben Hendrickson.
brewerfan1982: Was there any interest in Victor Santos from other teams before the trading deadline this season? Hindsight is 20/20, but with his second-half downfall and eventual release, it seems as though we may have missed an opportunity to add another piece to the puzzle.
Melvin: At the trading deadline, there was limited interest in Victor. We had hoped for him to turn it around and pitch the way he did in the first half and it just did not happen.
jtombball: I am wondering what the chances of signing A.J. Burnett are or any other marquee free agents?
Melvin: At this particular time, due to MLB tampering rules, I am unable to talk about free agent players. Last year when we signed Ben Sheets, we made a large commitment and recognize him as a number one starting pitcher. We have to factor that into the equation.
darkhorse748: Is third base a position you are going to address or are you satisfied with the current platoon?
Melvin: We feel confident that Billy Hall could handle the third base position for us and also we will be asking Jeff Cirillo to return.
Paul_Collins: Congrats, Mr. Melvin, for a great year on the field. My question is related to the fifth starting pitcher spot. In your mind, would you like to find someone from within the organization (Dana Eveland) or perhaps go outside the team?
Melvin: We recognize that we need to improve on the fifth starting spot in the rotation. We probably will pursue a trade or a free agent signing, but also look at giving the opportunity to Eveland.
dfhdt_asbad: What do you plan on doing with the Lyle Overbay and Prince Fielder dilemma?
Melvin: This is probably the most asked question this offseason and I honestly do not have an answer at this particular time. We are fortunate to have two talented first basemen at the Major League level. We are not forced to do anything in regards to trading one of them. To build a depth that we have currently on our roster has taken a lot of hard work and time and it is something that we view as a strength in the organization.
Keith_Gauger: Hello Doug. Does the fact the Brewers are selecting 16th instead of 15th factor into your mind set in regard to free agency due to draft pick compensation ramifications?
Melvin: If we sign a type-A free agent this year by drafting in the number 16 slot, we would lose our first round pick. So that does come into play when signing a free agent this offseason.
Matt_Prigge: Hi Doug. Being Canadian, how excited are you for guys like Larry Walker and Jason Bay to potentially represent your homeland in next year's Baseball World Cup?
Melvin: The Canadian team in the World Cup will have some talented positional players like Larry Walker and Jason Bay. My concern is that they will be loaded with left-handed hitters. It is nice to see that Canada will be well represented with players from the Major Leagues.
jtombball: Do you think Krynzel will be in the Majors this year? Do you think Brady Clark will be traded?
Melvin: David Krynzel has enough talent to play in the Major Leagues and I hope that it is with us. I am not motivated to move Brady Clark at this particular time, as he has been a great addition to our ballclub and fills the lead off role for us, which is always a very difficult position to find.
Base_Ball_3: We've heard so much in past years about super stars in the making like Rickie Weeks, Fielder, and Hardy. Is there any one player in the system that Brewers fans should start to get excited about in the coming years?
Melvin: I think some players to look at in the future that you will be hearing about are Ryan Braun, Alcides Escobar, Hernan Iribarren, Nelson Cruz, Tony Gwynn and Charlie Fermaint.
jtombball: What do you anticipate the starting rotation to look like next year, including prospective free agents? How about a starting lineup?
Melvin: I anticipate the rotation to be Ben Sheets, Doug Davis, Chris Capuano, Tomo Ohka, and the fifth spot will be very competitive. As far as our lineup goes, it will consist mostly of what you saw this past season. You must remember, last year at this time we did not have Derrick Turnbow, Carlos Lee or Damian Miller. So the baseball offseason is always filled with mystery and surprises.
fgdfs: What is your opinion on A's GM Billy Bene and the book "Moneyball?"
Melvin: I have a lot of respect for Billy as a GM. He was very similar to my career path in that he played professionally, worked his way up through the front office ranks, and earned his right to be a GM. I have not read the book entirely, but view that philosophy as a tool that we use in helping make some of our baseball decisions.
Keith_Gauger: What roles will Dale Sveum have on the ballclub beyond his third base coaching duties?
Melvin: Dale will be given the responsibility of working with all of our infielders and our defensive positioning.
jtombball: What are your plans with Wes Helms?
Melvin: I talked to Wes at the end of the season and we agreed that he should pursue the free agent market. I told him that we would still have interest in a similar role that he performed for us last year.
brewerfan1982: With the payroll expected to jump to about $50 million next season, how much room do you expect to have to play with after contractual pay raises and pay raises through arbitration in our current players?
Melvin: Our payroll at the current time does not have a fixed number as Mark Attanasio has told me to be flexible in case of a trade or free agent signing. Whatever we do has to make sense from a financial responsibility stand point.
Keith_Gauger: Will the movement in GM positions across the Majors this year effect the amount of player movement this offseason? And if so, in what direction?
Melvin: It will be more difficult to make a trade with a club until they get their front office settled. A lot of trades with clubs are made on familiarity and relationships that GM's have with their counterparts and sometimes it is a little more difficult to make a trade with a new or unknown GM.
fgdfs: Who do you like in the World Series? It was pretty exciting to watch the NLCS with two Central teams going at it, knowing the Brewers finished third behind them.
Melvin: I have to root for Houston because they are in the National League and in our division. It should make us feel good that our team was only a four game win/loss differential from the team that is going to the World Series.
mlbrian2: From your experience, how has the mood, the organization, the overall outlook changed over the past couple of seasons? What are the biggest reasons for the change?
Melvin: The mood obviously has changed to a very positive outlook and our current success has given our fans hope and raised expectations for everyone.
darkhorse748: Do you believe that baseball should have instant replay or do you think that will just slow down the game more?
Melvin: I believe there is some part of the game that could use instant replay, but it would have to be very minimal use because it could slow the game up. It should only be used if the umpires really felt that they did not have a good view of a particular play. It could never be used on balls and strikes.
Base_Ball_2: What do the Brewers have for catching prospects? This seems like a tough Major League position to fill. Why?
Melvin: We have two good young catchers in Lou Palmisano and Angel Salome. Catching is one of the more difficult positions to find and while both of these two talents are prospects, they are still a few years away from the Major Leagues.
fgdfs: What direction do you plan to take with your mustache; I've seen a few photos of you with it and without it. Will 2006 be a big moustache year?
Melvin: Again, this is one of the toughest offseason decisions to make. Once our record was 81-81, I thought of shaving half of it off and keeping the other half. My gut feeling is that you will see my gray mustache in 2006.
Danny_Falconer: What role will Corey Hart and Nelson Cruz have with the team next year?
Melvin: Both of these young players play similar roles for our ballclub. I anticipate seeing them on the Major League club sometime next year. Corey is currently playing third base in the Arizona Fall League to increase his versatility. Nelson is playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic to sharpen his skills.
rbinny39: Did Fielder's on-field performance (slow start) in the AFL have anything to do with shutting him down for the fall?
Melvin: Prince Fielder had a medical condition in his family and we still hope for him to return.
Matt_Prigge: How is the Brewers scouting system in regards to countries like Cuba and Japan? It would be great to see a Hideki Matsui or Jose Contreras type player sign with Milwaukee.
Melvin: We currently do not scout the Japanese leagues. We feel that it is difficult for us to compete with the New York, Seattle, and San Francisco markets. The players tend to gravitate to these markets as a personal preference.
Base_Ball: Do you intend to play Billy Hall every day? If so, where? Does Hall playing mean that Hardy will not be in the lineup every day?
Melvin: Our goal is to have Hall and Hardy both end up with 450 to 550 at-bats per season. We view J.J. as our current and future shortstop and Billy's versatility allows him to be viewed as an everyday player, but currently not have an everyday position.
darkhorse748: I would love to have Rick Helling back in Milwaukee as he had pitched well in limited starts. Any chance of re-signing Helling?
Melvin: We plan on trying to re-sign Rick Helling.
Keith_Gauger: Are you disappointed that Gord Ash does not appear to be getting a chance to fill these new GM opportunities?
Melvin: I feel Gord is very capable of being a GM. While it disappoints me, I am pleased to be able to have a talented individual like Gord in our organization.
gabbyjr: Hello from Kuwait. What are the Brewers plans for the bench coach position?
Melvin: Ned and I are gathering a list of names and over the next two weeks, we will review them in hopes of having the position filled by the end of the World Series.
Danny_Falconer: What are the plans for Jorge de la Rosa? DLR seems to have great stuff, but battles with control issues.
Melvin: We all recognize that Jorge de la Rosa has a quality arm, but needs to command his pitches better. That will come with experience. With us chasing the .500 mark this season and having so many close games, it was difficult to use Jorge as much as we would have liked. He is still a work in progress, but has a chance to have a good big league career.
fgdfs: What was your favorite moment or game from 2005? Mine was Opening Day when Jeff Cirillo had his first at-bat back with the Brewers and the game where Prince and Rickie hit their first home runs.
Melvin: Great question to end our session. There were a lot of favorite moments. I think the game where Rickie and Prince hit their first big league homers and we came back to beat Minnesota was a sign to the fans that the future is bright. Also, beating Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder in back-to-back games was also a highlight of mine.
Melvin: Thanks for everybody's participation. I hope everyone had as much fun this season as I did. I am looking forward to the 2006 season being even more enjoyable. See you April 3 vs. the Pirates!